Part 3 – the final installment of reading response 7
After reading chapters one through four of Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, I have some additional insights to my most recent analytical reflection post on my running mode and community. The most significant is how much the social is stressed in Kress’ book on multimodality. Using previous works we’ve read, the social influence is usually acknowledged in some fashion, but not at the forefront as with Kress.
My running community formed from people who like to communicate and represent themselves with beer, running, and fun. My running community grew in a small college town, primarily of various scientists, academics, and parents. We have nearly pro-level runners sometimes and we have lots of neurotically and competitively driven personalities. The group started as an escape, a pick-me-up on hump day, a combination of two loves, running and beer. It is still these things but the competitive, analytical, lovers of information that actually represented, or produced the group (and distributed…aaaalll the things), informed the communication and representation of the group.
We started keeping stats. Running stats (pretty normal, really). And beer stats. We put the serious on the silly and in turn the silly made our seriousness seem less serious.
The thing is somewhat intuitive which means I don’t know how to use everything on it – my birthday present from 2012. My parents spent a bit more on my birthday than usual ($100) because they have always been very supportive, sometimes overly supportive of my running. Sometimes I think using a GPS watch (and sometimes heart-rate monitor too) is a bit like getting the old approval from the parents, or peers, or coaches, (the latter two my previous collaborators) that I might not get from just going for a run. Other times I purposefully go running without my watch – I need to be liberated from data and instant feedback.
In addition to it composing my running, the data can be used to reflect the running culture that I sometimes live in.
Like any popular sport, stats has taken over. Even in my collaborate, community of runners, The Palouse Falls Beer Chasers, we have a data driven, lightly competitive record.
And if my watch had the feature that some of the more expensive ones did, I could hook it to my computer and get data in alphabetic text, that might look something like my Beer Chasers stats:
Shipka would say that how I run as I reflect is a key part of my process toward my end-goal or final product. The process behind making part one in this posting, involves thinking critically or differently about my running culture: I got my watch in place of a human coach and teammates; my present teammates and I collect data, compose our Wednesday workouts and drinking habits in multiple modes – remediated – after said run. And our workouts combined create collaborate data. I suppose it is no accident that the way scientists communicate, data, has shown up in our group of runners that includes a decent amount of scientists, students and professionals. And that we would have a narrative, alphabetic text remediation also makes sense as the founders of the groups were both professionals with an English degree (or two) and creative writers.
Here is the modes and processes and mediation: 1) meet at Birch and Barley on Wednesdays, (or don’t) then run, bike, walk, or do some kind of workout for at least 25 minutes. After working out, return (or arrive) to Birch and Barley. Order a beer. While drinking a clipboard goes around where we write down our data that one of our fearless leaders later puts into the website he built to house and display our data. It used to be a google doc/spreadsheet but as we’ve got a computer scientist in the mix, we remediated to a more impressive medium and end product (where you get the screenshots from of my runner data, for example).
Sometimes we also talk about the run we did, or a race we’re training for. Sometimes we talk about relationships. Sometimes work. Sometimes we cover all of the above and sometimes we do it while running before we even get to the drinking. So we’ve remediated, improved upon an arguably bad habit: drinking. We’ve gained an outlook of how others communicate and prioritize information. And this end product or result would most certainly not exist without different modes in the process.
Here are the parts toward a whole:
Toward a Composition Made Whole by Jody Shipka
Intro: Here Shipka states the overarching theme and caution in multimodal being equated solely with “new” technologies as well as the ongoing stigma attached to multimodal assignments, particularly with concern to the finish product.
Chapter 1: The title almost says it all with “The Problem with Freshman Comp.” We are constantly attempting an impossible task with English 101. We cannot teach the breadth and complexity of writing in one semester, for all fields of writing: impossible. Similarly, we cannot focus solely on the end-product quality or even usability if we are going to teach multimodal. Process and checking in and grading that process along the way.
Chapter 2: Shipka discusses the philosophy and theories that support multimodal learning. A “sociocultural approach” with analytic mediated action and reflection can revolutionize our classrooms and the way our students think about communicating and writing. Shipka reiterates the “always multimodal” concept of writing by keeping the idea that technology is not the only mode of writing as a major part and pushback in this chapter.
Chapter 3: Here Shipka gets multimodal, including images of multimodal writing process assignments. Ultimately, Shipka recognizes that both the planning writing or creations and the final product are equally important. Awareness of how we communicate and others communicate will obviously make us better communicators, including writing.
Chapter 4: In this chapter Shipka returns to more theory based information as she unpacks how she has scaffolded multimodality into her classroom over the years. What really struck me is the ability and power of being able to sit with, include, the unknown. It’s okay if we don’t know what our students’ ideas might look like or be assessed.
Chapter 5: Shipka gives practical ways to incorporate multimodality in the classroom. I especially like her idea of “flexible rhetoricians” (113) and grading accomplished in part by the students writing out and justifying why they made the choices they did. In this way, you could potentially not grade the final product at all but still give students grades for it via grading the process and choices – emphasis on the why, the rhetoric, intended, and achieved effect of the choices. Maybe a project turns out just awful but the student is able to write and identify why in such a way that they ultimately improve their critical thinking and communicating skills; even better to have a way to learn by hard knocks, but without having to have a failed grade to accomplish it.
Conclusion: Shipka sees the best writing as only accomplished after consciousness has been raised. And as teachers, we can only best cultivate this somewhat moral philosophy as well as multimodality projects if we practice what we preach. As a creative writing major in undergrad, I didn’t really know how to write a research paper. Now I know how, I don’t do it particularly well but well enough, and in the failures and consciousness and I better teach how-to write a research paper. If a teacher doesn’t know how to incorporate or grade a multimodal project, make something multimodal!
My questions for Professor Shipka:
Can you talk more about modes or mediums as an addition versus a replacement? How do you make this case to external parties in academia and English department? In a English 101 class, does this end up replacing an assignment to go alongside traditional text-writing? Or, do you feel adding multimodal works (best?) as a remediation of a text they already created or will create?
After sending out my questions, I actually read the book; so now I feel that my second question is pretty well addressed by chapter 2 and 5. So I would focus on my last two questions.
On Multimodality: New Media in Composition Studies
Alexander and Rhodes also call up Sirc’s ‘Happening’ in their text on multimodality (like Palmeri that we read previously, and part of Sirc’s book on ‘Happening’). However, I gleaned from this book that it wasn’t so much about calling up Sirc’s concept of Happening exactly, it’s more about how his concept and ‘hippie’ scenarios allow from the non-traditional, doesn’t favor written text for writing and knowledge. Multimodality doesn’t really seem to me that they are going for the borderline spiritual in its complex experience. Multimodality seems more practical – or perhaps really what I mean is that it is in use almost everywhere – despite disparate levels of access. The immediacy of technology, the ubiquity of it, makes it so it seems ridiculous to not include multimedia/modality in our classrooms. The Happening aspect is that we don’t stifle other ways of knowing and that we recognize “ourselves as ‘irreducibly complex’ “ (202).
Complexity, obviously, is quite difficult. Alexander and Rhodes ask: “How do we expand our gaze to include multiple perspectives? How might we deploy an even celebrate our ‘permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints?’ “ (200). These identities and contradictory standpoints are apparent in a variety of case studies, one that they mention is “Cho” the Virginia Tech shooter and the aftermath of that experience. In addition to it being an example of how immediacy effects texts and information now, an interesting contradiction or pull away from emphasis on grammar arose in the comments on “Cho.” In the first peer review in my class this semester (and really every semester so far) the intensity with which grammar is used to judge writing as “good” is apparently. Yet when a blogger noted that Cho’s writing was juvenile or bad – the backlash of the blogger missing what was really important, the content. I guess what I’m getting at, is despite the horrific scenario, it’s fantastic to have people prioritizing content over mechanics and grammar. I want so badly to get my students on board with this – though without this kind of tragedy. But then of course it always comes back to the responsibility of preparing students for their other classes.
More and more I realize, it isn’t really that many people in English that are pushing the current tradition – when they do it is because they are responding to the expectations of outside departments: ‘fix the students writing to appease my standards.’ I think that we will never solve or be able to fully integrate multimodality so long as the sciences (with all their funding) prioritize certain ways of knowing and communicating. And breaking that down is difficult indeed as they seek to be easily translatable, “objective,” or concise. It’s hard to get people engaged enough to realize the contradictory standpoint of scientific writing being objective (more like, it has an objective).
The way to get at these issues, audience awareness, using and not using multimodality in my English 101 class, is the idea of engagement that keeps coming up in this book. We need, “active, writerly participation” (105). And engagement as opposed to falling in line is something the scientists I’ve known and worked with recognize and extremely important. Engagement gets away from the “banking system” of education, “…it asks us to imagine ourselves as ‘irreducibly complex.’ It asks us to imagine ourselves as more” (202). Imagining ourselves as more is often really hard too, but usually something we would be hard pressed to disagree with doing.
I wanted to get at Storycenter that Rebecca Goodrich talked about at Friday’s colloquium – tying on to trauma and expression as well as College Saga, but I’m already a bit over the reading response requirement.
Exploring engagement – hope it doesn’t go awry. Update to be posted by 3pm 9/21/15
Engaging with my Freirian learning modes audio and physical.
The mountain helps you realize that no one really cares about what you are doing. Even when you are being watched and laughed at from the chair lift above.
“You’re turns are looking really nice,” I tell my friend ‘S’. We are standing in the snow half way up Silver Mountain. Well, we are really standing in ski boots, which are bound to fiberglass popsicle sticks with a sliding slick underbelly designed to induce near death visions.
“Oh yah? I kinda don’t feel like I’m doing that well,” she tells me. We’ve stopped to let the internal muscular burn of lactic acid production fade a bit before skiing the rest of the way down to the designated ski lift.
“Ya, when I went skiing with my dad he told me I was looking pretty good on the moguls and I was like, ‘really? I feel like I’m in control, maybe, half the time.’”
“Ya, that’s how I feel too!” ‘S’ laughs and produces one of her elfin smiles, the kind you have to smile back at no matter what.
We go quiet so we can just breathe. It isn’t the first ski of the season for either of us, but we can’t make it quite often enough to stay in shape for our near death experiences that for the same and different reasons, we both love. We didn’t think the rain was going to turn into snow but kept the faith and about half way up the Gandola ride, much to our relief, snow. We’ve skied for four or five hours now and I don’t know about ‘S’ for certain, but my burning quadriceps are starting to accrue a strange sort of squishy feel.
“Well,” I say after a few moments thought, “I guess that’s the secret, everybody’s just pretending, faking it. They really aren’t in control half the time either. “ ‘Hey dude’ “ I change my voice and act out,” ‘that was so awesome!’ ‘Yeah man, it’s cool, no big deal but uh, I got to go to the bathroom now cause I shit my pants.’ “
We laugh about this for a while before skiing the rest of the way down the mountain. It’s the call back joke for the rest of the day, because I guess poop is just funny. Thinking of the oh-so-cool trick snowboarders shitting there pants, is just a satisfying, goofy thought.
But I’ve discovered that this assessment of my fellow sliding-down-snow-lovers applies very well to the big picture, life, being an adult. All adults and grown ups, (and this includes me now, much to my shock and awe) are faking it. They’re pretending. They’re scared shitless. Which is the only reason why they don’t actually shit themselves until the effects of the bran muffin that is Time kicks in after retirement.
So I laugh at my dorky crashes and awkward pole versus skis moments and don’t care what people think because I love skiing, period. Why can’t I do the same with life? Mmh. Well, shit.
If I had of gone to Liverpool for the summer, I would’ve gotten to live there for three months. In those three months, when I wasn’t working, this is what I would’ve done, in order of what pops into my mind first:
Gone to all the Beatles touristy sites. I’m glad I experienced more real and regular Liverpool, but I do love the Beatles, and I would hit those up this time!
Gone to all the awesome Liverpool Museums. Specifically revisit the Tate and the International Slavery Museum.
Bought fruit from the local stores.
Gone running more.
Participate in the Liverpool triathlon.
Gone to London again, this time successfully see a Shakespeare play at the Globe. And I guess see all the touristy sites in London too.
Take a train to Wales and see the Castles.
If possible, hop over to Ireland.
Reconnect with my Northern Irishmen.
Reconnect with Bea Freeman
Reconnect with Patrck Graham
Revisit the Carribean Centre
Revisit Carribean resturaunt in Toxteth
Revisit Crosby Beach
Get lost some more.
Find that guitar shop.
Go to more used book shopsGo to more thrift stores.
Discover any and all open mic night-type of things and participate.
Actually look at the museum at that cafe I went to for internet off of Water Street and Chinatown area.
Revisit the Caldonia.
Use the Student Rec Center.
Go camping in the Lake District.
Go to one of Patrick’s plays, if possible.
Take Tricia out to dinner and wine.
Gone to the African festival again.
Pester Paul some more.
Sing for our night security-man at Carnatic-Salisbury Hall some more.
Re-revel in the space that allows and expects only me the present, no pre-judgements.
Oh Liverpool, what fun we would’ve had! But I rejoice in our time and hope that maybe, our time can come again.
There is a little eclectic shop in downtown Pullman where they sell clothes, oriental themed trinkets and beads. A couple of years ago I talked to the owner he said that fair trade is a bunch crap and that the people over don’t want it because it’s hurting business. He speaks on the authority of having an Asian wife, as well as spending some time, ‘over there’.
I think. Like I said it was a couple of years ago. I remember at the time thinking he actually had some legit points, even if he conveniently left out some points like pay wages in factories and such. Anyway, I don’t really have enough information to be trash talking him, and that is not my intention at all. In my hunt for a second job this summer I wandered in there again. I was delighted to see they had used frisbee golf discs for sale.
Frisbees are awesome. You can totally suck at frisbee but still feel like you are accomplishing something because it still gets some distance. Ultimate Frisbee holds a love-hate relationship for me, fun yet impact-dangerous, a good workout yet my least favorite kind; it’s basically sprint drills. So when I recently discovered Frisbee Golf over spring break, or ‘frolf’ as George Castanza calls it on Seinfield, I found the bliss of Frisbee.
It’s low key, it’s social, and still challenging as I proved by taking sometimes almost ten throws to get the frisbee in the chain basket that is maybe 200-400 meters away. I’m going to invest in some frisbee-golf-specific discs because they have putter disc for when I am on my seventh or eighth throw and only ten feet away from the basket.
As is often the case, this is one of those times that links me back to, or with Liverpool. It also reminds me of one of the good American friends I made while I was there last summer. Her name of anonymity when I refer to her in my Liverpool writings is, in fact, Frisbee.
Frisbee was my hotel roommate in the Newark, New Jersey airport Hilton. I didn’t get in until 1 am, I think I told that melodramtic detail before, and felt a little creepy coming into a complete stranger’s room. But Frisbee, like me, is a sound sleeper and didn’t even hear me. She got up before me, and told me later she knew I was awesome because of the items left in view digging out my bathroom accesories bag; a very dinged-up Sigg bottle and a blue sparkly Frisbee.
I hung out with Frisbee the most out of everybody in the group. After wandering a few different times on my own, Frisbee and I talked about the beauty of wandering and not having a set plan, but also of our common love of thrift stores. I believe it was after our Slavery History tour of downtown Liverpool that we set off to wandering.
We got food and went to several different small local shops. Today I own a used book and two different awesome tops from our excursions. I got one of my friends back in Pullman some really cool yoga/hippie looking pants and jewelry for a handful of my girlfriends/girl relatives.
While you do not grow as a person unless you try new things, there is something to be said for finding those people you can relate to. In Liverpool I rediscovered or reremembered how to experience everyday life as exciting. Most of the time when I ride the bus I think of Liverpool, for example. Frisbee and I had a good time learning Liverpool via what we knew, as well as with what we didn’t know. And I treasure the souls I meet that I can truly connect with, they have always seemed hard for me to find.
But that is another thing I learned with wandering Frisbee and the entire group, as well as from Scousers; people are not as different as you think and the differences are often times the best part! When I gave a presentation for SSS staff at WSU on the University of Liverpool Leadership Training Program, what we did, now their students apply, etc., I told them that even before we got to Liverpool it was like we’d already traveled. Many of us had lived and seen different places, we were from all over the US as well as from Mexico.
Hopefully I’ll get to see Frisbee while I’m in the same state visiting for InLove’s wedding this summer. Because we only actually got around to using my frisbee once. It was low-key tossing back and forth on Crosby Beach, our last day in the UK.
My life is pretty ridiculous and overwhelming right now; it’s so unbelievably fabulous that I cannot imagine how I got so lucky. I’m anxious to the verge of tears, I’ve got at least one thing going on every hour of the day.
It reminds me of my prep days leaving for Liverpool. I was finishing a summer session math class, aka math accelerated. It’s not a great idea for someone of my math capabilities, or lack thereof. (I got a ‘C’) I was also moving out of my apartment, into storage/the apartment I live in now with my cool cloned roomy.
I remember leaving my take home final with future roomy to drop off to my professor after spending most of the day hauling things in and out of a U-haul truck, then heading to the bars for my send off party. I rode my bike home (and drunkenly did not make it over the last curb—it’s on a hill, don’t judge me) to my emptied out apartment and slept on the floor with my bags packed for Liverpool.
It’s the kind of delightful insanity that reminds me of what I believe was my second or third day of class in Liverpool. We began in the classroom as usual. Our teacher that day was one Mr. S, who you’ve met with Paul in the Pub.
After some class discussion we went with him to Toxteth, a dodgy faction of Liverpool. “Do NOT come back here by yourself alone, and especially at night,” he said. We saw rows of houses closed up by the City of Liverpool, in the process of gentrification. We saw the new sterile housing made available to people who didn’t want to leave their homes in the first place. There were more shops closed then opened.
Little, and not so little, sparks of the residents fighting back show up. There are two different community centres focused on kids. There was the Merseyside Caribbean Centre, where I got to meet a fantastic soul, named Patrick Graham.
Meeting Patrick, to me, is proof that I had some good karma credit going on. Mr. Graham is a poet and playwright, and has his company called, Blackout Productions. I ended up talking to him for the full half hour we were there, and I didn’t want to leave, but as I said before, happy madness. We had three weeks to experience Liverpool as much as possible, less really, because we took a week to London and another to Antwerp and Amsterdam.
After lunch at a little local place, we went to the town hall to listen in on discussions for the Merseyside/Toxteth community. They were divided into topics, health and wellness services, education, and jobs.
This is where I met Bea Freeman, a film-ographer. I was relieved at a woman’s voice finally. My fourth or fifth day there, I guess I’m impatient? She is fabulous, intensely dynamic and brilliant, but still very approachable. I’m exceptionally glad I met her, because somehow not being mentioned, AT ALL, is worse then being mentioned in a sexist light, or ways I don’t agree with. As far as the curriculum was concerned, women’s issues were a non-issue. Three weeks is limiting.
For my group’s final project I was able to meet up with Mr. Graham and Ms. Freeman again. They made the time for me. I was impressed.
And speaking of women’s issues, a woman’s ‘proper role’ came up in conversation after a group of us had eaten at a local Caribbean restaurant in Toxteth. Chip, Props, Samba, Eyes, Sheik, Echo, Mel, Mr. Graham and Mr. S and myself, all ate there together after official class time was finished. He was talking about how men and women were equal but they had their roles. He comes from a much more violent and scary place than I do, so maybe it makes sense there, but I sure as hell am not nurturing and standing behind my man and having him protect me.
I had Guinness-milk drink. You could get it with fruit too, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it’s called now. It was amazing and Mr. Graham said he makes them at his house sometimes. I tried oxtail as my meal, which as Chip said, “That is black-people food right there.” He made me share but only after I gave him a sufficient amount of shit first.
We walked to Ken’s Barbershop, where apparently Samual L. Jackson has gone for a shave. Chip is also a barber so he wanted to experience a master of his trade. Chip is the type of person that gets people involved in a central activity. As for me, I was assigned to documenting the event. In the recording you can here my passive-aggressive quips on masculinity. Later, in London, we actually had dialogue on the topic that was really awesome. But me, well, I don’t play so well with others a lot.
I suppose that’s why I didn’t get the internship to return, or one of many of the reasons anyway. I suppose that’s why after we were done there and in safe territory again, I was off to wander by myself.
Sometimes I need that alone time to digest all of that. It was a very full day.
I’ll be digesting all the experiences I had in Liverpool for a while I think. Among the every hour of every day Mon-Friday planned, I am working on a presentation for SSS/Trio/CAMP administrators to illuminate the process and possibilities in University of Liverpool’s three-week, Global Leadership Training Program.