Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marrying the classroom and the Cineplex

Plantinga, Carl. "The Sensual Medium." Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator's Experience. Berkley et al: University of California Press, 2009. Print.

Carl Plantinga's book, Moving Viewers is about the physical responses viewers have while watching films. In Chapter four, "The Sensual Medium," Plantinga starts by arguing against the idea of 'reading’ films because that puts the focus on the work the brain is doing while viewing (112). The really important reactions viewers have to films are their physical reactions: “That the film spectator isn’t merely a conscious thinker but also an embodied, biological human being has been the subject of considerable attention in film theory recently” (115).  

Plantinga continues on to show what those physical reactions to film are. The chapter explains the our natural inclination to mimic the actions and emotions of those around us.  Plantinga looks at how films use this human social conventions to create different emotions. He uses the close up as an example of this: “the film can affect the viewer through framing, editing, and camera movement. The close-up can be used to create intimacy with a protagonist or to elicit disgust and revulsion toward an unsympathetic character” (120). Here, film creators replicate how people create closeness naturally and use it to their advantage to create meaning. The term ‘emotional contagion’, what Plantinga describes as “the phenomenon of ‘catching’ the emotions of those around us or of those we observe” (125), sums up the biological situation that film exploits to connect readers and create pathos in film.

The last section of the chapter is dedicated to sound. He discusses how sound is used to heighten the affect of the film. The example of Vertigo is used as the soundtrack gets louder and softer, creating a sound match to the feeling of vertigo itself (131).  However, sound does not only develop emotion, it can foreshadow what is to come (136), like scary music before a girl is attacked in a horror movie. Music gives the viewer additional information.
The book is all about how film uses pathos appeals to create intimacy with the viewer. While the entire book is on film rhetoric, I chose this chapter because it is focused on instant physical reactions, the same ones my students will have and discuss in class. The book is focused on film rhetoric and theory and no mention is made of teaching. This is fine though. I looked at many composition based texts that talked about the ‘power of film’ but never really explained it. This book does a wonderful job of explaining just how film affects the viewer, what films strengths are, rhetorically speaking. My job is to marry film rhetoric with composition rhetoric for the purposes of this paper. It’s a great source. I plan to discuss the oral/aural nature of film in my final paper and appreciated his focus on this topic as well. Plantinga’s chapter notes the medical studies he’s referencing, which I may look at as I write my own paper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Conference Handout

Rhetoric and the Short

This paper looks at the use of film in the multi-modal freshman classroom. Arguments for multimodality claim that the use of different modes supports the learning environment because we learn in different ways. This paper takes on the mode of film because it is a very common media mode. Computers and projectors are available in most classes and access to short films and movie clips is near limitless because of movie sharing sites like YouTube.
The paper will look first at what film has to give as a social medium, both in the way it is created and consumed. It will look at ways in which the very social nature of watching a film affects the way we view it and what that has to say about evaluation. There are also implications in the teaching of process through the network film production creates.
After looking at how the structure supports composition strategies, the paper looks at ways to teach rhetoric using film rhetoric. The paper focuses on two examples: consideration of ethos through an examination of mise-en-scene and the power of pathos through visual cues and the close up. Both of these examples intend to expand these rhetorical strategies often usurped by logos heavy print. The hope is that the examination of rhetoric in this different mode helps students to apply the rhetorical conditions highlighted by them across modes and disciplines they might encounter outside of the freshman composition classroom.

Crawford, Gavin. "A Message from Severus Snape." 2011. Web.
Gilda. 1946. Columbia Pictures, March 15, 1946.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. 2010. Warner Bros., November 21, 2010.
Jewitt, Carey. "Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms." Review of Research in Education 32 (2008): 241-67. Print.
Plantinga, Carl. Moving Viewers: American Film and the Spectator's Experience. Berkley: University of California Press, 2009. Print.
Rice, Jeff. "Networks and New Media." College English 69.2 (2006): 127-33. Print.
The Shining. 1980. Warner Bros., May 26, 1980

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Network

Rice, Jeff. "Networks and New Media." College English 69.2 (2006): 127-33. Print.

Rice's article "Networks and New Media" argues that the focus of English studies should be new media and "the problems and demands new media pose for the work done in literary studies, film studies,cultural studies, composition studies, or other areas associated with college English, principally as these areas engage with writing" (127). What Rice specifically focuses on is new media's ability to network and to show connectivity. He argues that in our everyday lives we see everything as connected, but the idea of the writer is still one of the lone author: "English studies maintains a fixed point of view through a singular notion of writing as static, fixed, and individually composed (typically via the essay or the exam), taking place in a unified realm of thought deemed 'English'" (129). In explaining what these connections are, Rice gives the examples of “[a]ssociations, combinations, and juxtapositions” (130). So, if paper is the medium of creation for the individual, new media can become the place of interconnection and group texts.

Rice further argues that looking at writing through new media changes knowledge and notes that writing in new media is social and he calls it “a process of working with information” (131). If writing becomes a process it means that knowledge is in flux and “higher education has meant the mastery of a mostly stable body of information” (131). In Rice’s conclusion he asks the questions “How can we rethink a model based on connections and linkages rather than on individual identities (as English itself and its areas of thought still propose to be)?” (132).

Rice’s short article really gets at the heart of some of the issues with new media and mulit-modality in the English classroom, especially in writing. When we ask students to work in new media, we are asking them to work in different ways than they would in a more traditional classroom. To use new media is to argue for this fluctuation in thinking, which opens a lot of possibilities and (in my opinion) makes teaching more challenging, but more productive.

My project is on film, and while film straddles the fence of old and new media I think the way it’s often used in the classroom can be included in Rice’s argument (usually through the computer to allow for easy referencing and even the digital creation of student’s work) . At first, I thought this connection between new media and combination, juxtaposition, and association was odd because I had been taught these terms through print literature. Yet, being taught one way does not mean there can’t be a better way.  Certainly film is a great way to teach these concepts visually/aurally.

This article’s defense of how a new way of writing is a new way of thinking ties in well with Carey Jewitt’s article, the one I read for my first post. It will be very helpful for theorizing what I plan to write on.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Electrifying Rhetoric

Jackson, Brian and Jon Wallin. "Rediscovering the ‘Back-and-Forthness’ of Rhetoric in the Age of Youtube." College Composition and Communication 61.2 (2009): W374-W96. Print.

In “Rediscovering the ‘Back-and-Forthness’ of Rhetoric in the Age of Youtube” Brian Jackson and Jon Wallin argue that public forums are a great way to introduce the idea of oral dialectic to rhetoric/composition students. The paper begins with the example of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student who was tazed by police at a town hall meeting with John Kerry (W374). The authors note that this video received 25,000 comments in just over a month (W375) and that is why they chose it as a source for their research on dialectic.

Jackson and Wallin do not argue that teachers should be teaching students to write as individuals do in comment forums. Instead, they use it as a starting point to talk about where students are debating. The focus is that most students are writing and the writing they are doing is online. The debates they see are online as well: “one way we can anticipate and compliment students’ online literacies is to teach the back-and-forthness of rhetoric—the often informal, messy process of exchange that takes place when two or more people argue with each other over public issues” (W375). This is, for many students, a real life application of the theory taught in class and a much more realistic application of rhetoric than an academic paper for most students.

Jackson and Wallin spend a great deal of the article discussing the history and origins of back-and-forth rhetoric and arguing for the necessity of such study in the composition classroom. Because that history equates written rhetoric with the monologue (not participatory, not interactive) (W377), Jackson and Wallin argue that the composition class should work on creating writings that are dialectic in nature. An example of this would be to assign two students a theme that they would write back and forth to each other on over the course of a few weeks (W392-3).

This article gives a wonderful overview of the strengths/weaknesses of informal/dialectic and formal/monologue rhetoric. It makes clear why formal writing is not interactive and why informal writing should be taught at a college level. I will say that I was a bit misled by the title of the piece. I was instantly drawn to it because I originally planned on doing my paper on teaching with Youtube and I thought that the back-and-forthness that the paper was going to address was going to be either on the way that members on Youtube make videos in response to other videos or the intertextuality of Youtube and use of memes. Those would have both been interesting for my project. It took ten pages for me to realize that those topics were never going to materialize. This article would be great for those studying online written rhetoric, but right now I do not see how it fits into my paper topic.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What Video Compositon Classes Look Like

Lovett, Maria, et al. "Writing with Video: What Happens When Composition Comes Off the Page?" Raw (Reading and Writing) New Media. Eds. Ball, Cheryl and James Kalmbach. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009. Print.

This chapter, co-authored by Katherine Gossett who very recently taught at Old Dominion, looks at a class taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) entitled Writing with Video, considered an advanced composition course. Students in this course use the writing process to create films for class. Lovett et al explain: “The course seeks not just to have students write more or create slick videos but to have students recognize the multiple modes available to them in making meaning” (5).* The writers continue on by saying that what they aim for students to get out of such a class is the realization that multimodal texts do rhetorical work (6). While film making and editing is an obvious part of this process, the students take scrupulous notes or organize and journals to reflect on their composition process during the semester. One student has more than 20 pages of written text based on her ten minute film (13). The article concludes with some very practical looks at how to incorporate what is an interdisciplinary class at U of I, including funding of technology and teachers, departmentalization, and the cross teaching of instructors. The premise behind the whole article is to explain why such classes should be taught and then to inform others on how to go about incorporating into a curriculum.

The article makes the point that film making is a key resource in the teaching of composition and applying rhetoric outside of writing. In some ways it is exactly what I need to be reading, to see how a class was created around the ideas of rhetoric, composition, and film. The article is theory and pedagogy driven with practical examples of that theory in practice. It’s not a perfect match, though. The article is looking at an advanced composition course and I am thinking more of an introductory class for my paper. It does, however, give great insight as to what great things using multimodal techniques in introductory classes can lead to in later classes. It also reinforces the idea that we do a disservice to students by only teaching them how to write a standard academic paper.

*Note: I am actually working from an unpaginated pdf of the chapter. I will borrow the book from the library if I choose to use this source for my paper. This is my current source:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Good Start

Jewitt, Carey. "Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms." Review of Research in Education 32 (2008): 241-67. Print.

Carey’s article serves as an introduction to multimodal teaching and literacy in the classroom. She is actually looking at how using multimodal technologies and techniques affect the way that we learn. She argues that the presentation of information in the classroom changes both what is learned and how it is learned. She later argues that if we are going to use multimodal examples in class, we need to be creating multimodalt exts as well.

Carey’s article covers a lot of area in 28 pages. Based in England, she is studying the use of digital media, print, image, and body language in classrooms that span preschool, primary school, and higher learning (and three countries). Carey starts by explaining the move from a focus on literacy to literacies that has happened over the past 15 years. This has happened as a result in our culture’s shift from print to digital. Communication has in no way decreased as a result, but, as Carey notes, “writing as the dominant mode is increasingly brought into new textual relations with, or even exchanged for, visual and multi-modal forms of expression (244). The understanding becomes that teaching only writing as words limits students’ understanding of current culture and may even work counter to their understanding of text. Simply put, students ‘read’ more than just books.

She goes on to discuss studies done in multimodal teaching. Modes are different forms of communication that include, but do not end at, language. Carey’s examples range from the creation of a cross-cultural alphabet book a class created to the study of music or pictures in a class. No mode should be put above another and technology is not the only mode that can be brought into the classroom. In the classroom, this is a shift from lecture and discussion to creation. Students will bring themselves and their literacies into the classroom to create these new texts.

She ends by realizing some of the challenges that multimodal teaching brings into the classroom. Variances in modes mean that students must ‘read’ multiple texts in class, often converting what they know of one mode into another. She adds that body language is another mode in the classroom. A teacher’s body language can really affect the way a class learns. So, students must become expert readers and teachers must do all they can to relay meaning.

I am planning on doing my project on multimodal teaching, especially how to creating multimodal texts in a writing classroom. Carey’s article works as a good introduction to the idea of multimodal teaching and is a great place to start. The wealth of information she tries to take on means that she touches on a lot of ideas, but doesn’t go into anything with depth. She acknowledges at the end that her discussion of multimodal teaching leaves open a lot of discussion. What she does give is a good definition of multimodal teaching and a lot of great examples of what that can look like. I think it’s a useful article to establish one in the conversation.