Stedman, Remix Literacy and Fan Composition

Stedman, Kyle D. “Remix Literacy and Fan Composition” Computers and Composition. 29.2 (2012): 107-123.

Stedman’s study focuses on the knowledges and skills that is involved in self-sponsored remix composing, particularly how such remixing/composing works within fan communities. Stedman interest is in the “self-sponsored remixing efforts of individuals in existing communities who compose, peer review, distribute, and discuss work online” (107). In particular, he’s interested in how remixers “explain their composing processes and how their communities function” (107). “What do their activities tell us about the shifting grounds of digital literacy that composers and students learn outside of the classroom as they play with ever-changing digital tools” (107-8).

His research “surveyed and interviewed remixers who participated in three areas of fandom:

  1. Those who remix video footage from the TV series Lost to tell stories, create themed music videos, and comment on issues and questions not always brought up by the show;
  2. Those who rearrange the music from videogames into new styles of music
  3. Those who write fan fiction” (108).

Fan communities, as Stedman writes, “offers a fascinating lens when studying remix from a rhetorical angle: the audience these works are intedned for—primarily other members of the same community—have already formed opinions about the ideas, themes, characters, sounds, and other various pieces of the original texts, which shapes reaction to new, remixed texts…The communication situation becomes inherently more dialogic, responsive, and messy. And as with any discourse community, frequent participants began to learn the subgroups of opinions among those who frequent a particular site or forum” (108). His methods were designed with the intent to “gather stories of composition practices, rather than to statistically prove any hypothesis” (111). Stedman asked three questions of the fan communities he studied: “one about their reliance on earlier sources, one about remixes of remixes in their community, and one about their opinions on originality and ownership).

His findings:

  1. An attention to creativity: a hardwired understanding of creativity is that if a piece of work is derived from earlier work, it is “often derided as less meaningful than work as ‘wholly original’” (112). However, one participant understood creativity on a specrum: “Littleton_pace doesn’t reject the idea that remix works can be more or less creative; she describes a spectrum of originality, where some simply splice together content and others infuse new narratives into their video texts. But she also describes the intelligence, creativity, and meticulous work that goes into telling AU stories” (112). “But Littleton_pace’s community has also developed an ethic of content use that stops short of some remix aesthetics, which might praise the sharing and resharing of content without restraints. She writes, ‘[M]ost of the vids that I’ve seen are “original” concepts, in fact the “art” of clip theft is something that is heavily frowned upon in the viding community. Someone would have to have the permission of another vidder to remix their work’” (113). However, Stedman found that tone shifts when discussing clips from the show, as opposed to other fans.
  2. While much of the work in the fan communities is described as self-sponored by Stedman, he also writes that such work “is highly localized to the wishes of those who she knows will watch it” (113).
  3. Inspiration was a key concept frequently brought up: “even scholars who are averse to defning creativity romantically, is if inspired individuals create form blank slates, should consider how to understand the experiences of those who feel like they are regularly inspired, like the survey respondent who describes her muse: ‘if it’s something that has been overdone, more than likely I won’t do it, unless my viding muse demands it be made.’ But there is also the inspiration that comes from reading sources, from purposefully seeking inspiration in earlier works” (114).
  4. Stedman calls this inventional research: not simply of the kind of research of a FYC class. Rather, vidders research in a kind immersive way into the community. They consume various related media and ask, “what could I do with this?” Along these lines, previous work is seen as templates form which to create new work. Remixers in these fan communities “read the world with lenses in our glasses that help us see all other compositions, created for an aim, as potential starting points for infusing our own creativity. And this voracious inclusive everyday searching does not need to diminish he originals…but offer a new take, new emotional angle to explore in preexisting work” (115).

Stedman offers a set of principles about the “Remix Literate Composer”

    1. Insists (defiantly, at times) on the creativity and inherent worth of her work, sometimes using conservative reactions to remixed work as an impetus to push boundaries.
    2. Attends meticulously to the details needed to achieve compositional goals, refusing to be satisfied with anything but the most effective delivery possible for a given audience.
    3. Is community- and collaboration-minded, following an ethic of content reuse developed along with others and attending to the demands of genre, audience, and purpose that make the most sense in a given discourse community.
    4. Searches widely for inspiration, integrating remixing into his everyday life to such an extent that it seems natural to find new artistic and rhetorical possibilities in any area of life.
    5. Considers how medium affects content, using the most effective tools available to create the message that will speak the ways the composer wants it to.
    6. Uses both discursive and nondiscursive communication to affect audiences’ minds and emotions in ways that are both clear and suggestive.
    7. Accommodates various purposes/exigencies in her remixed composition, often using multiple layers of meaning that exist simultaneously.

 

Takayoshi, “Short-from Writing”

Takayoshi, Pamela, “Short-form writing: Studying process in the context of contemporary composing technologies” Computers and Composition. 37 (2015): 1-13.

Takayoshi turns her attention to short-form writing on social media as a complex writing practice that involves a likewise complex writing process. She offers two case studies that outline some of the complexities involved in this often-overlooked writing process: that of short-form writing on social media such as Facebook.

She opens with a broad question, “What does writing mean?” She offers a definition that seeks to find common features among different kinds of writing: “one commonality is the manipulation of a complex symbol system as a means of communicating human thought from one person to others” (1-2). The creation, distribution, and use of writing is impacted by technologies. She turns to Jim Porter’s concept of internetworked writing to describe the kinds of contemporary, digital technology-mediated writing that is part of modern everyday life. Defined, internetworked writing describes “the technological environments where writing is composed and circulated…”[I]netnetworked writing also refers to more than simply posting text: it includes reading, browsing, and collecting electronic text, as research activities that are also types of writing activities’” (Porter 2 qtd in Takayoshi 2). Takayoshi finds that internetworked writing is the kinds of writing that occurs in networks: across tools, technologies, platforms, and devices.

As Takayoshi claims, computers and writing scholarship has been much more attention to the fact that students are writing more than ever before and for many purposes and less interested in “the practices, processes, and larger social, cultural, and technological ecology in which this writing is happening” (2). As such, she looks to the kind of short-form writing that are pervasive in everyday writer’s lives, specifically the processes of composing involved in such writing. She discusses the object of study in writing studies, moving from individual to culture—or as Takayoshi writes, form writing (focused on individual’s meaning0making practices) to literacy (suggesting social practices and a larger communicative context). This, as she writes, is the social turn. However, as Takayoshi writes, this movement away from the individual has seemed to imply that the cognitive and social are divisible. As such, we have been must less interested in studying in situ writing practices: what are the processes involved in student composing in situ and across technologies. Summing succinctly, “we have yet to turn our attention in any systematic way to how those technological and social changes have affected how writers write with contemporary writing technologies and what happens to writing processes when they are enacted through those technologies. Writing studies needs more detailed, systematic understandings of the writing processes of writers as they compose in the technologically mediated, networked, and multimodal landscape of literacy now” (4).

Methods: “Participants wer asked to record a 30-minute screencast, think-aloud video at a time when they were on Facebook reading and writing as they might under normal circumstances” (5). They had 30-60 minute follow-up interviews.

Her findings from Dan and Sherry:

  • Writing/Assessing/Revising is truncated: “Dan’s drafting and revising processes were truncated and joined together—Like Dan, every writer in the larger study drafted, read, and re-read their writing as it progressed and revised or edited mid-sentence. The cursor moved forward and backward as Dan composed, re-read, assessed, and revised his written text” (6). “Sherry’s composing process did not delineate drafting, reviewing, and revising into neatly and distinctly staged processes; instead, drafting, reviewing and revising were truncated into the brief writing episode” (8).
  • Self-Evaluation: “In the process of composing the short piece of writing he finally posted, Dan engaged in more self-evaluation than might be expected for such a brief writing episode: narrating what he wanted to write (and thus, perhaps mentally organizing the narrative), evaluating the move from elaborated detail to pithy status update, re-reading text as he was producing it, making decisions about his word choice, deleting text and replacing it with other words, recognizing and correcting misspellings, pausing to think about the status before clicking the “share” button that would post it publicly to his Facebook wall, adding more information in the comment, and then finally, deciding that the comment was “just not appropriate at all” and deleting it” (7)
  • Micro-Attention: “Sherry appeared to be paying conscious attention to each individual print-linguistic character as it appeared on the screen before her. This micro-level of attention to the unfolding written text was, in fact, evidenced by every other writer in the larger study in almost every instance of writing. This micro-processing of the text as it unfolded character by character and the accompanying revision and editing at the level of the letter is characteristic of the composing process of writers” (8)
  • Composing process across platforms: The micro-processing and awareness of the text evidenced in Sherry’s written turns in the conversation is evidenced in writing she did outside the Facebook interface as well. … These writers’ composing processes suggest that composing processes learned and deployed in one technological context may be translated into other contexts, or at the least, there may be composing processes which carry across multiple types of interactive, networked writing (8).

 

 

Comstock, “Grrrl Zine Network”

Comstock offers reflections on the riot grrrl zine networks, focused twofold on (1) what researches and pedagogues of writing can learn about writing from such zines and (2) what the very nature of such everyday, vernacular writing makes possible or visible about a particular moment in feminist history.

Comstock, drawing from Gere, sees this zine scene in terms of “extracurricular” in that it is functions as counter to formal institutional education writing. As Comstock writes, the contemporary zine scene “comprises a significant extracurricular site of reading and writing pedagogy, where editors, writers, and readers learn the critical practices of countercultural production and distribution outside of formla institutional settings. Composed of ‘rants’ against the homogenizing effects of mass culture and popular media, zines forego the grammar, layout, content, and distribution methods of conventional publican” (384). The zine writer/editors are explicit that their writing community is intentionally in conflict with school contexts. Much like Goffman’s underlife, zine writers use the zine space in reaction to the paternalistic strictures of the institution. Not only that, but also in reaction to other scenes that are imcompatiable with some feminist zine writers. Comstock writes, such zine writing often uses “writing as a tactic for critical and alternative subject formation outside both the male punk scene and the mainstream feminist movement” (386).

Thus a central motive of these zines is the “rhetorical desire to network young women who are isolated in homes, high schools, and colleges, and provide them with alternative literacies (tools and knowledges) for self-expression and solidarity” (388). Such a network, as argued by the zine editors that Comstock sites, seems impossible to support from within school contexts. For instance, the zine provides an opportunity for women to share “’their stories with [each] other and [point] fingers at the accused’ [allowing] these young women to ‘express their rage, relieve their shame, and overcome the isolation that accompanies such an experience’” (Duncombe 67 qtd in Comstock 389) of trauma and abuse. As Comstock writes, “in high school and university writing courses, for example, many women are met with fear or confusion when they attempt to articulate their experiences of bodily trauma” (390). As such, “although many grrrl editors have spent many hours writing and reading in university classrooms, they have chosen the zine scene and not the academy as their vehicle for change” (390).

These zines also emphasize their vernacular and resistant nature through their mode of distribution and circulation: often shared through grassroots networks (e.g. independent bookstores, reading groups, rock concerts, and community centers). As such, the zine becomes a place “where writers learn how to produce and distribute texts outside of formal educational settings” (see Gere; 387). Grrrl zinesters often arrange, curate, cut/paste, fragments of popular and alternative cultures to participate and contribute to the zine. The emphasis is on creating a network made up, not only of an imagined audience, but of the intertextuality of mainstream and alternative. In online zines, such practices is replaced with hyperlinking. But the movement to digital circulation, reached a more diffuse mass audience, has thrown some of its everyday-ness qualities, and thus features of resistance, into some question. The potential for mass circulation goes against some zinesters’ desire to “control the spaces of authorship and audience and to root zine authorship and agency within a unified, physical sense of self and experience” (401).

Amicucci, “Rhetorical Choices in FB Discourse”

Amicucci offers a close observation of one college student’s Facebook use to construct a persona and writing voice. She frames her research primarily with Gee (2015) and Ivanič (1998). Per Gee, she finds that the participant, JJ, has developed a kind of Facebook literacy, a mastery of Discourse (capital D) or the participation within a constructed social network that scripts or expects particular sayings, writings, doings, beings, valuing, and believing. JJ enacts a Discourse in that she “must not only ‘say the “right” thing’ but also ‘do the “right” thing as in such saying and doing also express the “right” beliefs, values and attitudes” (Gee 168 qtd in Amicucci 38). Per Ivanič, the development of a writer’s persona is contingent upon a number of factors including “the writer’s past and the writer’s stance on a subject, the writer’s perception of his or her audience’s expectations” (39). Each of these factors plays into the writer’s “anticipation of known or imagined reader(s)” (Ivanič 215 qtd in Amicucci 39). Explaining Ivanič further, “dominant ideologies are filtered through readers, and the values that a writer actually witnesses or imagines readers to hold—values that often uphold these dominant ideologies—are what shape the writer’s construction of a discoursal self on the page… Facebook literacy, then, requires a user to have Facebook Discourse and to be able to critique his or her participation on it” (39).

Some key findings:

  • Critique: JJ would express critique of something say by others: JJ “offered minimal but biting commentary of the foolishness of speakers whose words she had recreated” (42). She would often receive buy-in from others who would comment or like her critiques; however, neither JJ or her friend would substantiate their opinions by providing reasons behind their preferences.
  • Audience & Circulation: Amiccuci points to a few motivations behind JJ’s writing/posting choices. The two motives expressed by JJ was to (a) make her content visible and (b) have an impact on her friends/followers on FB. Amicucci describes the kind of method JJ uses to figure out what makes the greatest visibility/impact. For instance, JJ reflects upon her own choices and the way she likes/shares material of others as a point of departure to consider how others will react to her material: “JJ used her own behavior on FB to make decisions about how her audience would react to what she shared; she had reflected on her tendency to scroll through the news feed without reading everything and used this reflection to inform her choices of what to post” (45). As such, she strung together a somewhat unstable or temporary theory of FB literacy that includes some unwritten rules. For example, JJ reflects, “I feel like its kind of a rule if you’re going to post a lot, use Twitter. If you’re not going to post a lot, use Facebook because if you post a lot on Facebook, people are gonna give you a lot of crap about it” (45). She, thus, is motivated by the ways others engage with her content, i.e. comments and likes. For instance, she considers the timing of her content—which times of day should she post to get the greatest amount of engagement.
  • Values of imagined audience: Amicucci observes that JJ’s use of FB to construct persona was a response to the values of her imagined audience. Per Ivanič, “writers’ identities are ‘shaped, nurtured or constrained by their anticipation of known or imagined reader(s);’” Ivanič finds that “writers make a range of choices in whether to kowtow to what they perceive to readers’ expectations or resist those expectations in favor of forwarding an identity they personally prefer” (Ivanič 215 qtd in Amicucci 47). Amicucci continues, “a Discousre sphere …does not come with a rulebook. Thus, not only was JJ defining her own rules for effective participation, she was simultaneously defining the parameters of her imagined networked publics’ behavior” (47).
  • Curation: JJ is “someone who chooses what to share and the arrangement in which to share it while keeping herself largely absent form the collection. As a curator of FB content, JJ’s role is similar to that of a museum curator” (47). IN other words, the content she shares is not of her own creation and typically does not re-frame or comment on the material, yet the presentation of it “is geared toward the reception it will receive from an audience” (47).

Almjeld, “A Rhetorician’s Guide to Love”

Almjeld’s rhetorical analysis of her dating profile on Match.com makes visible the ways such dating sites the site design and conventions script users into “prescribed identities and embodiments online and how such performances tend to bias normative heterosexuality” (72). Almjeld is centrally interested in understanding the kinds of options available on dating interfaces in terms of representation and identity; specifically, she questions how such virtual spaces shape those options of representation. As she argues, “online daters must rhetorically craft a sort of avatar or signifier for themselves in order to interact with others” (73). In other words, creation of an identity or avatar is a ticket for passage into the space. However, the hetereo-noramtive “gender scripts” within the space “are often so subtle and even naturalized…that it is difficult and at points impossible to resist participating in the false dichotomies and stereotypes” (73). “It is important to realize that most every keystroke…has an impact on the ways users see themselves and the way they wish to be seen. And most often, because the power and influence of the profile template remains invisible to users, those performing dater have little or no control over their performative act” (74).

One of the key connections that Almjeld makes is tying online dating sites to 19th century commonplace books, since the commonplace book, much like dating sites, had the purpose of helping to “prepare composers to publically enact social scripts fo gender and class that will provide entry into a given society or role” (75). “online daters demonstrate belonging through textual production. Daters often judge one another’s intellect (Baker 2005) and charisma based on writing fluency, grammatical correctness, and allusions to other texts, and so, as with common place books, originality does not seem nearly as important in online dating as is the recognition of and ability to wield existing texts and codes” (75).

 

 

Buck, “Examining Digital Literacy Practices on Social Network Sites”

Buck offers a close observation of everyday literate practices of one undergraduate student who navigates across several social networked sites to represent himself and his identity in the process of mediating his literate life. As Buck writes, “social network sites are intricately woven into the tapestry of his daily literacy practices; they play a large role in how he interacts with others in his personal and professional life as well as how he presents himself to difference audiences. For students like Ronnie, everyday literate activity takes place in networked digital environments, which shape their literacy practices and their online and offline lives” (9-10). Per Selfe & Hawisher (2004), living a “literate life in the information age” increasingly means “learning to navigate these spaces, managing one’s identity and online data, and considering complex issues of privacy and representation” (10). In outlining her observations, she keys in on two aspects of his literate practices: (a) his identity representations on social network sites; and (b) his interactions with site interfaces (see pg 13).

Some of her key observations, relevant for my diss include:

  • Many of Ronnie’s decisions and rhetorical choices in writing where motivated by how he was representing himself in these sites. In this sense, his identity is closely tied to the networks of connections on a given social media site. Per Marwick and boyd (2011), “one’s personal network of connections collaborates in his identity construction, in interacting with others and responding to the intersts of one’s followers” (Buck 14). Hence, Buck notes that scholarship on identity often focuses on “how users build and maintain audience communities” (15).
  • Ronnie imagines an audience in each of his social networking sites which motivates the degree and kind of writing he elects to share. He reflects, “I use selective tweets on Facebook, so only particular tweets will make it over, pretty much ust ones that I know will get a reaction from people who are never using Twitter, because otherwise its just kind of a stream of consciousness. I don’t want to bother people’s news feeds” (17). He also reflects a similar process for photography: he’ll share just about anything on FB, but makes a selection for Flickr. As Buck writes, “Ronnie envisioned different audiences with different concerns and interests on both Facebook and Twitter and constructed his identity on both sites with audiences n mind” (18). The question then is how he constructed these imagined communities/audiences?
  • Ronnie also creates various ‘alter egos’ in order to both connect with a different kind of audience while also going under the radar of other networks on the other sites (though he doesn’t say that this is the reason). As Buck reflects, “he represented a specific part of his identity for a specific audience” so he can tailor the kind of writing he shares (e.g. music for his musical alter ego) rather than personal life. Connected to curation.
  • Ronnie is accurately aware of/attuned to the different ways he can disperse information & writing about himself and how it would be used by others, and he wants to control this process. While he generally didn’t have concerns about sharing his information online and publicly visible, he was concerned about ‘who’ owned his information and what they did with it (see page 31). For instance, Ronnie is concerned with the ‘mean world’ of the Internet that seeks to use his invisible digital identity against him. Buck argues that part of managing one’s identity online, such as in the case of Ronnie, involves the user to adjust, adapt, and resist the scripts and expectations of use that accompany technologies and enable/constrain certain actions. As Buck writes “users can align with these scripts or resist them, adjusting these technologies for their own usage through an ‘antiprogram,’ a user’s program that is at odds with the designer’s program” (32; see: Akrich & Latour 1992; Jonhso-Eilola 2005).

Key ideas/definitions:

  • Lankshear & Knobel (2008) define digital literacy as “a shorthand for the myriad social practices and conpcetions of engaging in meaning making mediated by texts that are produced, received, and distributed, exchanged, etc. via digital codification” (5).
  • boyd & Ellison (2007) define social network sites as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection; (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (para 4).
  • Adpated from Bill Hart-Davidson (2007), Buck uses time-use diaries to “record the time of the event, the message and its purpose, and the technology through which the message was sent (mobile phone vs computer, for example)” (13).
  • Prior & Shipka (2003) define chronotopic laminations as “the dispersed and fluid chains of places, times, people, and artifacts that come to be tied together in trajectories of literate action, the ways multiple activity footings are simultaneously held and managed” (181). As Buck writes, “this kind of writing work is what makes up a literate life, occurring in multiple environments and across physical and digital spaces. Ronnie’s social media use demonstrates the ways in which many social network sites users integrate their social network activity into their daily lives” (22).

 

Beck, “The Invisible Digital Identity”

In the study of digital writing and rhetoric, the field has been centrally concerned with the visible digital identity, one that users can regulate in online spaces and platforms. However, Beck argues that ‘with each click of a web page, we also have an invisible digital identity constructed through third-arty elements and tracking technologies” (126). For Beck, identity in digital spaces is intimately tied to digital surveillance and tacking technologies. Identity is “constructed by computer algorithms and tracking technologies, and those data elements become a digital apparatus for digital social engineering and marketing of virtual bodies” (128). Beck outlines three defining characteristic of the invisible digital identity:

  1. It’s regulated: by controlling flow of information, web companies can regulate behavior on the internet.
  2. It’s made up of an ecology of objects, materials, and dimensions.
  3. It refracts the internet: one’s invisible digital identity, harvested from web browser and machines, creates unique and customized experiences for each user.

Beck notes, via Lierouw, that there are three stages of internet development: the relational Internet (“the interpersonal and personally customized character of online and mobile communication”); the enclosed Internet (“growing technological and legal restrictions on new media devices and systems”); and the ‘mean world’ Internet (“these sense of risk or exposure online that has been used to justify the expansion of increasingly invasive private and state surveillance/security regimes”) (Lierouw 617 qtd in Beck 128).