Shipka, “Negotiating…Difference: Evaluating Multimodal Design”

Shipka, Jody. “Negotiating Rhetorical, Material, Methodological and Technological Difference: Evaluating Multimodal Design” CCC 61.1. (Sept. 2009) 343-66. (23 pages)

Shipka has previously written about inviting students to compose “differently shaped products” (Takayoshi 136 qtd in Shipka W346) in order to facilitate student’s metacommunicative awareness. Such projects are multimodal in the sense that they draw upon material objects in order to create and engage with those modes a new text for some given task. But she makes clear that her concept of multimodality need not be digital, as has often been implied in the work of Yancey and others.

Shipka’s specific goal, here, is to articulate a framework to aid in assessing thse projects. She recognizes that there is a dearth of scholarship that attends to the assessment of multimodal and new media texts. She specifically outlines her use of details statement of goals and choices (SOGC) as a method of assessing material, multimodal texts in dialogue with students’ articulated process knowledge that can operate for projects that can differ from student to student. These statements are meant to tap into student’s rhetorical sensitivity. A rhetorically sensitive individual:

  1. Accepts role playing as part of the human condition,
  2. Attempts to avoid stylized [rigid, routinized] behavior,
  3. Recognizes that situational changes require modifications in communicative strategies and thus is willing to undergo the strain of adaption
  4. Learns to distinguish between all information and information that is not acceptable in, or fitting for, a given situation, and finally,
  5. Understands that ideas/information can be represented in multi-form ways.

She looks specifically to an activity she calls “Lost and Found” (LF) which give students the opportunity to create texts from found objects, items, and texts in order to solve some kind of problem. Shipka notes that this activity places students in a “decision making situation” that requires “they consider various ways of accomplishing the task and anticipate how the choices they make might impact, positively or otherwise, the look, sound, and overall meaning potential of their final products” (W350). As such, they would represent such knowledge in their SOGC. The SOGC prompts students to respond to these four questions:

  1. What, specifically, is the piece trying to accomplish—above and beyond satisfying the basic requirements outline din the task description? In other words, what work does, or might, this piece do? For whom? In what contexts?
  2. What specific rhetorical, material, methodological, and technological choices did you make in service of accomplishing the goal(s) articulated above? Catalog, as well, choices that you might have consciously made, those that were made for you when you opted to work with certain genres, materials, and technologies.
  3. Why did you end up pursuing this plan as opposed to the others you came up with? How did the various choices listed above allow you to accomplish things that other sets of combinations would not have?
  4. Who and what played a role in accomplishing these goals?

Unlike other reflective or process memos that may ask students “to the goals they set, the choices they made, and the plans they came up with,” Shipka is specifically concerned with the ways students composed with other technologies, modes, genres, etc. the SOGC focuses, for instance, on “individuals-operating-with-mediational-means” (W357). “SOGC directs students’ attend to what Latour calls ‘entanglements of humans and nonhumans,’ asking them to consider the ways in which they are always already collaborating with the things (i.e. language systems, rules, genres, materials, belief systems), and, so, always working with or against the agency of things” (W357). In this way, the overall goal of having student swrite SOGC is to bring attention to the communication knowledge and skills that have operated tacitly, unconsciously and thus, taken for granted. It helps us to think anew about that knowledge and how they related to emerging problems across contexts.



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