Multi-Media, Multimodality, and Multimedia: A Study of Competing Concepts in Composition Textbooks, 1968-1973
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In her 2009 Computers and Composition article, Lauer pointed out that compositionists today have defined multimodality and multimedia more from context than from any real understanding of what these terms entail. In 2006, Daniel Anderson et al. found that in the collegiate environments within the U.S, teachers of writing understood the meaning of multimodality as including the use of words, images, sound, and animation. However, in practice the concept of multimodality focused on the use of the visual and the alphabetic, with an exclusion to all other modes (78-9). This has made multimodality synonymous with the use of digital technologies, rather than the impetus for something bigger. Lauer pointed out that instead of understanding mode and media as distinct, though connected, terms, media and mode have become interchangeable with the prefix multi (288). This is becoming increasingly risky because, as Jason Palmeri pointed out in 2012, today’s pedagogical requirements have shifted where “[i]t [is] not enough to teach students to compose alphabetic texts alone [for] that students needed to be able to compose with images, sounds, and words in order to communicate persuasively and effectively in the twenty-first century” (2). Palmeri also argued that excluding multiple modes in the composing process meant denying students and teachers the untapped potential of multimodality in the writing classroom. It is because of technology’s influence on pedagogy, even technology’s inaccessibility to some, that we must respond to this issue urgently. In this dissertation I use textual sources to examine multimodal and multimedia in composition so as to enable instructors to articulate their multimodal pedagogical ambitions through a clear conceptual understanding of multimodal and multimedia. In order to ground this dissertation, I locate the focus in textbooks, specifically in the multi-media textbooks from 1968-1973, the period of the emergence of the use of the multimodal approach to writing pedagogy. The goals for this study are informing writing instructors of the differences between multimodality and multimedia, while empowering them to be able to independently, and relatively quickly, assess the degree and the nature of a teaching resource’s modality. Xin Liu Gale and Fredric Gale stated that we must explore the growing connections between computer technology and textbooks ([Re]Visioning Composition Textbooks), and this study is a response to their call. This dissertation allows us, as compositionists, to not only better articulate our textbooks, courses, and pedagogical resources in terms of their multimodality, but also to better redefine our own identities as multimodal compositionists of tomorrow.