You are on page 1of 4

Hawkins 1

Brendan Hawkins
Dr. Kathleen Yancey
Digital Revolutions
20 November 2017
ePortfolio Reflection
As I was reading the syllabus on the first day of class, I originally mistook revolutions in the class title,
Digital Revolutions and Convergence Culture. I only considered revolution of the upheaval type,
forgetting that cycle is an equally valid definition. As the class progressed I began to understand that
both definitions are valid and vital to describing and understanding what Deborah Brandt calls the
piling on of literacies for subsequent generations (Accumulating Literacy). Based on her interviews,
Brandt concludes that old literacies do not die out as new literacies emerge. Instead, the literacies
pile ona phrase she uses for the addition of new literacy opportunities along with past generations.
While her article describes literacies (and their contexts) that folks gained in the early 1900s, piling on
is no less an issue with now-ubiquitous digital technologies and the literacies needed to deploy and
critically analyze them.

Based on both definitions of revolution, I have come to understand literacies in the digital revolution as
engaged in a negotiation with prior literacies (cycle) that is problematized by faster and wider
networking and circulation as well as greater participation between reader/viewer and text that digital
advances afford composers (upheaval). This reflection synthesizes my perspective on the shift in literacy
practices that Digital Revolutions and Convergence Culture surveyed. I understand the revolution, as Ive
said, to include a new access to the ability to participate with media; however, scholars in Composition
Studies and other fields have found that calling the networks and circulation we consider when we look
at social media brand new may be a misnomer. We have been networked and engaged in negotiating
old and new literacies for ages. My understanding of these concepts is evident in my ability to put
reading from this semester into conversation, something I wouldnt have been able to do a few months
ago.

New Practices
Gunter Kress complicates writing and speech, particularly those prior to the 1960s, as modes for
discourse in that their narrative unfolding perhaps unduly grant more power to authors over readers
(Gains and Losses). Instead, relying
on visual modes allows readers to Learning Moment
enter the text wherever and whenever Gains and Losses was a pivotal reading for my
they wish, which de-centers the understanding not only of composing but of my own media
authors power over the way a reader- practices. I weigh the gains and losses as I compose
listener experiences the text. He claims multimodally (or even to use multiple modes), choosing the
that the semiotics of language and best media for the task at hand while weighing its
affordances and limitations.
speech are highly contextual and
prone to misinterpretation, so we
In my Circulation Map I see the concept of gains and losses
should give more consideration to playing out in the push/pull of media content and my
images and design (arrangement) in reading practices too: Content shared through my preferred
our composing. We need a method for social media platforms was convenient, but it didnt give me
critiquing new media and modes by a fuller picture of the situation. Therefore, I had to weigh
first accepting that meaning is always those affordances and decide whether to pursue whether or
in flux, our kairotic moment or how to pull media to me to fill that gap.
zeitgeist may be fleeting: It seems
clear to me that we cannot continue
Hawkins 2

with existing theories of meaning given the facts of the changes in the social, economic and cultural
domain. [We] need theories apt for an era of radical instability (Kress 20). To combat this unsettling
and new literacies needed, Kress argues we should pay more attention to design, as in attention to the
best way of communicating using what modes and circulation. For example, my ePortfolio is constructed
to guide a reader through the text but also has enough content and context on each page so that a
reader could read nonlinearly. He asks what is gained or lost from our choice in modes, which is a
question that we not only should be asking, per Kress, but one that, per Lanham, we could be asking.

Cue digital technologies. Richard Lanham argues that we have historically looked on the humanities as a
pickle jar (or so) where we preserve the hypothetical best of humanity (25). The digital revolution, he
sees even in 89, democratizes those seemingly stable meanings in literature. Readers can manipulate
fonts and texts to make them new creations, which I wrote about in a blog post.

James Sosnoski predicted in 1999 that reading practices would become increasingly digital as the years
progressed (Hyper-Readers). He compares print and digital reading practices, noting mostly that there
is a difference in readers practices at hand and forthcoming. He breaks down aspects of reading, such
as filtering and pecking, to discuss discrete reading practices. While he tries to remain neutral in
presenting the supposed change in reading practices, he implies that reading practices will change as
hypertext disrupts traditional print reading tactics. (See throughout the ePortfolio and even this text for
examples of disruptive reading.)

Similarly, Kathleen Yancey et al claim in Device. Display. Read that we should consider assessing
reading practices on a micro levelas in in which order we read text, photos, videos, and other modes in
multimodal texts. Does the reading order make a difference? Probably yes, as does the access to the
different modes the author chose to use in designing the text. Yancey et al suggest that reading should
be paid more attention to, especially as we have more
Learning Moment options. They specifically question how this affects
Yancey et al and Snowfall expanded students and then how we should work with them.
my understanding of micro-reading, Barons studies suggest that students have a hierarchy of
considering what and/ or how preferences of digital devices on which they read, and
readers/viewers/participants read students tend to favor (or are more likely to read) print
different aspects of multimodal texts. material. Yancey et al then question what do we do with
For example, my ePortfolio pages these preferences, especially given pedagogies that call
juxtapose Reflections with Artifacts that for multimodal composing. Do we relate our reading
speak to each other. Ive chosen a assignments with our writing assignments? One can
direction I want readers to read; conclude from this text that yes, we should discuss how to
however, I know that alphabetic text read texts of all forms. Yancey et al conclude that the
may not be as eye-catching as other text principles of design can help students create mental
types, leading my reader to participate schema for reading that can transfer across texts and
nonlinearly if she so chooses.
devices.

These new reading participations are indications of remediation, a keyword for Digital Revolutions.
Through remediation our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation:
ideally, it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them, creating a double logic,
according to Jay Bolton and Richard Grusins Remediation (5). Bolter and Grusin present their double
logic of remediation as constituting immediacy, reducing mediation to allow the viewer the most real
experience possible, and hypermediacy, the multiplying media necessary to further immediacy. Thus,
Remediation explores the tensions between immediacy and hypermediacy that happens when viewers
Hawkins 3

encounter new media. The dual logic implicitly points out the tensions between immediacy and
hypermediacy, and that tension shows in Snowfall, a text published by New York Times. Throughout
the text, the composers aim to help the reader/viewer/participator understand the story of a fatal
avalanche through geographic graphs, temporally with time stamps, and emotionally with photos of
widows and galleries of images of the snowboarders and skiers featured in the text. The immediacy the
reader gets is hypermediated by the texts I just mentioned. Without the media, the story would not be
as effective in its goal of being both informative and affective.

Texts like Snowfall also point to a greater ability for composers to pull in various modes to compose
their texts. Multimodal composition is expanded through assemblage theories, which generally posit
that assemblages are, as Jody Shipka remarks, inevitable (Composition as [Re]Collection). Yancey and
McElroy synthesize one theory of assemblage as allowing us to see composing as proceeding from
interrelated combinations of bodies, concepts, and ideas, and assemblage refers to any text resulting
from such a constellation with text being understood metaphorically (7). The greater access to texts
coupled with the newfound ability to revise, remix, and assemble texts leads towards a plurality of
meaning, a revolution of historical meaning and meaning-making. This move strikes me as postmodern
ideals that are finally being realized through the new technologies, a point that Lanham triangulates.
Lanham references several artistic, literary, and philosophical movements since the 60s that may be the
origin of this growing revolution.

New Old Challenges


Brown and Duguids The Social Life of Information presents information and data-obsessed folks as too
often missing lateral connections as they look at the availability of information and newer technologies
with tunnel vision. Social Life complicates the frequent assumption that more information equals more
freedom. Indeed, Brown and Duguid respond to those who conflate information and knowledge.
Nowhere is that more saliently presented and argued against than within their chapters, Practice
Makes Process and Learningin Theory and in Practice. The first of those chapters presents readers
with a helpful lens for making sense of the impotency of information without actors to reconfigure that
information into knowledge. This text helped me to see the human-function in the data equation. The
implication is that knowledge is not computed but made through practice by practitioners through
what I call the crucible of nonlinear situations, proximity
and context-building, that constitute learning. Learning Moment
Circulation as a rhetorical action may
Though we have new affordances thanks to new media, include networksas in, published within
our networks and circulation practices already have a ones networkand/or may
be networked past the individuals
rich history. Take for example David Henkins The
original circulation intentions.
Postal Age, which explores some of the history of the
Understanding network as a noun and a
American post in the nineteenth century, particularly
verb is important.
through early and middle century. In the earliest days of
the post, costs kept most Americans from using the post. Many resorted to clever tricks to reduce the
price of postage, which cost by the page and distance range. Reformers advocated for reduced prices by
using the argument that a price drop would bring more letter writers to the post office. Notably, the
post office as an entity had different goals at its outset, when compared to now. Postage was tied with
newspaper subscriptions. Again, reformers advocated for more accessible everyday writing that authors
could circulate with loved ones. Henkin writes, Postal reformers envisioned a mail system in which the
state simply encouraged and regulated high volumes of unspecified exchange between customers
(n.p.). The mail system was made more financially viable for more Americans, contributing to higher
literacy rates. The wider availability for folks to send and receive postage was not limited to friend to
Hawkins 4

friend or family member to member writing. Kathleen Yancey, for instance, surveys some of the literacy
practices of The Crusaders, a band of Japanese-Americans who began writing letters to mostly Japanese-
American soldiers overseas during WWII. The Crusaders network grew from a five-person collective in
Sunday school sending postcards to a network of writers that spanned swaths of writers who were later
interred in WWII internment camps in the US Midwest.

From the example of The Crusaders, we can draw distinctions between two key terms in Digital
Revolutions, network and circulation. I think that network differs from circulation distinctly in its
rhetorical potential. Circulation as I understand it is more of a rhetorical practice. The Crusaders
circulated newsletters to each other and sent letters abroad to connect with soldiers. I see networks as
holding the potential means for circulating texts and may be an audience rhetors hold in mind.
Circulation as a rhetorical action may include networksas in, published within ones networkand/or
may be networked past the individuals original circulation intentions.

Gains and Losses of the 21st-Century Piling On of Literacy


Malcolm Gladwell, analyzes an oft-questioned issue: Why isnt paper dead/gone? He concludes that the
materiality of paper presents composers with options that are not allowed through digital texts.
Specifically, paper offers the ability to rip, tear, or personalize the page to suit; paper offers the reader
the opportunity to see the document in a glance; and paper offers the worker the ability to arrange a
visual representation of work. For the work example, Gladwell uses piles of paper as representing a filing
system that is highly individualized to the writer. His argument is corroborated through OHara et als
research into the role of materiality in composers revision processes. Thus, we can imply that new
media do not dictate our practices but are affordances for our composing and thinking. Kresss Gains
and Losses further asks us to query what we gain or lose as we choose certain media in our designs. We
can similarly consider what we gain or lose as we seek to make meaning or to make knowledge.

How Ive made sense of my learning in this class is situated by Brandt and Kress, who give me useful
lenses to examine my own literacies and my interaction with digital media and how those played out
together in Digital Revolutions. You may see in my mini-reflections on each artifact page in the
ePortfolio that I had a hard time understanding my place within the digital revolution. It has a nearly
ubiquitous cultural impact, so I had to slow down and pay attention to things I was doing, hearing,
saying, and seeing to notice the digital revolution happening and culture converging. It really clicked
several weeks ago when I heard a commercial advertising a computer that would miraculously make
vacation destinations seem closer (without a vacation) and games more immersive (sound sure, but
WWII ended ages ago). I found myself muttering its remediation, dont buy it for those reasons,
stopped, and thought to myself Maybe I understand some of this after all. I understand that my media
practices probably dont resemble the mainstream on many levels, but finding circulation practices in
my own way (traced mostly through NPR podcasts) was enlightening. To further my understanding of
gains and losses and hypermedia practices, I attempted more hyperlinks in my ePortfolio and some blog
postsI even destabilized reading practices by juxtaposing different texts and voices in this text (see
Learning Moments).