Cynthia Davidson, Stony Brook University
“Eportfolios may be the most likely vehicle to
help us make the transition to an academy of
the future that is both relevant and

Kathleen Yancey and Darren
Cambridge, 2009 in Electronic
Portfolios 2.0

There was a tripling of campus ePortfolio use
between 2005 and 2009.

Geoffrey Middlebrook and
Jerry Chih-Yuan Sun in
“Showcase Hybridity: A Case
for Blogfolios” (2013) in
ePortfolio Support Systems:
Constructing, Supporting and
Presenting Portfolios

• Problem: Too many eportfolios resemble static
web pages or campus management systems

• Eportfolios lack interactivity or social networking
to provide learning opportunities and potential
professional connections.

• Middlebrook and Sun argue for BLOGFOLIOS
(eportfolios that integrate educational
blogging to facilitate interactivity and
• How are credible online personas crafted through blogs? Design, choice
of media, are important

• Middlebrook/Sun cite study by Barbara Warner
• Warner found that credibility was highly dependent on design and usability
• Middlebrook/Sun cite the USB blogfolio projects use of the USB imprimatur as
a “simple but elegant” interface that lends credibility to students‟ work

• What does it mean to impress? It
means to make an impression, leave
a mark, or in the more blunt jargon of
business and leadership education
today, engage in “personal

• The kind of impressiveness we wish
to foster is a contested ground among
the disciplines, but we all agree that
we want students to have it.

• I have a fascination with how academics and professionals create online
personas on social networks, like Facebook, with colleagues they do not
know personally.
• How do they handle mixed audiences of family, students, childhood friends,
and academic professional contacts on a single page?
• Don‟t our students need to handle complex rhetorical situations, such as
mixed audiences on Facebook or Twitter, as part of their education?
• Is it possible to craft an eportfolio which satisfies academic, personal, and
creative needs, and manages to be “impressive” on multiple levels to
multiple audiences?
• While I agree with most of Middlebrook and Sun‟s views, I feel some
dissonance with the view that the university imprimatur adds impressiveness
to the student‟s eportfolio. It does; but is it enough?
• At Stony Brook U., we make a similar template available to our students. But
generally, the students who retain it are the ones who do the least amount
of work on their eportfolios. So clearly this is a different model. It‟s not that
students here aren‟t proud of the logo.

• Example: The two top-viewed eportfolios at Stony Brook U, of Emily Madsen
and Eda Charmaine Gimenez, have been seen all over the world. Emily has
over 1 million viewings. Both are highly customized (and very different). The
portfolios, although they may be started in a course, are totally student-
• Moving away from a university template can be
liberating but also risky.
• Some eportfolios are messy and lack a unified identity,
lack impressiveness.
• They risk becoming at best hubs for links without any
defined online presence
• I call this the “holding bin” or “virtual paper clip” stage.
• So my goal over the last couple of years to discover and
disseminate reasons why this is faulty thinking.


• One of the reasons that I have been intrigued by the idea of messy
eportfolios is that, as a writing teacher and writer, I realize the value of messy
writing at various stages of composition.

• Therefore, I don‟t think a messy eportfolio is irredeemably problematic unless
it shows no sign of reflection or development. All excellent eportfolios tend to
have their awkward growing pains.

• Until ePortfolios are considered a rhetorical performance, an essential part of
students‟ “writing” and worthy of assessment, they will remain for many
holding bins, virtual paper clips or envelopes.

• We need to see the ePortfolio as multimodal composing, a text woven of
artifacts, analysis, and reflection that demonstrate multiliteracies. I associate
these with blogfolios if there is interaction with the viewer/audience through
blogs, comments, or the invitation to give feedback on the interface.
• Discussions about multiliteracies that occur today trace their roots back to the NEW

• NLG: a multidisciplinary gathering of educators and researchers that met in 1994 to
create a framework for better literacy teaching across a series of modalities, the
quick and easy sharing of which is made possible by modern technologies.

• They authored an article that was published in the Harvard Educational Review and
later a book. The group of ten included James Paul Gee, Allen Cope, Sarah
Michaels, and Gunter Kress.

• This international, interdisciplinary group saw opportunity to focus on “design” as a
cross-disciplinary manner of addressing the act of multiliteracy (demonstrated
through multimodal) productions. Creation is never divorced from making meaning.

• The elements of design:

• linguistic meaning (what)
• visual meaning (what)
• audio meaning (what)
• gestural meaning (what)
• spatial meaning (what)
• creating multimodal patterns of meaning (how)

• situated practice
• overt instruction
• critical framing
• transformed practice (in which students as meaning-makers become
designers of social futures)

While NLG was quick to indicate that vast changes were needed in literacy
education to prepare students for the changing workplace, they were also
quick to point out the dangers of this changing workplace and the need to
resist abuses by fast capitalism /postFordism.
• decline of assembly lineage, mindless repetitive unskilled labor
• flattening of workplace hierarchies
• identity with vision, mission, and corporate values
• teamwork
• emphasis on multi-skilled, well-rounded workers

• Invasion of privacy (made more feasible through technology)
• Destruction of autonomous local lifeworlds
• Current examples:
• Facebook searches by employers
• Risks of online dating for teachers
• General “Big Brother getting in your business for your own good or theirs”

• Boundaries begin to collapse in these community spaces as it
becomes easy for people to move between them.

• Linkages and alliances become
freer and easier to make.

• Concern about tokenistic diversity in these local and specific communities.


While endorsing almost all of their views, Nicholas I. Cordova felt that the
NLG missed the opportunity to consider the design process as a negotiation
of cultural agency by bypassing the rhetorical
implications of their agenda.

• Source: “Invention, Ethos, and New Media in the Rhetoric Classroom” (2013). Published in
Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres, ed. Tracey Bowen and Carl Whittaker.

• 1. “The challenge that new media and technological innovation pose for
notions of ethos, and suggesting that a reengagement with an
understanding of ethos as dwelling place (Hyde 2004) can
enhance a pedagogy of multiliteracies disposed toward the praxis of
designing liberatory social futures” (Cordova 147).

• 2. Cordova proposes ”a rhetorical model that gives texture to a pedagogy
of multiliteracies by focusing on a set of rhetorical relationships hitherto
obscured but that animate the NLG‟s understanding of design as
negotiation of cultural agency. These relationships are captured in the terms
fragmentation, articulation, circulation, convergence, and interface.” (147)


• Cordova‟s “reaffirmation of rhetoric as architectonic practice of lifeworlds”
which “emphasizes the centrality of ethos as dwelling terrain from which a
liberatory praxis of design can be launched, one „crucial for reading
Available Designs and for designing social futures‟ (NLG 1996, 81)” is an
interesting assertion to weigh in on a discussion of blogfolios because, at their
best, this is what they are.

• The blogfolio best succeeds when it is a dwelling place for the ethos of its
creator, when it is more than a place where things are stuck, stored, or listed
(the holding bin).
• Cordova refers to philosopher Martin Heidegger‟s “The Question Concerning
Technology” (1977b)

• 1. Techne or technology refers to both the doing and the artistic
impetus or creative act of imagination, what Kiyoshi Miki referred to as the
“ability to make our imagination concrete.”

• 2. Hedeigger reminds us of this relationship with his distinction between
building, a technical endeavor, and dwelling.
• The eportfolio is a more or less stable structure that undergoes a series of
changes as the owner changes (like a dwelling place) but also to the
blog as a place of interaction (as a dwelling place is a meeting
ground for social events).

• The blogfolio is an excellent descriptor of ethos as dwelling place,
fulfilling the conditions of Cordova‟s imagined rhetorical practice and

• Resistance to the driving engine of “the consumption of technical
wizardry, the spectacular, and the dispersal of the critical faculties of the
subject to establish nourishing human relationships” is the cultivating of
rhetorical sensibility through the “architectonic practice of lifeworlds.”

• ….(which, simply put, is facilitating the building of dwelling places
online through which establishing nourishing human relationships can take

•MERGE this concept of ETHOS as DWELLING to that of PERSONAL
BRANDING, making professional impressions of competence, potential, and
expertise through interaction in addition to showcasing of artifacts that
demonstrate these characteristics.

• Carry forth the concept of ETHOS as DWELLING as MEETING PLACE for
interaction--as already understood by most students through personal
blogging and social networking.

• Individuals may feel that they need to compete with the spectacular
and technical wizardry they see in daily displays driven by big capital, but
most can‟t and shouldn‟t try. What we can do is offer them the opportunity
to build online dwellings that are both professional and personal,
achievement-oriented and social, where they can begin to design social

• focus on invention
• highly contextual
• deeply concerned with the hybridity of cultural and the intertextuality of
semiotic or symbolic flows
• explicitly self-conscious about its own contingencies
• The theory moves away “from explaining interpretation in terms of isolated
readers and isolated texts to discussing rhetorical exchanges among
interpreters embedded in discursive and other social practices at specific
historical moments” (Mailloux 1989, 134).
• The blogfolio can take many different shapes. It is not designated by any
single interface or even type of interface. The blogfolio does not need to
explicitly contain a blog or be a blog, but it does need to invite interaction
with visitors. It must, however, be “architectonic”(Richard McKeon).

• Although USC‟s use of a university template offers one kind of credibility, from
our perspective it resembles (highly coveted) tract housing or an exclusive
dormitory--if one is to accept this definition of the blogfolio as an
architectonic dwelling.

• Although Cordova does not detail a theory of multiliteracies, he does offer
five pedagogical relations(153-155):
• fragmentation and modularity
• articulation
• circulation and dissemination
• convergence
• interface
• Reminds us that texts are not solidly
iconic but are woven together of various
fragments, pieces, ideas, and other texts

• Texts can travel in fragments, dissected,
partitioned, and mediated, only to be put
together as particular cultural logics and
mediations might dictate.
• Articulation is a process by which
different discursive elements or
fragments are combined to form a
new element that can in turn gain
social primacy.

• Multimodal meaning-making
is inherently a process of various
articulations, the “non-
necessary connections of
different elements that, when
connected in a particular
way, form a specific unity”
(Slack 1989, 311).

• Circulation is related to fragmentation as it relates to the ways that texts are
broken and disseminated (153).
• The circulation of texts is dependent on cultural meaning, but also on flows
and forms through which they are networked.
• Circulation is also closely related to Convergence.
• The remediating power of convergence has facilitated the emergence of
multimodal genres such as mash-ups, digital storytelling, and transmedia narratives.
A potential new genre lies with opportunities to reflect on our digital lifestream, our
appearances and interventions in various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook,
MySpace, Delicious, LinkedIn, and others. Such reflection highlights not just our
presence but self-theorizes about our digital selves beyond the confines of individual
multimodal activity and pushes us to understand multimodality as social practices
(Cordova 154).

• Cordova relates this to the postcolonial concept of HYBRIDITY (“the creation of
new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonization”
(Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 2003, 118).


• The INTERFACE is a virtual site where people engage in the process of design
within the distinct models of the mediated world. The key move is the
transformation of the computer from tool to medium.

• Next step: I find out how students using interactive eportfolios/blogfolios
express their position to these five relations and to the idea of dwelling in, or
building a lifeworld in, their blogfolios.

• Explain below how your ePortfolio fulfills this expectation: I’ve provided evidence in my overall
eportfolio that my choices about format and design elements such as layout, fonts, images, and colors
express my point of view and demonstrate a strong awareness of my audience’s needs and

• Explain below how your ePortfolio fulfills this expectation: My decisions about eportfolio format and
design demonstrate a strong critical understanding of relationships between two or more modes (e.g.,
texts and images) or between two or more examples of the same mode (e.g., a series of images).

• Explain below how your ePortfolio fulfills this expectation: I’ve shown my strong understanding of
ethical use of digital sources by following the attribution and copyright set by the creator (ie, Creative
Commons licensing).

• Although these questions were not geared specifically toward a discussion
of interactivity or blogging in the eportfolio, I thought that their results might
offer insight into how well their experiences lined up with Cordova‟s five
relations, with the concept of the eportfolio as a dwelling, and with the sense
of the eportfolio as an interactive meeting place.

• The students were entrants in an program-run eportfolio contest and students
in my Writing for New Media and Digital Rhetorics courses.
• The 28 self-nominated entries for the eportfolio contest in general
demonstrated a relatively high level of engagement with all of the five
relations: fragmentation and modularity; articulation; circulation and
dissemination; convergence; and interface
• I found numerous references to the eportfolio as a dwelling or valued
space, and several students had clearly designed their eportfolio to have
features that represented dwelling in some way.
• While the students were not addressing circulation directly, the willingness to
share eportfolios publicly and to answer these questions publicly shows that
they are taking on that aspect of the challenge. At their best, they were
designing lifeworlds (if modest ones) and articulated that this is what they
were doing.
• “I believe that the way I designed my profile demonstrates my ability to determine
certain modes going together stylistically. I am very aware of font choices and color
schemes in everything I do in my life. Web design is no different. The way that I kept
my e-portfolio monochromatic besides the two pictures I highlighted is intentional
and significant. I left the pictures full color because they show who I am: the picture
of me showing who I am and what I look like, and the little cartoon that prefaces my
writing portfolio showing my sense of humor and undeniable good taste in comic
strips.” (Michelle Milner)

• The eportfolio is designed to look like a small world--a planet in a universe of stars,
unbound. The planet has color and provides a humorous, human presence in the
interface to greet the viewer. She articulates her choices clearly in this passage.
• “The idea behind my ePortfolio format was to create a balance between text,
images, and other forms of media in a style that is user-friendly and enjoyable to the
viewer. People often say, "A picture says a thousand words", however, sometimes
the subject matter calls for only a few words. It is vital to guide the viewer through an
ePortfolio with the format and placement of modules for them to have a greater
understanding of what you want to express. For my Writing 102 course, I created a
section on my ePortfolio dedicated to the literary works required for the class. I
chose to place images of the books, plays, and films before introducing my
audience to my analyses. The images I chose automatically invoke some cultural
reference to our experiences with the time period, or our exposure to them, hence
giving us a sense of familiarity before reading the essay. For those who do not
understand the cultural reference they still have a brief depiction of the following
text is about. “ (Lourdes Ng)
• --articulation of relationship with audience and design suited to mediate between
her expression and their needs for comfort and access; attention to the “dwelling,”
mood of a literary space or study
• I've mastered the modules and the css coding for portfolios. I have learned
how to use the techniques to make my portfolio look better than I would've
even thought! (Ammarah Zaidi)

• What caught my attention here is her brevity, enthusiasm, and confidence. I
had to go see it. In terms of Cordova‟s relations, what strikes me is
convergence and how successfully she has created new transcultural forms
with style and concision. The patterned background motif, the averted face,
the hajib, all combine with the rest of the content (and confidence) to
create a mesmerizing and complex presence.

• For my About Me section, I tried wrapping text around an image to make
use of the space provided. I haven't much content on the page, but I would
put a picture to separate different information given in the About Me. In my
WRT 102 section, I included a small image under the links to the essays to
give a small insight on what the essay would be about. (Meiling Li)

• What strikes me here is how anti-spectacular the statement is, the small
image and the small insight. I think that the NLG and Cordova would
appreciate how precious it is that the student valued these small and
delicate visual gestures in her eportfolio.

• “All the videos I provide, while some of them are not my own, are meant to
be windows into the niche that I have found myself to sit in. I am merely one
of the many vehicles in which this niche can be spread with this portfolio
being another open road. “—James Kho

• “My ePortfolio captures my personality by introducing the viewer to my
header of a country scene with an old, red truck. This basically says it all; I'm
a country guy. I love the outdoors, trucks (especially older ones), the
freedom to be able to run around in the grass and have nothing block the
sky. To compliment the header, the background is a simple shade of red,
similar to the truck.”—Joseph Cogliandro Junior
• I saw other examples in the various projects and their reflections posted in
blogfolios for several courses (Writing for New Media/Digital Rhetorics).

• “The final project really showcased my understanding of eportfolios and my
changed perspective of them. In my digital text analysis of C---’s eportfolio, I
mentioned the limitations the internet posed on crafting identities. By the
time I wrote my final essay however, detailing the reasons and components
of an eportfolio, my view had completely changed. I now see eportfolios as
endless opportunities to craft multiple identities that are caring and
professional, projecting a well-rounded and malleable teaching persona.”—
Aneela Ashraf

• “ Not only was I able to learn more about myself as a person, I was able to
discover and utilize the powers that new media has to offer for those who
have always only been consumers of media. This potential to produce
content and spread it to the world, possibly passing along individual
influence, is changing our world today. Digital storytelling is one of the very
means to do so, as it not only impacts the listener, but also the deliverer, as
he or she discovers strengths, weaknesses and other hidden aspects to his or
her being. The pieces are easily spread with social media and have the
capacity to inspire even the most unlikely listener. Being a part of the current
new new media based generation, I would be a fool to not take advantage
of the greatness of something like digital expression.”—Christy Lau, on her
final project and spoken word piece in her eportfolio, providing an excellent
explanation of using convergence to build a local lifeworld.

• What I found in the examples that I examined here is that we are seeing
breakthroughs in several areas mentioned by the scholars mentioned
throughout this presentation. We see students willing to make gestures
across a variety of media to welcome their audiences, to articulate the
value of those gestures, to prize connections and identity over
spectacle when it comes to building a personal brand and to conceive of
what they are building not as a gauntlet thrown before a judge but a
dwelling in which credibility can develop, change, and grow with
social nurturing.

• Recommendations: Find ways to encourage more interaction (through
design, invitation, reflection, conversation, weekly blogging or shared
journaling, collaborative assignments) in ePortfolios and less focus on
preserving artifacts as static content. Artifacts should be invitations to viewer
interaction whenever possible.

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