Yet, in spite of my generic "examples" on the syllabus, here are some samples of what I received, with a brief summary of what each was "getting at" and proving that, as stated before, almost none of the work fit into any standard mode.
To be sure, I had a student offer a pretty straight "rap." I received a script. But a close count suggests that more than three-fourths of the remediations had no "established mode." For example, is the flower vase, above, a "sculpture?" Is it a "performance piece? " And so it was with all but a small proportion of the compositions I received.
Thus, if we define "modes" as places we recognize as established, I found, in spite of my examples and also in a situation where the students had no formal exposure to the work of the other students, this class to produce work that was, in a vast majority of cases, multimodal to the point of being readable as amodal, at least via the traditional and transitional senses.
The work my students composed led me to consider, then, the following issue.
2. Was the work that was created in this course--set in a computer classroom and concerned with remediation-- digital ?
In considering the above question, we are drawn quickly, even simultaneously, to the underlying question of "what does digital mean?" Typically, "digital" refers to anything that is mediated via, for example, discrete bits. More technically, especially in contrast to analog, digital refers to a non-continuous data stream. More relevant to composition students and teachers is the more colloquial understanding of digitalness, which might be something like "computer-mediated" or "electronically mediated" and the like. Usually, when we and our students speak of "digital mediation," we think of the engagement of the computer. Academic discussion also echoes the dynamics of this understanding, as it regularly engages the pedagogical dynamics of web page production, e-mail, synchronous environments, word processing, flash projects, CDs, DVDs, and the like. So, was the work created in this course "digital?" I have concluded that it was.
Certainly, the occasion for the work was digital. Taking place in our English department computer lab, with regular engagement of the available technologies, and with a requirement of "remediation," such an "English comp" course would not and technically could not have existed prior to the arrival of "digitalness." Thus, the occasion for the course was a digital occasion. And we never strayed from that occasion: more than "integral," it was the substance proper of the course itself. At the same time, we are left with the challenge of describing its projects, made, for example, out of paper mache or wood--and their processes of composition--as digital: there are obvious material differences between a PowerPoint presentation, and a painted, Styrofoam globe. Thus, my concluding argument that a digital occasion gave rise to digital work necessitates a new consideration of what digitalness is.
Toward such an obligation, to the teacher engaged in "electronic" or "multimodal" or "computer-mediated" composition, I suggest that digitalness is not best looked as necessarily an "electronic technology"--but is instead better seen as a set of options. Since the emergence of the computer as a standard compositional presence in education, it has--its digitalness has-- allowed us to do things that could not be done via previous technological standards, such as the typewriter. Thus, from the beginning, digitalness has manifested itself as nothing more or less than a set of options--as the possibility of different meaning via the most suitable available materials--a set that allows form to serve meaning through whatever technology is best suited for the purpose at hand. Whether that technology is a DVD, a web page, or paper mache. Seeing digitalness in this way extends its metaphors--an extension that is, as much as metaphoric, immediate.