The digital divide has been largely theorized as a problem of access. Compositionists have attempted to move beyond a binary view of technology access in examining the digital divide and in doing so have raised important questions about the larger societal issues connected to issues of technological literacy and access. While much attention has been paid to students at risk of growing up without access to, and experience with, computers, attention also needs to be paid to students’ critical digital literacies. Additionally, we now face a new instantiation of the digital divide where students are often more technologically adept than their instructors. The problem is not so much providing access for Generation M students surrounded by technology but rather to effectively integrate technological literacy instruction into the composition classroom in meaningful ways. Compositionists should focus on incorporating into their pedagogy technologies that students are familiar with but do not think critically about: online social networking sites, podcasts, audio mash-ups, blogs, and wikis. To do so, however, instructors first need to familiarize themselves with these technologies. In essence, compositionists must catch up with the Generation M students who have left them behind.
In this essay, I study MySpace and Facebook pages, as well as interviews with the university students who created them, in order to address how online literacy practices of contemporary convergence culture both use and are filtered through popular culture. Though their answers to questions of intent, audience, and rhetorical choices varied, students shared a common reliance on popular culture content and references appropriated from other sites to compose their identities and read the identities of others. They used popular culture icons, catch phrases, music, text, and film clips in postmodern, fragmented collages that seem simultaneously sentimental and ironic. The construction of these pages illustrates how popular culture practices that predate online technologies have been adopted and have flourished with new technologies that allow content to flow across media as well as increase the ease of audience participation. Online technological changes have changed what it means to be part of an “audience” by changing how individuals respond to and adapt popular culture texts to their own ends, such as the construction of identities on web pages. By creating potentially global audiences for any web page, these online technologies have changed the relationship of the popular culture audience members and their peers. The intertextual nature of popular culture texts creates opportunities for multiple readings of social networking web pages in ways that destabilize the identities students believe they have created.
Low-bridge approaches to multimedia in the writing classroom rely on familiar literacies, free consumer-level software, and remix uses of materials to facilitate student production of new media compositions. The projects shed light on reconfigurations of teaching environments that foreground the classroom as a construction site or studio space. The model features an emphasis on the interplay between technical things and human goals and concerns. This emphasis requires hands-on experiences working with technologies as part of classroom activities. Skill challenges yield high levels of motivation, and student composers experience flow-like states of creativity. The writing class as new media studio becomes a site of heightened personal engagement with learning that moves from the practical to the personal to the public. These practical approaches yield significant opportunities for students to develop new media literacies through the process of making projects. Examining these projects reveals the need to focus on a sense of personal agency and the possibilities for delivering social change when we talk about new media literacy.
The development of mobile, convergent media networks is altering the context of professional, educational, and everyday communication. This essay examines the incorporation of iTunes University into writing and new media composition instruction, including institutional and technological contexts and faculty and student responses. This examination suggests the value of studying networked composition by following the expanding web of local interactions that link the conventional scene of composition—the student at the computer—with other events, such as college policy decisions, technology design choices, and the multitude of other compositional events behind the media available to students across the Internet. As these mobile networks become more powerful and pervasive, they will have a greater impact on compositional practices and will require a shift in habitual, disciplinary approaches to authorship and to the relationship between the more formal discourses of academics and the informal communications on mobile networks.
Today, writing often requires composers to draw upon multiple modes of meaning making. Today's computers and robust networks allow writers to choreograph audio, video, other visual elements, text, and more. This is new. Admittedly, some professionals have been mixing media for years to create advertisements, movies, and CDs, for instance, but access to these technologies is now available in ways we haven’t seen before—and multimedia composing rubs against issues of intellectual property in ways we haven’t seen before, at least not in the writing classroom. In this manuscript, we address issues of copyright trouble and fair use related to multimedia composing in our current cultural context of media convergence. Specifically, we use a piece of work titled Grand Theft Audio as a launching point to discuss the ways in which copyright trouble is inevitable in multimedia composing. The piece draws on appropriated, remixed, and reconfigured audio, video, text, and images to pose a particular argument about the affordances of media convergence and issues of negotiating copyright permissions. We scaffold our discussion of Grand Theft Audio with the work of scholars including Martine Rife, John Logie, and Lawrence Lessig to push at the ways digital composing is situated in a free use vs. “permission culture” climate.
With the convergence of digital media into ever-widening social and technological networks for creation and distribution, the contexts for writing and the study of writing and writers have certainly changed. Researchers must navigate a dense matrix of ethical and legal issues in all phases of research when studying the ever-changing processes and products of digital communications. In this article, I draw from numerous sources to articulate a few of the challenges facing digital writing researchers in this age of convergence, focusing on issues of representation (researcher, participant, third-party), issues of informed consent, and issues of copyright and fair use.
Keeping with the currency of the print-based journal, Print to Screen focuses on the themes found in the recent issues of Computers and Composition, and includes multimodal commentaries that explore and remediate relationships between print and screen.
Section Editor — Elizabeth Monske