Readings, and Related Inspirations

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Design Decisions – a presentation

It is becoming increasingly important for writers to think visually. If we are going to survive in a world of screens, we need to begin to think about how to go about it. One of the tools we already have is design. We already think about the margins and fonts we use when we create a traditional style essay. And those of us who tweet, blog, or use instagram are thinking about the presentation the 140 character message, the blog we keep about running, or the instagramming we do of our food.

In 2002, Diana George claimed in her article, “From Analysis to Design” that “to talk of literacy instruction in terms of design means to ask writers to draw on available knowledge and, at the same time, transform that knowledge/those forms as we redesign” (26). George goes on to quote the New London Group on the matter: “Designing transforms knowledge in producing new constructions and representations of reality.” For both George and the New London Group, design is an impactful part of our rhetorical approach to whatever project we’re working on.

Today I will be talking about 3 web tools that we could use to do a variety of projects and presentations. We will talk about the available designs and capabilities of these tools, and we will talk about how to decide which is best for whatever projects you may be working on. In 2005, Anne Wysocki made an argument that is still very important, which we should keep in mind as we walk through the tools below: “to ask after the constraints as we teach or compose can help us understand how material choices in producing communications articulate to social practices we may not otherwise wish to reproduce” (“awaywithwords” 56).

Prezi is a presentation tool which has both a ‘path’ feature, and a zooming feature you can use to create a linear OR non-linear presentation to keep your audience engaged. Prezi has templates you can start with, or you can design your own prezi using your own background pictures or shapes.

Here are several examples.

Sugar the Quiet Killer

The above was created using a template. I chose to do a prezi because of its embedding capabilities, because of the availability of this particular template, and to show my students what prezi can do on a basic level. I did alter this template somewhat.

Stitches Book Recommendation

This one is a student project done for a comic book classroom. The student took advantage of the storyline in which a boy goes down and into the story. For this one, the student did not use a template, but took scenes directly from the comic.


wordpress is a blogging tool that you are currently looking at. Blogs can be used as presentations, like the one you are seeing here, they can be formatted into whole single projects, they can be turned into websites, and they can be traditional blogs, among other things. The wonderful thing about wordpress is its versatility – if you can think of it, you can probably design it on wordpress. Keep in mind that the themes are rather limiting, as each theme has different capabilities. Traditionally, we think of what we put inside the theme as ‘content,’ and the visual design as ‘form.’ But as Krisitn Arola pointed out in 2010, “the form/content separation is problematic in that form is implied as not content” (“The Design of Web 2.0 6).

Here are some examples of wordpress blogs used in different ways:

Accidental Devotional

The above is a traditional blog kept by a teacher, mother and activist right here in Atlanta. You can see how simple the author has kept her blogroll, with a plain background and not a lot of flashy widgets. And yet she has a wide audience, and has even given a TEDex talk.

GSU Tools prototype

This is a wiki prototype that is in the process of a build through the Student Innovation Fellowship. If you compare it to the first blog design, it is almost unrecognizable as the same type of tool, unless you know what you are looking at. The theme on the above blog allows the boxes to display in the way they do, and each theme has different menu capabilities that some others do not have.

Travel Portland

And this one is a webpage made by wordpress. The theme is likely an expensive customizable one which delivers a clean presentation to help the reader get more information on travel to Portland, Oregon.


tumblr – is another blog site, but it has a much different design aesthetic than wordpress, and is even pretty well-known as a social media site where users display predominantly visual blogrolls, or feeds, as we typically think of them when we talk about SNSs.

Here are some examples of how people are using tumblr.

Obama is checking your email

The above is a satire tumblr making fun of a claim about a year ago, that President Obama is checking our email. This tumblr went up and content was quickly added for a short period of time. The purpose of this tumblr was to make fun of a news story that would likely be forgotten very quickly. It was important that this tumblr be plain, and contain almost all visuals so the reader could scan through, have a good laugh, and move on.

Vintage Black Beauty

This tumblr is an excellent example of how these tools can be used for larger projects like collecting digital artifacts for display in an archive. This tumblr has a much different theme than the Obama one does, and it takes advantage of layout to give the reader a sense of the types of images collected within. This tumblr is actually being used as a part of the author’s dissertation.




Don’t Forget the Sound

Reading through Cynthia Selfe’s article, “”The Movement of Air, The Breath of Meaning,” I am reminded of Cheryl Ball’s essay, “Show Not Tell” because both articles apologize for not reflecting the mediums about which they are writing. The part I thought was most interesting though, is that Selfe incorporates links for listening. This was a really cool addition.

I have to admit, sonic aurality is not something I had ever heard of before Computers and Composition class. I saw it on the syllabus and thought, “what could that possibly be about?” My brain went to physics: vibrations. Would we be studying vibrations? And if so, Why the heck would we do that? I mean – I get it – rhetoric is interdisciplinary. But physics? Really?

Turns out that when we talk about aurality, we are talking about how sound factors into composing, especially in multimodal composing. If someone had told me a few years ago that I might be considering incorporating aurality into my beginning composition course, I would have told you you are crazy. What does aurality have to do with composition?

But then I think about all the areas of my life that are filled with sound. When I get out of bed in the morning, I stream National Public Radio to listen to the news since Atlanta seems to have something against decent member stations. When I ride the train, I often listen to my iPod, sometimes music, sometimes podcasts with more news. At school I listen to people talking. I listen to my students. I listen to my colleagues. And they all listen to me (and I talk a lot). On my way home, I often listen to my iPod again. At home, sometimes I watch movies, or listen to Pandora on my computer as I’m working. I am surrounded by sound constantly. Why wouldn’t I think this is a completely acceptable focus for a composition course?

After reading the Comstock and Hocks article, “Voice in the Cultural Soundscape: Sonic Literacy in Composition Studies,” I thought about assignments I might make using aurality. Actually – first I went online and found Mary’s 2009 album and listened to it. And then I thought about what I might teach.

I am a musician. I think about it like people think about alcoholism. Even though I don’t play anymore, I’ll always be a musician. Here’s something really embarrassing that I just need to share:

That’s me on the left. That’s my trumpet – not my principle instrument. I was about seventeen in that picture. Music was a HUGE part of my life. But composing it was not something I was good at. I tried once or twice, but it’s MUCH harder than it looks.

So I thought about how there could be the coolest FLC (Freshmen Learning Community) where music students all compose a piece for an actual English assignment. Then I thought: disaster.

Watching and listening to the clips incorporated into our readings helped. I really enjoyed most of them. I’m not a big fan of poetry slam (coincidentally, a poetry slam just started right behind me), so I would probably avoid assignments like this. However, podcast creation would be awesome. Or digital video creation with focus on the narrative. Or even music for students who want to give that a try. This allows us to break out of our traditional notions of composition and  focus on the fact that composition is so much bigger than writing.

This leaves me with 2 questions:

1. How do we assess these assignments?

2. If speaking and listening are roommates, what is the difference between Orality and AUrality?



I remember once, when I got a call from a really close friend, extremely upset because her ex-girlfriend had removed her from her top 8 (sorry for the pronoun confusion). I said “M – does it really matter?” My friend said, “Yes it matters, because now it’s really over!” And while this story may sound a little hilarious, a lot of us have felt that way at some point during our interactions with social media.

In the days of Web 2.0, we now have jokes like “as soon as I friend you on Facebook, we’re real friends,” and “If her relationship status says she’s single, she must not feel it’s important enough to mention. I’m totally going for it.” Jokes like this would have been extremely confusing when Mary Hocks published her article “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments,” or when Diana George published her article “From Analysis to Design,” but not by the time Kristin Arola published “The Design of Web 2.0,” which features both Facebook and Myspace in her discussion about design.

What all of these articles, and Craig Stroupe‘s “Visualizing English,” have in common is that they all discuss the use of visuals in composition – fitting, since computer use includes visuals more often than not these days. Like this one:

This is Grumpy Kitty, and he is an internet sensation. People have been juxtaposing his image with writing and other links all over the internets in the last couple of weeks. Grumpy Kitty is so prolific, my seldom-internet using brother even sent me a text with Grumpy Kitty’s image in it.

A few minutes ago, when I started this post, I had no idea I was going to put Grumpy Kitty into it. I simply thought computer + text + visual = Grumpy Kitty! And why wouldn’t I think that? Have you SEEN that guy??

Anyway, in her paper, Mary Hocks argues that “new technologies … require new definitions of what we consider writing” (630), and she is very correct. Our students create on the web all the time now, and as Kristin Arola suggests, they do it is a WYSIWYG. All of us that are using wordpress do it. I’m doing it RIGHT NOW!

When my friend called upset by her demotion from her ex-girlfriend’s Top 8 on Myspace, she was reacting to the interface imposed upon users of myspace. This “top 8” problem became such an issue even, that Myspace changed it so users could select as many ‘top’ friends as they wanted. Or so the ‘top 8’ were random. But don’t quote me on that. I can’t find a source for it anywhere on the world wide web.

I could go on and on on this topic, and since I probably will in class, and because a lot of this material directly relates to the midterm post I’m cooking up, I’ll just leave you with a video I haven’t seen in about a thousand years. But with all this multimodal design and myspace talk, how could I not?