Friday, March 13, 2009

Alphabet Soup

There were a number of acronyms bandied about at "New Media and Writing Program Administration: Reconfiguring Administrative Discourses and Practices around New Media," where participants discussed how programs in rhetoric and composition with names like "PWR" (for Program in Writing and Rhetoric) and "WRD" (for Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse) face challenges when objectives for teaching new literacies face threats from back-to-basics backlashes or blunt trauma budget axes, as the following panel abstract explains:

Although many of our esteemed colleagues have discussed new media integration from the perspective of teachers and scholars (Ball 2004, 2006; Wysocki, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Selfe and Sirc 2004; Sorapure 2003, 2006; Wysocki 2001, 2002), little scholarship exists on new media from the Writing Program Administrator (WPA) perspective. As writing programs become new media composition programs, such change inevitably leads WPAs to investigate new media from the administrative perspective, challenging our long-held assumptions about writing, teacher development, disciplinary boundaries, and even resource management (DeVoss, Cushman, and Grabill 2005). In our panel, we four teachers and WPAs (representing geographically diverse and CM-classified institutions) will present and engage attendees in a discussion of issues encountered at our institutions with the move to new media. Our four presentations raise WPA concerns about what constitutes new media, new media and the integration of curricular reform, where new media reside institutionally, and the technological possibilities and constraints of integrating new media.

This session at the Conference on College Composition and Communication began with Melinda Turnley from DePaul University and a talk on "Who Owns 'Media'?: Institutional Positioning and New Media Initiatives." At her campus, a number of players were claiming rights to the subject of digital and interactive media, including art history, history of art and architecture, cinema, and computer science. Her policy to "educate when possible and argue when necessary." Her own Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse program actually broke off from an English department, leaving the Creative Writing program behind, which facilitated new connections with new media.

Many, such as Amy Kimme Hea of the University of Arizona praised the panel's chair, Anne Frances Wysocki, for her work with titles such as Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Hea's talk about "Integrating Technologies in New
Media Composition Courses: A Programmatic View" noted that Wysocki's repurposing of the work of Lev Manovich could be instructive for others in the field who might want to make claims for embodiment and rhetorical frames in composition. She also noted that hierarchical top-down laptop initiatives were also less effective than multimodal events that showcased student work. Her colleague Anne-Marie Hall's presentation about "Translating Research into "Mediated" Forms" complemented Hea's overview with a consideration of the balance between "criticism" and "engagement" that new media writing problematizes.

The last speaker, Stanford's Marvin Diogenes went beyond his planned spiel on "Old Wine in New Bottles? Translating Research into 'Mediated' Forms" to discuss the Realpolitik of university initiatives to explain what "may seem like a case of backing away" from teaching with new media actually involves more complicated dynamics involving institutional politics and what he called "issues of translation" at work in computational venues. Because of campus interest in providing training to undergraduate students for critical spoken presentations, Diogenes explained how the "course we have now is rooted in traditional academic approaches with students encouraged to support their oral presentations with appropriate media."

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