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Evocative Objects: A workbook on multimodal composition including assignments, exercises & further reading

Evocative Objects: A workbook on multimodal composition including assignments, exercises & further reading


This is a still image taken during the talk led by Jody Shipka at the University of Texas at Austin.

[click the image to watch a YouTube video of the "Evocative Objects" workshop and talk given by Jody Shipka at the University of Texas at Austin]


During her visit to UT-Austin, Dr. Shipka sat down for an interview with Steven LeMieux, a member of the rhet/comp working group and an assistant director in the Digital Writing and Research Lab. Audio of that interview is streamable and downloadable via the following links:


Introduction by Eric Detweiler

For the past three years, I’ve been a part of The University of Texas at Austin’s Digital Writing and Research Lab. The lab hosts an annual Speaker Series event, and in 2013 that event—featuring University of California-Santa Barbara’s Dr. Rita Raley—served as the Rhetoric Society of America’s second annual graduate student webinar. We broadcast the event via Google Hangouts, inviting rhetoric students at other institutions to watch, interact, and participate in a Q&A session via Twitter. For 2014, our invited speaker was University of Maryland-Baltimore County’s Dr. Jody Shipka, author of the book Toward a Composition Made Whole. I wanted to do something similar to the 2013 webinar, opening the event to participants from outside UT-Austin. When Dr. Shipka proposed running a hands-on workshop before her presentation, I thought adding a webinar component to that workshop could be an exciting contribution to our rhetoric and composition working group’s project on HASTAC for 2013-14.

After much emailing and planning, we ended up with local and virtual HASTAC Scholars participating in the workshop from the University of Texas at Austin (Eric Detweiler, Steven LeMieux, Will Burdette, and Cate Blouke), Miami University of Ohio (Leigh Gruwell), St. Cloud State University (Jack Hennes), the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Rachael Sullivan), Washington State University (Lori Beth De Hertogh), and Wayne State University (Luke Thominet). The working group decided we’d involve online participants via a combination of Skype and the wiki platform PBWorks.

The workshop, entitled “Evocative Objects,” consisted of three one-hour segments: In the first hour, we broke down, rebuilt, and combined various physical objects to create something new. As we did so, Dr. Shipka emphasized the ways in which such hands-on multimodal work can help composers attend to the material nature, affordances, and constraints of the objects with which they compose. Online participants listened in via Skype as they did their own building and breaking at their home institutions.

The second hour consisted of round-robin peer response. As participants at UT-Austin offered face-to-face feedback on each other’s constructed objects, virtual participants posted photos of their objects to a PBworks wiki, then used the wiki’s commenting function to swap feedback. We spent the final hour reflecting on and discussing our creation processes, our created products, and our experience with the response portion. While some virtual participants followed the conversation via Skype, others broke off to continue the discussion at their own institutions. The collaborative opportunities and connections opened in both the planning and implementation stages of the workshop were, for me, one of the highlights of the 2013-14 HASTAC experience, and I’m glad to be a part of sharing related materials here.



Reflection by Jack Hennes

Participating in the Shipka workshop remotely from St. Cloud State University, I was joined by fellow graduate students Jason Tham and Erin Schaefer in a workspace just beyond the Mississippi River. Prior to the workshop, I had read Shipka’s description and instructions for selecting objects and put thoughtful consideration into selecting my objects. I deliberated much over this step of the process as I scanned the surroundings of my everyday spaces: our English Department, my office tucked in the basement of the science building, and my home.

Assembling my collection of objects was a reflection of my everyday spaces, and together, they collectively told a story about my spaces here in Minnesota as I engaged in the workshop online from afar. From assembling objects to constructing a larger piece with them, my composing process entailed making a series of choices: a blank cassette tape, unopened; a set of old overhead engineering transparencies I had found in tucked away in an office drawer; a copy of Johan Huizinga’s The Waning of the Middle Ages; a photograph taken during a geology field trip sometime during the 1980s; and an action film on VHS. Together, these items not only served as physical media for my composition, but they also were indeed media themselves.

This is an image of the object Jack Hennes created using a VHS tape, cassette tape, overhead transparencies, a group photo, and an old book. The magnetic tape is draped over the book, presenting an argument about media.

I began by destroying the VHS and cassette cases, working my way through each page of the book—wrinkling each as I went, and draping magnetic tape over the book. Though I hadn’t planned for this to happen, it became apparent that the newer media (analog) was slowly taking over the old (print), in turn presenting an argument about media convergence and divergence. While the composing process was physical, our interaction on the PbWorks wiki and on Skype were of course digital. After producing my object, I took a photo of it and uploaded it to our working group’s PBWorks wiki. It is through the material practice of selecting and arranging these materials that allowed me to see the malleability of text and the rich meanings of objects in my own surroundings.

Building off one of one of Shipka's claims in Toward a Composition Made Whole, I believe that we must not allow multimodal writing processes to remain solely focused on the digital in composition classrooms. And, when classroom discussions of and about texts are focused on media, we begin to look beyond the digital. Media, in a sense, narrows a broadly conceived and abstract sense of texts into concrete and tangible ways. In the "Evocative Objects" workshop, it was through amalgamations of physical media that I was able to produce an object to be shared online. In turn, the physical and digital were interconnected in complex and inspiring ways of making. This workshop, then, taught me much about not only the rhetoricity of composing with objects, but also the ways that the digital and physical increasingly work in concert with our ecologies as writers. Through my participation in the workshop, I was able to expand on concepts of multimodal making that I hope to bring to a classroom of my own.



Below, you’ll find multimodal lesson plans, assignments, and activities members of our working group have developed or used in composition classrooms. We’ve also included a short list of resources of interest to teachers working with multimodal pedagogy.


Multimodal Teaching Materials


Journals & In-class Activities



Resources for Multimodal Pedagogy

  • Arola, Kristin, Sheppard, Jennifer, and Ball, Cheyrl. Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2014. Print. [Instructor’s Manual for Writer/Designer]
  • Ball, Cheryl E. and Kristin L. Arola. Visualizing Composition 2.0. Boston: Bedford/St. Martinʼs, 2010.
  • Eidman-Aadahl, Elyse, Kristine Blair, and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss et al. “Developing Domains for Multimodal Writing Assessment: The Language of Evaluation, the Language of Instruction.” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Eds. Heidi McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. n.p. Web. 12 Aug. 2013.
  • Gunther, Kress and van Leeuwen, Theo. Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.
  • Lauer, Claire. “Contending with Terms: “Multimodal” and “Multimedia” in the Academic and Public Spheres.” Computers and Composition 26 (2009): 225-39. Print.  
  • Selber, Stewart A. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004. Print.
  • Selfe, Cynthia. “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” College Composition and Communication 60.4 (2009): 616-663. Print.
  • Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2011. Print.
  • Wysocki, Anne Frances, Johnson-Eilola, Johndan, Selfe, Cynthia, and Sirc, Geoffrey. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Logan: Utah State P, 2004. Print.
  • Wysocki, Anne Frances, Lynch, Dennis. Compose, Design, Advocate. 2nd Ed. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. Print. 

Special thanks to Jason Tham (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) for designing our banner for HASTAC.


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