My Notes and Thoughts on Reading Cynthia Selfe’s “The Movement of Air…”

Formatted Document – ProQuest.

It’s Daniel Keller’s oral essay, “Lord of the Machines…” that really does it to me:  gets me as excited for what the writing classroom could be, as excited as I was the first day that I realized that all I really had to do to to get students interested in the class was to allow them to read and write and share their own words with their classmates.   I wonder how old Daniel Keller is, not enough to look this up, but I see a lot in his oral essay that appeals to who I am, including clips of dialogue from an old favorite movie of mine, Office Space. There’s a lot else in Keller’s essay too:  music that must come from what he knows and loves, more movie cuts, and funny and surprising research that states 33% of people admit to having assaulted their computers and 70% of people admit to swearing.  I have sworn at my computer many a time but so far no assaults that I can remember.

What’s so exciting for me is to consider all that could go into a piece in the spirit of the oral essays Selfe shares.  What does each student care enough about that they would pursue knowledge on the subject, figure out how the subject connects with who they are (for example, wherever it was that Keller tapped into his knowledge of The Office), and bring together all that thinking into a multimedia/multimodal text.

With my excitement comes the dampening thought of all the problems I already face when it comes to the writing and thinking my students and I do that doesn’t happen in a Word document.  Okay, my students use Windows Movie Maker for a project.  Where should we put this video?  On You Tube?  I can’t require students to make their work public.  It could be dangerous, an invasion of their privacy.  And how will I collect all this work as artifacts of our writing and thinking and my teaching?  The hard drive on my computer is already too full.  I’ve already transferred kilos and kilos of bits onto an external hard drive, but now I can’t access that material unless I drag it along with me.  I am vaguely aware of the notion of cloud computing, which means to me that I can have storage “out there,” accessible to me from anywhere, but at the moment I don’t know how to make that technology work for my students and me.

I could go on about these problems; surely fill pages and pages with what I know how to do but can’t bring to my students because of one obstacle or the other.  I think I can sum up a lot of my troubles in this way:  okay, I can do that (insert sound, video, oral essay, etc) but where am I going to put it?  How are my students and my students only going to access it?

Golden Lines from Selfe’s Article and Thoughts if I’ve got them:

  • “Writing as Not-Speech” (Selfe 627). At the moment, all my courses are first year writing courses.  This course is required of just about all the students.  I already do everything I can think to do to say that writing isn’t just writing; writing is thinking. I give examples such as, “Okay, there’s someone you’re romantically interested in.  You’ve spoken to them.  They are looking at you.  Your opening has got you at least that far.  Now what?”  My examples aren’t contained to what could sound like a pick up line.  I tell my students about my phone calls to the state of New York about my denied tax refund.  I had to think about structure, purpose, and audience.  I’m surprised how much time Selfe has to spend showing that there is more to a composition class than sentences written onto a piece of paper or typed into a Word document.
  • “Digital networks, for example, have provided routes for the increasing numbers of communications that now cross geopolitcal, cultural, and linguistic borders, and because of this situation, the texts exchanged within such networks often assume hybrid forms that take advantage of multiple semiotic channels” (Selfe 636-37).  I do my blog post.  I see on my map that people from several continents read my post.  How did my blog collect that information?  Is this an invasion of privacy?  I copy and paste an image from Office Space I find online into my post.  Have I committed copyright infringement?  If I write only text, don’t I lose a lot of potential readers?  Aren’t most online readers drawn to links, pictures, and video?  Isn’t it amazing, that I write a reflection on the documentary Food, INC and the next day I get a comment from a farmer who defends the way soybean seeds are protected by seed companies?  It’s so much to manage.  It’s so invigorating and overwhelming.
  • “Aural Composing Sample 4:  Daniel Keller’s ‘Lord of the Machines:  Reading the Human Computer Relationship'” (Selfe 640). I show my students a clip of a documentary on the big screen in front of the class.  I ask them to consider audience, purpose, structure, and payoff.  By “payoff,” I want them to ask, “What is the reward supposed to be for watching this film?”  What rewards are there supposed to be for reading what I write?  What rewards should their be for me when I write?  For some reason, my computer overheats and shuts down after about ten minutes.  I want to use my computer because all my browser favorites are on there.  I know about “Delicious” (probably spelled wrong), a social bookmarking tool that would enable me to access my online “favorites” from any computer and even share them with others.  Delicious is a Yahoo thing.  I have an old Yahoo account but I can’t remember the password.  Should I get another email address so that I can use the Yahoo related social bookmarking tool?  Just how much time am I willing to spend managing all my accounts and passwords?  I think Mozilla, my preferred browser, might remember my passwords for me.  Now how does that work?
  • “I do want to argue that teachers of composition need to pay attention to, and come to value, the multiple ways in which students compose and communicate meaning, the exciting hybrid, multimodal texts they create–in both nondigital and digital environments–to meet their own needs in a changing world” (Selfe 642). Students needs?  I keep forgetting to put in there that I often have to push (such an ugly word) students to consider what they want to know and what they ought to think about.  This was done for me countless times!  There was/is so much that I haven’t thought of.  My teachers (both in person and in the form of texts) showed me that there was more out there worth knowing about than I had imagined.  The main reason I blog and try to learn about multimodal texts isn’t so that I can be the best teacher.  I do this because I think of myself as a writer, and as a writer I imagine us heading deeper into a world where readers sit with laptops glancing at texts, or else fidgeting with some sort of controller, maybe a wireless keyboard, looking at their television screen and alternately watching videos and clicking on texts they want to read.  I’d like to have a voice in that world, even if it’s a voice that convinces them to take a break, go find a quiet place, and crack open a novel written on paper or lie under a tree and load up a digital novel on their Kindle.  (or whatever all those are called today)  When is my WordPress editor going to stop telling me that “multimodal” is misspelled?

Copy and Pasted from “Son of Citation”:

Selfe, Cynthia L. “”The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” CCC. 60.4 (2009): 616-663. Print.

Here are the online essays Selfe gives readers to check out.