"Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications."
Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding
the Teaching of Composition. Wysocki et. al., eds. Logan: Utah State Univ. Press, 2004. 1-23.
To set up Writing New Media, Wysocki invokes a metaphor of the
rug-pulled-out in relation to transformations underway between the
purportedly stable forms of texts (i.e., generic books) and new media: "writing
is changing" (2). Wysocki organizes the chapter around five openings:
- The need, in writing about new media in general, for the material
thinking of people who teach writing
- A need to focus on the specific materiality of the texts we give
- A need to define "new media texts" in terms of their
- A need for production of new media texts in writing classrooms
- A need for strategies of generous reading (3)
More generally, what Wysocki offers is an approach to new media that focuses
on writing’s materiality and that places production above
analysis. Materiality, explained through Horner, comes with two caveats: no
list is exhaustive, and "agency and structure are interdependent" (4). Wysocki
briefly calls for more critical work like that done by Romano, Takayoshi, and
Selfe and Selfe on GUIs. Rather than seeing new media work as the analysis of
specific pieces of media or the characterizations of broader
macrostructures, however, Wysocki maintains that writing teachers are
especially well positioned to "open new media to writing" through the
foregrounding of materiality in situated compositional practices. That is,
writing teachers can make choices about writing with a wide range of
writing technologies, which are relevant to exploring the relationship
between objects and identity. Wysocki importantly
establishes a definitional framework for new media (19) that includes
pointing out that new media "do not have to be digital" (15). In contrast
with Kress and van Leeuwen, who argue for a distinction between media and mode
so that mode accounts for transparencies that have no bearing on meaning,
Wysocki holds contends that "digitality gives us a position for questioning
what had earlier seemed like a natural silence of media" (14). All
material aspects of texts, in other words, bear on meaning, even when we have
little choice among materials.
Key terms: materiality of writing (3, 7, 19), new media (5, 19), writing
technologies (11), medium theorist (11), social forms (13), modes (13),
interactivity (17), Manovich on new media (18), information communication system
(18), system-contingent design (21), expressive design (21), aesthetic
Citation: Bolter (1), Kress (1), Horner (3), Selfe (8), Takayoshi (8), Romano
(8), Haas (11), Manovich (17), Hayles (7), Hall (20), Feenberg (20-21).
"What we offer are some openings–some ranges of active
possibilities–we each see in this particular time of change,
openings that allow and encourage us to shift what we do in our thinking and
classes so that we do not forget, so that we make actively present in our
practices, how writing is continually changing material activity that shapes
just who we can be and what we can do" (3).
"Instead, I want to argue that new media needs to be opened to writing.
I want to argue that writing about new media needs to be informed by what
writing teachers know, precisely because writing teachers focus specifically
on texts and how situated people (learn how to) use them to make things
"This, then, is why it matters for writing teachers to be doing
more with new media: writing teachers are already practiced with
helping others understand how writing–as a print-based practice–is embedded
among the relations of agency and extensive material practices and
structures that are our lives" (7).
"I want to argue that these results of digitality ought to encourage
us to consider not only the potentialities of material choices for
digital texts but for any text we make, and that we ought to use the range of
choices digital technologies seem to give us to consider the range of choices
that printing-press technologies (apparently) haven’t" (10).
"I think we should call ‘new media texts’ those that have been made by
composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who
then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help
readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text–like its composers and
readers–doesn’t function independently of how it is made and in what
contexts. Such composers design texts that make as overtly as possible the
values they embody" (15).
"My reason for defining new media texts in terms of materiality
instead of digitality is to help us hold present what is at stake: to
look at texts only through their technological origin is to deflect our
attention from what we might achieve mindful that textual practices are
always broader than technological" (19).
"And I argue that–because in acknowledging the broad material conditions
of writing instruction we then also acknowledge the contingent and necessarily
limited structures of writing and writing instruction–people in our classes
ought to be producing texts using a wide and alertly chosen range of
materials–if they are to see their selves as positioned, as building
positions in what they produce" (20).
"And so I write here that, if we do want to understand compositions as
allowing us to see our positions, then it would be useful to think about–and
teach–composition of page and screen as a material craft under the terms
I’ve just described" (22).