Saturday, September 8, 2007

Reading Post 1

Writing New Media (Ch. 1)

"Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications," by Anne Frances Wysocki

I kind of have a academic crush on Anne Wysocki now.

The reasons? Well, this chapter blew off the top of my head, and has made me reconsider the immediacy of the need for addressing "new media" (in Wysocki's terminology) and the materiality of texts in my FYC class, while simultaneously juxtaposing this need with my own research interest of material/visual rhetoric in needlework and other crafts. So, you know, that's a start.

But the thing that sealed it? Well, I was admiring both the cover and interior design of the book as I read. (No, seriously. I've done a bit of design work myself, and I worked in publishing for six years or so, so I definitely notice good design.) The cover is really subtle and gorgeous, with a lovely layered effect. And the interior is clean and readable, but still interesting, with title and author information sideways in the left and right margins of the spread. The fonts chosen are attractive, and they clearly vary for carefully chosen reasons related to meaning.

Shortly after that, I was peeling the bookstore sticker off of the back of the book, and as it came back, I noticed the designer for the cover and interior...Anne Frances Wysocki. (Swoon.)

Okay, but to be serious, this chapter, with its emphasis on looking at the materialities of writing, has inspired me in some ways, but troubled me in others. I completely see Wysocki's point about teaching students to understand the material constraints on text; one small example is the use of a style guide. I'm aware that, when they ask about why we require MLA, it's easier to blow them off, but I try to explain why a style guide is useful in furthering communication in a discipline.

However, there are many other places where the distinct shape of our program might put constraints on what we can or cannot usefully examine. I love some of the exercises in the text, but how many of those could be usefully integrated into a 111 curriculum?

One thing that occurs to me is the use of webpages for a final critique. It's not getting students to produce new media, but it is getting them questioning the reasons behind the design of a page. Is that enough of a start, though?

I'd love input from classmates on this; what do you guys think?

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