Nonfiction remixed

Mueller, Derek. “Tracing Rhetorical Style from Prose to New Media: 3.33 Ways.” Praxis Wiki, at Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Last modified 25 May 2013. Web. Accessed 13 October 2013. http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/praxis/index.php/Tracing_Rhetorical_Style_from_Prose_to_New_Media:_3.33_Ways

Derek Mueller is an assistant professor of written communication in Eastern Michigan University’s Department of English Language and Literature. He is interested in the intersection of writing, rhetoric, and technology, particularly social media and visual rhetoric. More information about him is available at http://www.derekmueller.net/rc/index.html and http://www.emich.edu/english/faculty/facultypages/dmueller.php

In this piece, Mueller details a project for his “Writing, Style, and Technology” class in which he requires students to examine in depth and rework a brief nonfiction passage in a variety of modes and media. The idea behind this assignment was to explore style and rhetorical elements, and discover how changing delivery methods could affect a composition.

In the six-week-long project, students first select a three-paragraph passage, then analyze its style. Next, they choose three out of four ways to remake the passage they have chosen: a Twitter stream, using elements of experimentation already present on Twitter (for example, literature recast as tweets) as well as staples of the site such as @mentions, hashtags, retweets, and hyperlinks; a three-panel imagetext triptych, accompanied by a text explanation of their rhetorical choices; a webcomic; and an intensive analysis of the piece’s syntax, sentence by sentence. The project caps off with a five-minute presentation accompanied by slides showing their work, delivered in the style of Ignite videos.

The project outlined in this video sounds like a very interesting way to examine rhetorical choices in a multimedia world, and understand the capabilities and limitations of various delivery methods. Through this project, students can see how style and delivery shape one another (I’d argue arrangement is similarly affected in the same way). By using a text passage as a starting point, students can see how the academically hegemonic mode has already crafted a message, and by reworking it in various ways, they can see how that message can be improved (or not) with different approaches.

I particularly like the Twitter stream, which may be one of the best examples of the dynamic quality of hypertext, and the webcomic, which provides an excellent example of combining words and images. I don’t really understand how the syntactical analysis is supposed to work, despite reading that section of the article three times. It seems like less of a hands-on remake and more of a dry, academic analysis. It might be a useful technique for examining the stylistic choices an author makes, but it doesn’t fit with the hands-on and fun spirit of the rest of the project. If I were to use a project like this in a classroom, I would probably find a substitute for this option, perhaps a Prezi or a YouTube video.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Nonfiction remixed

  1. This is a fascinating assignment. I have asked students to write a personal narrative, then turn that narrative into a video. It has produced really amazing results. The syntactical analysis sounds like an attempt to be a little too academic, as if trying to make up for the “Twitter” posts by overcompensating elsewhere.

  2. I agree, the syntactical analysis was a really weak part of this assignment, but other than that, it all sounds very interesting. I think that other ways to remix the selected content could be as a video or a Prezi.

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