James Paul Gee defines multimodal texts as “texts that mix words and images” (17). But I think we can extend his definition and say that a multimodal text is any text that uses more than one modality, including words and images but also including audio and video (and more!).
Clearly, composing content online makes it easy to compose multimodal texts. For example, because this blog is online, I can post both words and videos together to make my points, like in this post. My choice of how I choose to format my message is part of my rhetorical strategy.
Your final project in this class will be multimodal. Therefore, it’s important that we practice using different modalities to prepare you for that project. In this brief assignment, the modality you’ll practice using is audio. As we’ll talk about in class on Monday, September 9, you’ll consider how an alphabetic text can be effectively turned into an audio text.
Record an audio version of you (or someone else) reading a revised version of your Rhetorical Analysis 1 essay. This recording must not be longer than 2 minutes, but it should still communicate the basic point of your essay: describe the strategies made by an author who was using online text to persuade an audience of something. (Rhetorical scholars call this process of changing the media or modality of a text remediation.)
Record your audio essay for an audience who has not read the text version of your rhetorical analysis. That is, you’ll have to introduce the essay you’re analyzing; you can’t assume your audience already knows what you’re talking about.
You may read directly from parts of your essay, or you may completely rewrite your script to better fit the needs of your listening audience. I won’t be asking for a script, so if you’d rather record without writing out each exact word you’ll say, that’s okay too. (If you go this route, I do recommend having a detailed outline prepared so you can transition neatly from one topic to another.)
You’ll also write a brief Statement of Goals and Choices, in which you’ll informally explain the goals you had in mind for this audio version and what choices you made to make it effective.
This assignment will count as a 30-point grade in the Small Assignments category (1.5 times a reading response blog post).
I will not be judging your ability to expertly record professional audio. That is, it won’t bother me if your voice recording sounds scratchy or if you make other small mistakes. We’re practicing.
What I do expect is evidence of purposeful decisions. At every step, consider why you’re making the choices you’re making and what effect you want them to have. Ask yourself, “How is a listening audience different from a reading audience?” If it sounds like you quickly threw everything together or didn’t know why you made a decision, your grade will suffer.
Your Statement of Goals and Choices is crucial, then: it allows me to see into your creative process and assess your work accordingly. Please put a lot of effort into it–it’s the best way to bump up your grade!
To turn in this assignment, you’ll make a single WordPress post that includes 2 things: an embedded audio file and a written Statement of Goals and Choices. It will look something like this: https://rhet351stedman.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/sample-audio-essay-post/
UPDATE: I’ve made a video showing all these steps in order. If you just want to watch the directions you want, you can browse through it like this:
- Entire video
- Starting at the easiest way to record audio (#1 below): 0:26
- Starting at the second easiest way to record audio (#2 below): 2:52
- Starting at the advanced way to record audio (#3 below): 5:53
- Starting at embedding audio in Soundcloud (even further down below): 8:32
To embed your audio file, you’ll first need to get your audio file into Soundcloud.com. (Think of Soundcloud as like the audio version of YouTube.) Therefore, you need to create a free account at Soundcloud. Once you have an account, there are a few easy ways to get an audio file into Soundcloud:
- Easiest way to record audio: Record yourself talking directly into Soundcloud. Log in, click “Upload,” then click “Start new recording.” Benefit: You don’t have to worry about recording a sound file and then uploading it. Everything is done on one site. Downside: You can’t edit your recording, so you need to get it right in one try. You have as many tries as you’d like, but you can’t cut out any parts where you may have messed up. You also need to have a computer with a built-in microphone or a microphone you can plug in.
- Second easiest way to record audio: Use your phone or a simple audio recording program (like Sound Recorder on Windows computers) to record your audio essay. This will give you a sound file (probably a .wav file), which you can then upload to Soundcloud. (Log in, click “upload,” and then “choose files to upload.”) Benefit: If you use a phone to record your essay, you’re not tied to a computer while you record. If you’re recording to the computer, you can save multiple drafts and decide which you like best. Downside: On a phone, you need to know how to find your recording and get that file onto Soundcloud, either through their app or by transferring the file to a computer. And you still can’t edit your recording.
- Advanced way to record audio: Use a free audio editing program like Soundation (entirely online) or Audacity (a program you install on your own computer or use in the Starr labs). Once you’ve edited your file to be exactly as you want it, you can export your file as a .wav or .ogg file, and then upload that file to Soundcoud. Benefit: You have the most control this way, plus lots of ways to make your audio sound better. You can also take the best parts from multiple takes and blend them into a single file, and you can delete awkward moments where you forgot your words or coughed. Downside: If you’ve never done audio or video editing before, these can take a bit of practice to get used to. You can absolutely do it (I’ve had students successfully use Audacity many times!), but it might take some practice.
Embedding Audio from Soundcloud into WordPress
Once your audio file is stored in your Soundcloud account, it’s easy to embed that file into a new WordPress post. Follow these steps:
1. Copy the embed code of your newly uploaded file, which you’ll paste into a WordPress post in a moment. To copy the embed code, find your uploaded file in Soundcloud, click the “share” button beneath it, and highlight the text in the “Wordpress code” area (not the text in any of the other fields). Then copy that text the same way you would copy text from any other website.
2. Create a new blog post on WordPress. Give it a descriptive title so we all know that this will be your audio post. (It’s fine to call it “Audio Version of Rhetorical Analysis” or something more fun. Up to you.)
3. Paste the embed code from Soundcloud into your post on WordPress at point where you want the audio file to appear. The code will look a little messy when you paste it in, but that’s ok. Once you preview or publish the post, it should look like my example post, with a big play button.