Multimodal Persuasive Project

Introduction

The changing face of communication technology means that scholarship is changing as well. In this final Image of man peeking out of the screenproject, you’ll make a scholarly argument online by composing a lengthy, researched, persuasive piece of scholarship that can be shared publicly online (at a free web-development site called Wix). This piece will be composed in multiple modes of communication, meaning that it will be partly composed of text and partly composed of video, audio, or images.

For this project, you’ll prepare materials much as you would for a traditional research paper: you’ll read and annotate sources, enter into a conversation with those sources, and plan an argument about how others should change their attitudes or actions on your topic. The difference is that you’ll present your ideas using more than just words, opening up your rhetorical possibilities.

And fittingly, your topic will also concern digital communication. In other words, you’ll use a digital medium to make an argument about some aspect of digital rhetoric.

Assignment

Choose a focused topic that is related in some way to digital technology and rhetorical communication. Follow the plans you already laid out in your proposal and my responses to it.

Then, compose a multi-page website that persuades an audience (of your choosing) to change its attitudes or actions on your topic. That website must strategically use some blend of text, audio, images, and/or video to convince your audience.

I suggest you use the easy tools at wix.com to compose your website, but if you prefer, you may use Wix’s main competitor Weebly or another web design platform if you get permission from me first. We’ll play with Wix in class and do a practice assignment using it to give you the hang of things.

Assignment Details

  • Length: Your project’s “length” is up to you. (Make it long enough to deserve 25% of your entire grade for this course.) I encourage you to think of this project as having the “intellectual heft” of a ten- to fifteen-page research essay. Of course, you won’t write as many words as would be in fifteen pages of writing (~5,000), given that you’ll also be composing or arranging multimodal elements.
  • Modalities: At least two modalities (text, audio, image, video) must be used strategically and purposefully on your site. That is, it’s not good enough to write a traditional essay and toss a couple of images on the site without saying anything about them. (I call that “visual frosting.” Both of the images on this page are merely visual frosting, for example.) If the only modalities you use are text and images, make sure that the analysis or use of the images is central to your argument.
    • A good rule of thumb: if you compose any images, video, or audio yourself, you automatically fulfill this part of the assignment. If you embed images, video, or audio that you found somewhere else, you should discuss these elements at length, perhaps doing a rhetorical analysis of them (when appropriate to your topic and argument). (See “Tips for Each Modality” below for more specific advice about this.)
  • Sources: Your project must in some way “use” at least ten outside sources (though you may use many more, if appropriate), each of which must be cited formally in MLA or APA format on a Credits, Works Cited, or References page. The rules for those sources are as follows:
    • At least five must be articles in peer-reviewed academic journals.
    • At least one must be from a book. This can be an entire book or a single chapter from an edited collection. (You may use Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus or any chapters from The Social Media Reader as your book source.)
    • These sources do not have to be the same ones you annotated earlier.
    • When you include an image, audio clip, or video clip that you are discussing in a detailed, meaningful way, it counts as one of your ten required sources. But if you include images, audio, or video just as “frosting”–as something that is nice to include but isn’t substantially discussed–those won’t count toward your ten sources. (Audio or video that you compose does not count as one of your ten outside sources, even if it uses music or images from outside sources.)
    • When using copyrighted material, it’s crucial that you follow the guidelines in the Copyright Concerns section of the Practice Wix Assignment. See that section for advice about when to include something on your Works Cited/References page, and when to write a fair use statement.

Statement of Goals and Choices

Along with your final project, you’ll also submit a statement of goals and choices (SOGC). (You’ll use a Visualization of connections on Flickrsingle post on your WordPress blog to post both SOGC and a link to the project on Wix.) The SOGC is a way for you to tell me why you made the choices you did in your project. It must answer (at a minimum) the following questions in some way (but not necessarily in this order):

  1. What, specifically, is this piece trying to accomplish—above and beyond satisfying the basic requirements outlined above? In other words, what work does this piece do? For whom? In what contexts?

  2. What specific rhetorical choices did you make to accomplish the goals you describe in #1? Be specific—point me to specific places where I can see your goals made real by some choice you made.

  3. Why did you end up pursuing this plan as opposed to other possibilities? After all, you could have chosen many different topics, and you could have chosen many different ways to present your arguments about your topic. Feel free to narrate what your decision process was like early on.

  4. Who and what helped you accomplish this assignment? List human as well as nonhuman helpers, including software, web pages, and so on. Think of this as a way to give thanks.

You may write your SOGC (choosing a length that you feel is appropriate to a project of this intellectual heft), or if you choose, you may compose a video, audio file, comic, or use any other medium that will help me see what you had in mind as you composed the project. (Some students go to YouTube, click “upload video,” and record themselves talking into their webcam, which you can do right from the YouTube page.)

Some students find that the SOGC is easier to compose when they keep a project diary throughout the composing process, noting what frustrations and breakthroughs they’ve encountered recently.

Assessment

This project counts as 25% of your final course grade. The SOGC will be assessed the same way as your reading response blog posts: as a 20-point grade in the Small Assignments category, earning a check, check-plus, or check-minus.

Your project as a whole will be assessed in the same way as your rhetorical analyses were assessed: according to your quality of ideas, organization, evidence, and style. However, there will also be one additional grade category: attention to detail. 

Note that I’m not grading “slickness of design” or “flashiness of technology.” I’m much more interested in seeing evidence that you proceeded with a rhetorical sense of purpose, making choices that were appropriate given your goals for the project. Your SOGC will help me tremendously in that regard, as it will guide my assessment of the five grading areas. (For example, I might think at first that an organizational choice you made was poor, but your SOGC might explain that you did so purposefully, changing my opinion and increasing your grade in that category.)

Submission Details and Deadlines

  • If you want individual advice from me about a draft, you must email a draft to me by 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 6.
  • On the last day of class (Friday, December 6), if we have extra time after the presentations are all completed, we’ll spend some time doing optional peer review of project drafts together. If you have a draft posted, we’ll spend five minutes (max) clicking around your draft on the big screen, giving you a chance to get informal feedback from me and the rest of the class on what you have so far. I suggest (but don’t require) that you create all of your pages by then, even if the content on them needs fixing up.
  • Your SOGC and a link to your final project must be posted as a single post on your blog by 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 9. This is a hard deadline, as I’ll need to start grading immediately in order to complete them all. Missing this deadline means losing 10% per day late, following the guidelines on the syllabus.

Tips for Each Modality

  • Text:
    • Much of your project can be composed like a traditional essay, if that’s where you feel most comfortable. However, I suggest at a minimum that you challenge yourself to think of organization in new ways, given that you can put different parts of your conversation on different pages. And of course, you’ll have to include at least one other modality in some central way to part of your project.
  • Image:
    • You can find plenty of images licensed by Creative Commons on sites like Flickr. (Click the “advanced search” button.) Many of these photographers’ Creative Commons licenses specifically give you permission to remix their photos in programs like Photoshop, Gimp, or Pixlr.com’s online editor. You must still legally give credit to any images you use, even when licensed by Creative Commons, but you can do that on your Credits page.
    • You might also want to create your own images, perhaps using photography, painting, or mash-ups of your own creation. Anything is fair game.
  • Audio:
    • If you use audio, I suggest you incorporate it the exact way we did earlier in the semester: first get it onto SoundCloud, and then embed it from there. You might want to manipulate your audio first using the free software Audacity, which will let you export it as an .ogg file that you can upload to SoundCloud.
    • Legally, the safest way to use audio is to create sounds yourself or use files that are licensed by Creative Commons. (Their search site at http://search.creativecommons.org/ is great.) But if necessary, you can use copyrighted works within limits under fair use guidelines–as long as you write a fair use defense (which can go on your Credits page).
  • Video:
    • Creating and embedding video is much like creating and embedding audio. You first create a file using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie (or a free trial of the more-powerful software Camtasia, which I prefer). Then you export your project to a file that can be watched on other computers (like a .mov or .wmv), upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, and embed it on your site.
    • I gave you some more details on composing screencasts on the page Alternative Ways to Complete RA3.
    • And just as with audio, it’s safest to use video sources that you create yourself or which have been licensed by Creative Commons. If you use copyrighted works, I want you to be sure that your use is considered fair, and you’ll need to write a fair use defense.

General Tips

  • Communication with me: Stay in touch. Seriously. Send me drafts, come to my office hours, and keep me generally in the loop as you compose this piece.
  • Using prewritten words: Remember that you can use any words you’ve already written in this class for this project. So if you wrote a really good summary of a source for your annotated bibliography, you can copy that language directly into your project (as long as it makes sense in its new setting!).
  • Examples of multimodal scholarship: For ideas about how to work in multiple modes online, poke around in the the online book The New Work of Composing, available at http://ccdigitalpress.org/nwc/front/stacked.html. You’ll also find multimodal texts in these journals: KairosComputers and Composition OnlineHarlotCurrents in Electronic LiteracyPresent Tense, and The JUMP (which publishes undergraduate work–like yours!).
  • How Evernote can help: Consider carefully how best to organize your research and draft your writing. I have personally found Evernote to be particularly useful for organizing and tagging my quotations and notes from various sources. But you could also use Evernote or some other software to actually draft your work, allowing you to finalize your text there before pasting it into Wix. It’s part of our 21st-century rhetorical situation to have lots of digital writing spaces at our fingertips.
  • Organization: Your piece does not need to be linear, but your audience should never feel confused. For example, if you have three pages that can be experienced in any order, consider creating an introduction page that explains to readers what options you’ve given them.
  • Opposing views: Often, persuasive projects are made stronger when the author cites and responds directly to those with differing opinions. Consider purposefully looking for opposing views and responding to them in some way.
  • Calls to action: Often, persuasive projects are made stronger when the author makes a very clear statement of what should happen in the future (often placed toward the end of the piece). Consider making such a call to action in your project.
  • Audience: Sometimes, having a specific audience in mind can help you focus your argument. For example, if you decide that you’re writing to current and future teachers (not administrators or parents or the public at large), you can assume they know some things and give them suggestions that will best help them.
  • Giving credit: If you have a lot of different kinds of sources to cite, it’s okay to break them up on a Credits page in the way that fits most logically with your project. For an example, consider the complicated Credits page on a multimodal publication of mine: it includes sections for my bio, credit to a web designer friend who helped me out, a formal MLA-style list of works cited that were textual, a formal MLA-style list of the songs I was discussing, a formal MLA-style list of sounds I used in audio clips I composed, credits to every image I used (including links to the images on Flickr), acknowledgments, and a fair use statement. That’s a lot, so I had to be careful to organize all that info in a way that would make sense to my readers.

Images: JD Hancock, “Why I Decided to Become a Cyborg” and eskimoblood, “everyone knows everyone from flickr” The SOGC concept and language is adapted from assignments created by Dr. Jody Shipka.

So what *is* a Statement of Goals and Choices?

After reading your responses to the question I posed in class on Wednesday, September 18, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. A lot of you simply didn’t read the assignment very carefully, for a lot of different reasons (some better than others).
  2. A lot of you didn’t have a very good sense of what I was looking for in the SOGC.

#1 isn’t something I can help with; either you read the assignment or you don’t.

But #2 I can address. That’s what this post is about.

Background of the SOGC

The term and idea for a Statement of Goals and Choices came from Dr. Jody Shipka, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She asks her students to compose multimodal pieces that go far beyond digital spaces: they paint and sculpt and design things, all for the same reasons any rhetor does: to strategically affect an audience in a purposeful way. (Her students’ work–and their SOGCs–are up at this site.)

But of course, you can imagine the question she gets asked a lot: “What do those crazy projects have to do with rhetoric?” And to answer that, her students compose an SOGC: a statement that explains what goals they had as they composed their work and what choices they made to make those goals a reality.

And of course, that’s exactly what you’re doing. When you created your audio file, I wanted to know what you wanted to achieve and what you did to make that happen.

Writing a SOGC

Though different professors ask for different things in the SOGC, for me they essentially need to include only two things (unless I say otherwise): a description of what goals you had and a description of what choices you made to make those happen. This description can be written informally, but I need to clearly get understand your ideas.

For the goals part, I could imagine you writing something like one of these:

I don’t think of my voice as very strong, so I had the goal to come across sounding powerful and certain of myself in my recording.

(Or this:) I know that some people automatically assume that people from my hometown aren’t very smart, so I was determined to sound intelligent.

(Or this:) I wanted to sound inviting and friendly, like someone who you would actually listen to if you heard me on the radio.

For the choices part, then, you would say what you actually did in the assignment to make that goal a reality. Using the three examples of goals above as a starting point, possible choices might include:

To make myself sound strong, I purposefully read a lot of shorter sentences, with repeating words that emphasized my point. I think this choice made me sound a bit like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! I also read with a slower, emphatic tone of voice.

(Or this:) To make myself sound intelligent, I had to find a balance between words that were academic but not stuffy. So they had to be words that I was already comfortable using, but on the upper limits of what I already know. So for example, toward the beginning of my piece you can hear me saying multitude and semiotic domain. That was on purpose.

(Or this:) To make myself sound friendly, I made sure to modulate my voice a lot–that is, the tone of my voice went up and down, almost sing-song-like. I also noticed that when I recorded it the first time, the poor quality of my microphone took away from the warm, friendly feeling I was going for, so I borrowed a friend’s headset mic to rerecord.

Any of those sentences would work perfectly in an SOGC. My favorite ones are the most specific ones–the sentences that say, “You can hear me doing this in this specific spot.”

SOGCs and Grading

When I ask for an SOGC and don’t get one, I simply can’t grade the assignment. It’s impossible. Here’s why:

I judge the effectiveness of the choices you made to achieve your goals. Here are two common scenarios:

  • If you wrote in your SOGC that you wanted to sound intelligent and the only choice you made was to use big words, I might think to myself, “When I listen to this piece, I actually don’t think this student sounds very intelligent. Sure, he’s using big words, but I think he ignored a few other things he could have tried as well.” So that student would lose points.
  • But say I listen to your piece cold, without reading your SOGC, and I think, “Okay, that was pretty good, but not the best.” It’s possible that reading your SOGC would then point out things that I missed, allowing me to reward you for those things! So maybe you made a choice to purposefully read slowly because you wanted to sound strong. Your SOGC is a place for you to tell me what you were doing, which in turn helps me notice it, which in turn allows me to reward you for those choices!

I hope this helps! We’ll keep talking about these in the future when we do more multimodal work.

Prep for Understanding Gee, and DISTRACTION

This post is a short-and-simple preview of the reading for Wednesday and a brief discussion-starter about our experiment with being distracted in class today.

Reading for Wednesday

Even though we didn’t talk about it in class, you (hopefully) have seen that I’ve asked you to read Shirky chapter 3 and a pdf from a writer named James Paul Gee for Wednesday. Your blog post assignment asks you to write about the connection you see between the two chapters. Feel free to be informal in this post, letting your ideas take you wherever they go, but please also demonstrate that you’ve put some effort into it. Write a lot, so we’ll have lots to talk about in class–but don’t worry about making it formal or beautifully proofread. (I’ll give everyone a grade for these posts, but I’ll only respond to a few each week.)

Gee is an interesting dude. One of his passions is reforming education so that it will be more like a videogame, full of meaningful tasks that make sense in the context of a community. Listen to him at 5:51 in this video where he tells the story of one of his earliest mistakes when playing videogames: his assumption that you should read the manual first:

His discussion of videogames will help us in two big ways:

  1. He’ll add to our conversation about communicating in different modalities, since videogames are inherently multimodal.
  2. He’ll give us a lot of helpful terminology about communities and audiences–which are clearly crucial parts of any rhetorical communication.

Distractions in Class

Thanks for being so excellently distracted today during our Twitter/Tweetdeck experiment. Clearly, we need to debrief it a bit, but I was intrigued by the tweets I saw later. Many of you pointed out that it was too much:

Of course, I stacked the deck: I asked you to be distracted on the day that we learned some new terms (modality and medium) and played with new technologies. Maybe distractions are better on days that are likely to be boring?

For me, the lingering question is still the one I started out with: when does live tweeting work? In what situations (if any) can it be helpful/useful/important for the event?

Sometimes you’ll hear the word backchannel used to describe this sort of thing. So I’m essentially wondering, “Do we even need a backchannel?” (Hint: I think we do. But it’s up to us all to figure out when and where.)

Audio Version of RA1

Introduction

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.

Assignment

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.

Assessment

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!

Delivery

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

Recording Audio

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.