Writing with Pixels: First-Year Writing and the Social Media Landscape

Writing with Pixels: First-Year Writing and the Social Media Landscape

Christie L. Daniels (Michigan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4757-2.ch012
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As a result of the features available on social media, users are able to present an up-to-the-minute picture of who they believe they are, what they are all about, and what gets their attention to the world in a remarkably savvy way. These sites enable students to practice concepts such as agency, situatedness, and constraints as well as gain experience with visual rhetoric itself. This chapter argues that the ability of instructors to tap this voluntary rhetorical activity and channel it into academic endeavors is of critical importance to creating new pedagogies to teach a new generation of rhetorically aware citizens.
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The Changing Landscape Of Writing Instruction

First-Year Writing should concern itself with the awareness of power structures, ideology, and their practices need to form the basis of an integrated, complex system of literacies that I will term social multimodal literacy. I envision this type of literacy as not limited to technology, or the techne related aspects of various rhetorical processes, or social awareness and engagement, but rather as sufficient mastery of the network of all of these individual literacies combined.

When one speaks of literacies, a wide array of competing and, at times, discordant definitions come to mind. For the sake of clarity, I will define “literacy” as minimal ability required to be considered a competent and accepted member of society. Inherent in this definition are two sets of concepts. The first set is, power and authority. That is, the notion of literacy itself represents a judging of whether people have met or failed to meet a given standard. This standard is established by operations of power and usually entails stakes of some sort. In other words, people with some form or version of authority have decided upon what they agree is the standard, impose that standard upon others, and attach some sort of consequences for those who fail to meet the standard. The second set, which I would argue is equally important, is the notion of adaptability. This concept of literacy does not specify media or modes of communication because adaptability is the never-ending mutability of technology. To limit the definition of literacy to just writing or just writing in a specific, rigid genre ignores new literacies and the new media that construct them. The metaphor of shooting at a moving target is particularly apropos here. As society progresses, so do ideas of literacy and competency.

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