Old is the new New
In making this call to explore new forms of online scholarship, I also urge us to look for models in the past, especially the pre-digital, pre-personal computer virtualized essays of the seventies and eighties avant-garde that were produced with photocopy machines and offset presses. The author-designed essays in Richard Kostelantz's anthologies can be astonishing in their creativity and originality. Consider, for example, Robert Meltzer's essay, "This Book Stinks" (from Kostelanetz's 1975 collection Essaying Essays, p. 196).

cover of Meltzer essayThis little piece is clearly new media scholarship. The argument is created by the juxtaposition of the handwritten text and the image of the book's cover. Neither element by itself would have the same effect. You might argue that it is not a very good example, that Meltzer owes his readers some supporting evidence for arguing that the book stinks. I would agree, but having an unsupported argument doesn't make the piece less an example of new media scholarship, just a bad or a cheeky example.

Essays like Meltzer's remind us that neither techno-rhetoricians nor the New London Group invented multimodal composition any more than Al Gore invented the Internet.

But after all, isn't that what technology does? Whether in writing or in teaching, technology hypermediates ideas that have become largely transparent, forcing us to look at them in new ways, with new eyes. Once again "looking at" when before we were "looking through."