AH: Though the Internet contains a good deal of print text, the popularity of YouTube and other image-rich sites depend on audio/visual texts. When you think of "texts," do you think that writing should still be privileged? What is "writing" becoming?
KW: I'm not sure, but I don't think it's determined. Comp/rhet specialists can help to decide what that future might be, which is one of the reasons I want Andrea Lunsford or Douglas Hesse on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and I want rhet/comp people and other English professors all over these government commissions. Let me give you an example. My nephew Kyle Dare has just finished a really strong Bachelor's degree in Cinema Studies, and he's looking for a job in LA, as are so many of our young twenty-somethings. They're flooding into LA, they're writing scripts, they're doing all these things that you're describing, but who is going to get which particular kinds of jobs? The writing sample remains, for good or ill, a crucially important part of any job application. If you can't do that kind of complex analytical writing without images, then adding images just becomes an interesting issue. I asked my nephew, "Have you checked YouTube to make sure that an employer is not looking at anything you don't want out there?" Employers are checking all of these sites and looking for material. If they [employers] see someone presented in a certain [negative] way, then that can lose that person a job. Our students are out there imaging.... We have to train our students with our vast knowledge base in rhet/comp.
AH: Do you include here Facebook and other social networking sites?
KW: That's right. It is great that young people are doing all those things, but I'm thinking that all of our students have to get jobs and put bread on the table. We have to maintain the strength that we have in freshman writing, continue to resist Current/Traditionalism, and to develop year-long freshman writing sequences. [We have to] get the sophomore-level course going in a rich technological environment that's based on imaging so students can then translate written issues to the visual realm.
We know that every translation is a completely new work; it's not the same. [We need to] move ahead with the WAC and WID initiatives that universities have [which] in turn is connected to the number of tenured and tenure-track professorial jobs that exist for rhetoric/composition scholars. It's just one of the reasons we need lots and lots of rhet/comp scholars, scholar/teachers, to do this kind of work.