Review of Toward a Composition Made Whole by Jody Shipka

Reviewed by Brandy Dieterle, University of Central Florida

link to summary pagelink to introduction pagelink to Rethinking Composition and Processlink to Partners in Actionlink to Framework for ActionLink to Making Things Fitlink to Negotiating Differencelink to ConclusionLink to References

Introduction: Multimodality and communicative practice

Jody Shipka's (2011) introduction and first chapter are particularly interesting for Kairos readers seeking a theoretical grounding for multimodal composition. Here she has drawn on many foundational texts in writing and communication studies, such as Paul Prior's (2009) chapter entitled "From Speech Genres to Mediated Multimodal Genres Systems: Bakhtin, Voloshinov, and the Question of Writing" in the edited collection Genre in a Changing World, Kathleen Blake Yancey's (2004b) Conference on College Composition and Communication chair's address, and the edited collection by Anne Frances Wysocki, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc (2004) entitled Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition.

John Seely Brown discussed the role of technology,
particularly video games, for 21st century learners.

Within the introduction of the book, Shipka explained that the debate over what students need to know about writing is not new to the field of composition studies. She specifically referred to Geoffrey Sirc's (2002) work, which "posits that perhaps the only thing that would make composition worth teaching is the discovery of new processes, materials, and products," as well as to the Happening movement, which experimented with forms of writing during the late 1960s and early 1970s (p. 4). These forms, such as comic books, scrapbooks, films, photo essays, collages, and so forth, were hotly debated in their time. Scholarship on blended and mixed genres as was seen in the Happening movement, however, began being published in the early 1990s and 2000s in an effort to connect the communicative practices that occur inside and outside the classroom (pp. 4–5). An increased focus on nontraditional forms of writing along with technological change sparked a debate on 21st century learning. Some scholars demonstrated the significant role technology plays in learning for 21st century students. For example, in the video here John Seely Brown discussed how video games provide motivation for players to grow (DMLResearchHub, 2011). Composition scholars, on the other hand, directed their attention more specifically to what 21st century students should be learning about writing, and this led to Kathleen Blake Yancey's (2004a) article in Computers and Composition in which she advocated for the use of technology in writing. Almost a decade after Yancey's work, this debate continues, and Shipka's view of multimodal composition brought it to a new level by asking readers to rethink composition.

Shipka expressed in her book that she was concerned about a tendency to focus solely on technology when thinking about writing through a variety of modes and genres. In response to Yancey's idea of new composition, Shipka asked:

How might it position, whether rhetorically, materially, or technologically, texts that explore how print, speech, still images, video, sounds, scents, live performance, textures (for example, glass, cloth, paper affixed to plastic), and other three-dimensional objects come together, intersect, or overlap in innovative and compelling ways? (p. 8)

Ultimately the aim of this book was to advocate for an even more expanded definition of composition that encompasses both digital and non-digital texts, a move that may seem counterintuitive since we are moving to an increasingly digital world. Supporting her argument by describing example student texts, Shipka held the position that non-digital texts still involve complex rhetorical processes that prove to be valuable writing experiences for students. Additional student samples can be viewed on her personal website. Having students recognize non-digital texts as rhetorical acts would be particularly useful in terms of community activism or participation. Such skills could be beneficial for organizing a community event or participating in a political rally.

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