CCCC 2014 Reviews

D.26 "(Re)Opening the Ditto Device: DIY Publishing as Crafting Agency"

Reviewed by by Janine Morris (morri2j8@mail.uc.edu)

Chair: Becky Morrison, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg


Jason Luther, Syracuse University, NY, “DIY Publishing and Pedagogies of Experiential Circulation”

Becky Morrison, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, “Using Multi-Modal Composition in a First-Year Writing Classroom: A Study of ‘At-Risk’ Students’ Developing Identities”

Jana Rosinski, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, “Cut, Copy, and Compose: DIY Publishing and Rhetorical Ecologies of Materiality”

In a packed conference room, mid-Thursday afternoon, Jason Luther (Syracuse University), Becky Morrison (Virginia Tech, Blacksburgh), and Jana Rosinski (Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti) began their presentation on agency and DIY publishing by distributing a zine the three created together. The collaboratively produced zine mirrored their synergetic presentation—the three took turns discussing DIY ethos in their respective classrooms and then theorized DIY publishing, creating a cohesive whole of their separate projects. 
Session D 26 Zine Handout

Part I: Classroom Practices

Jana Rosinski (@janarosinski) “Cut, Copy, and Compose: DIY Publishing and Rhetorical Ecologies of Materiality”

Rosinksi (whose presentation can be found here: http://pagetectonics.com/tag/materiality/(external link) ) began discussing her interest in DIY production by situating it in the material world—highlighting the importance of materiality and getting at the level of the objects themselves. In the zine handout, she quoted Jim Brown’s (2011) “Decorum of Objects,” stating: “understanding the relations between objects requires more than watching, listening, and reporting. It requires tinkering.” Tinkering is the perfect approach to describe how Rosinski brought objects to the forefront of her classroom.

Rosinski’s interest in DIY materialities grew out of seeing the potential of objects (being attentive to how they’re assembled, circulated, taken up, broken up; how they become texts not onto themselves; how they’re de/re-contextualized; and how they radiate rhythms). The course Rosinksi discussed was one she taught at Syracuse University titled “Alien Everyday,” which brought object-oriented ontology into the comp/rhet classroom. Adopting Brown’s (2011) “tinkering” approach mentioned above, Rosinski encouraged students to “make strange” the encounters they have with everyday objects. She described classroom sessions where she has students use their bodies to create the vantage point of a camera (something Ian Bogost (2012) encourages in Alien Phenomenology). She brought found materials to class and asked students to use those materials to create something new. Drawing from Bogost’s “carpentry,” she asked students to look to how material objects are made and how they circulate (and are often discarded) once produced. Her care for the material was apparent—she asked, “How can a mindfulness of materiality and material ecologies help students craft and publish texts?” Rosinksi focused on the non-human and the material but used her classroom to further explore how those materials persuade and identify with people. 

Jason Luther (@jwluther) “DIY Publishing and Pedagogies of Experiential Circulation”

Luther (whose presentation is available here: http://taxomania.org/blog/?p=361(external link) ) began by discussing his experience piloting a 200-level, open-enrollment, gateway course titled “DIY Publishing.” Luther described beginning the course by looking at the history and multiple instantiations of DIY publishing in the class’s first unit. He questioned, “What’s the legacy [of DIY publishing] and how can we historicize it?” The collaborative approach Luther took with the library at Syracuse was what makes his class particularly unique. Students visited the special collections and looked at various historically situated DIY publications and objects (including underground newspapers and suffrage documents). With the help of archivists and librarians, students researched the history behind the publications and were responsible for using their newly found knowledge to teach one another. 

The zine production in his class came after completing this research—students began by creating a single page for a collaborative zine inspired by the historical artifacts themselves. In the presentation, Luther discussed how the page students created following their visits to the library took on historical, reflective, and re-interpretive approaches to the objects in the archive. The students took part in creating the collaborative zine together, which gave them an opportunity to explore and make mistakes with zines as a medium before turning to their own creations. For example, Luther described one of the challenges students faced: Students would put text too close to the edge of the page, which resulted in the material being cut off when photocopied. 

Following this initial assignment, students purchased and brought in contemporary zines into the classroom (these were acquired through sites like Atomic Books http://www.atomicbooks.com(external link),  Quimby’s http://www.quimbys.com(external link), and Broken Pencil http://www.brokenpencil.com(external link) ). As a class, they looked at the materiality of the zines and considered the variety of tools and processes that go into making zines. They furthermore discussed how zines are distributed and the potential challenges that go into circulating zines. Each student was then responsible for creating their own zines, putting into practice the analytic work they had completed. The class culminated in the Syracuse Zine Festival ( http://library-blog.syr.edu/scrc/2013/02/22/zine-fest/(external link) ), where students organized, advertised (using social media like Facebook and blogging on the Special Collections website), and peddled copies of their zines, making them public. 

One of the challenges with bringing zines into the classroom that Luther acknowledged is the difficulty with grading. In this classroom, he used proposals, process reflections, conferences, grading contracts, and a reflection on the outcomes following the zine festival as a way to make more apparent how the final projects were graded. Using Jody Shipka’s (2011) work as a guide, Luther discussed the benefit of making contracts with students ahead of time to help determine their goals as a starting point and following that with reflections. 

Becky Morrison (@beckymorrison08) “Using Multi-Modal Composition in a First-Year Writing Classroom: A Study of ‘At-Risk’ Students’ Developing Identities” 

Morrison’s approach to zines in the classroom was part of her teaching at University of Eastern Michigan’s “University Prep Opening Doors” (UPOD) program that gave high school seniors in Detroit access to college life. (Read her presentation here: http://theworldisntflat.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/4c14-using-multi-modal-composition-in-a-first-year-writing-classroom-a-study-of-at-risk-students-developing-identities/(external link) .) Students in this program spend their first semester being bussed in from off campus, with a predetermined schedule that is planned to the minute—including scheduled breaks, lunch, and homework time. The goal of UPOD, Morrison explained, is to give students structure, and she said when the students described their experience, it was largely expressed through the language of UPOD. During the second semester, students live on campus and have more freedom with their time and schedule choices, being able to choose two of their four classes themselves. Morrison found that the students in the program struggled with the additional freedom of the second semester. 

Because the students’ identities are expressed so much in the language of UPOD, Morrison wanted to give students the opportunity to express their identities on their own terms, using the agency made available through DIY work. Because zines as a genre are not typically associated with the academic genres students produce, she hoped that this assignment would give them the space to compose without worrying about the formalities required from them in other courses. She had students complete exploratory zine assignments to get at the question she asks in the handout, “What is happening with our students below the surface?”

Part II: Theorizing 

Rosinski began her theorization of DIY ethos through conversations of materrealities (mater-re-alities), which are “little realities that come into being when materials interact.” With materrealities, potential (coming from the act of assemblage, combining, being cared for) is key. In this sense, composing becomes action-based, as actors look for objects, collecting material resources to use when crafting. This approach leaves space for composing/recomposing/ decomposing, and texts move from passive/invisible containers to compositions that are of composites/parts that mediate further composing. She asked, “What does it mean to consider composition as potential of some things thrown into something?” Attention to materrealities highlights the fluidity of material that exists with rhetorical texts. 

Grounding Rosinski’s explanation of materreality was Kathleen Stewarts’s (2008) “Weak Theory in an Unfinished World.” Rosinski’s work furthermore drew on work by Jody Shipka (2011), and Rube Goldberg’s rhetorical carpentry and rhetorical ecologies. These theories lead Jana to have her students simulate the experience of things in relationships and actually interact with materials themselves. She described how the students’ engagement with research develops as they try to make something out of found objects and their projects take shape as they go. She used the production of the presenters’ zine handout as an example of found-object publication. She described how “the worlds zines create” or come into contact with aren’t finished or determined once they’re made. Instead, we have to look at how texts circulate in dynamic spaces and question what would happen if we were to pause in materiality. What might we notice? 

Luther picked up on Rosinksi’s mention of pausing and suggested that zines offer different occasions to pause and think. He considers how the classroom space has the potential to become a protopublic—where students can try out various subjectivities and discourses (Eberly, 2000). He noticed in his classroom that there was something different about how students positioned themselves vis-à-vis the public in a way they don’t with other “public” forms of composing, like blogs. He used Paula Mathieu and Diana George’s (2009) “Not Going It Alone: Public Writing, Independent Media, and the Circulation of Homeless Advocacy” to describe public writing as an “agent of social advocacy and of political action” (p. 133). He also used Nathaniel A. Rivers and Ryan P. Weber’s (2011) “Ecological, Pedagogical, and Public Rhetoric” to examine emergent ecological action. As a result of considering the ecologies of public writing, students’ ordering zines and coordinating the zine festival were essential to the course as their individual work was carried into the larger public. Luther also drew on John Trimbur’s (2000) “Composition and the Circulation of Writing” and Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss’s (2009) “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery” to question what forms of public writing lead to social change. What gives students more agency? 

Morrison’s theoretical interests revolved around multimodality in composition. She discussed how Jody Shipka in Toward A Composition Made Whole (2011) and “A Multimodal Task-Based Framework for Composing” (2005) encouraged multimodal assignments that let students choose their own medium of production. Shipka also had students using a wide range of resources, setting goals, and speaking meaningfully about their choices. Jason Palmeri’s (2012) Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing also advocated for giving students the choice to compose in multiple mediums. Drawing on this work, Morrison used zines to help her students more fully explore their identities in their classrooms. Together, they looked at the affordances of self-publication (in terms of cost and circulation) and had to make choices about the materials they used. In her zine assignment, Morrison asked students to create an identity of their own through content she provided (like magazines) or material they created (several students wrote poetry). 

One of the limitations Morrison acknowledged of providing her own material was that students didn’t readily identify with the magazines she brought from home. What surprised her was that instead, students turned to poetry to create their identities rather than use visuals—though some found artifacts at home that they then assembled to represent themselves. Morrison’s zine assignment allowed her students to integrate their own interests into zines (an unfamiliar medium), and, as her theoretical interests advocated, use multiple modalities to explain their identities. Becky closed her discussion with a caveat: we need to articulate why we’re asking students to do these assignments (and need to be able to answer this question ourselves).

Part III: Question and Answer 

The question and answer session that followed the presentation resulted in a lively discussion where the presenters discussed resistance they faced in the classroom (resistance that, Morrison explained, was resolved when she explained her purpose and reasons for using zines); cost of materials (Luther asked students to set aside $25 at the outset of the course but felt that having students negotiate the realities of product cost made it more real—they had to consider what they could produce and how much it would cost; alternatively Rosinksi asked students to use found objects which cut out cost completely); and educational affordances of composing in this way. In all, this was a compelling, theoretically grounded presentation that left audience members with much to think about and many ideas for integrating similar assignments in their own classrooms. 


Bogost, Ian. (2012). Alien phenomenology, or what it’s like to be a thing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Brown, Jim. (2011, September 12). The decorum of objects [Web log post]. Clinamen. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from http://clinamen.jamesjbrownjr.net/2011/09/12/the-decorum-of-objects/(external link)

Eberly, Rosa A. (2000). Citizen critics: Literary public spheres. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Mathieu, Paula, & George, Diana. Not going it alone: Public writing, independent media, and the circulation of homeless advocacy. College Composition and Communication, 61(1), 130-149.

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Remixing composition: A history of multimodal writing pedagogy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Ridolfo, Jim, & DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole. (2009). Composing for recomposition: Rhetrocail velocity and delivery. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy, 13(2). Retrieved July 27, 2014, from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/13.2/topoi/ridolfo_devoss/index.html (external link)

Rivers, Nathaniel A., & Weber, Ryan P. Ecological, pedagogical, and public rhetoric. College Composition and Communication, 63(2), 187-218.

Shipka, Jody. (2005). A multimodal task-based framework for composing. College Composition and Communication, 57(2), 277-306.

Shipka, Jody. (2011). Toward a composition made whole. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Stewart, Kathleen. (2008). Weak theory in an unfinished world. Journal of Folklore Literature, 45(1), 71-82.

Trimbur, John. (2000). Composition and the circulation of writing. College Composition and Communication, 52(2), 188-219.

CCCC 2014 Reviews

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