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Joyce R. Walker

Constructing a BIG text: Developing a multimodal master plan for composition instruction

In this text, I consider how the kind of CHAT-based remapping we've discussed in the core text might impact the way we conceptualize and enact first-year writing at the university level. In my current position as Director of First-Year Writing at Western Michigan University, I am interested in this question as part of my effort to develop courses that ask students to interrogate both their writing and their research practices.

I've chosen to develop a narrative that includes both sound and image files as an homage to my background as a storyteller and listener, as well as to experiment with the potential modes and tools of production available to me. Using a diverse array of composing tools offers a way for me to punctuate my narrative with the kinds of artifacts that force me to think about the complex kinds of activity that first year writing might include (and investigate).

This text is intended to be read in order, and from left to right. There are 19 screens in the text. Some screens include sound files. Readers can use the "play" button to listen to the stories, which are often intended as explications or examples of the material presented in text on the left-hand side. Readers can also click on the "transcript" link to read these stories.

Abstract: My goal in this short narrative is to tell a story about how CHAT has worked to help me think about, plan research for, and investigate people and their literate activities. What I find as I reflect is that although my original (and still principal) interest is in the ways that narratives about literate activities work to shape identity (as well as subsequent literate practices), I have used CHAT to help me re-situate rhetoric in complex, sociohistoric worlds and to realize not simply a consistent multimodality, but a deep orientation to mediated activity and agency.

In particular, my interest in digital technologies has involved me in research environments where theories related to narrative and storytelling alone are not adequate tools for incorporating either the sense of space, memory, and interaction that occur specifically in certain kinds of digital spaces, or the relationship of digital spaces and artifacts to those in the physical world.

Joyce R. Walker is an assistant professor at Western Michigan University, where she is the Director of First-Year Composition. Her research centers on the intersections between individual identities and digital technologies—particularly in the ways that compositional practices inform and are informed by the development of cyborg identities. Her recent publications include several articles published in the online journal Kairos: “While you were out: Furnishing digital space for a new decade,” and “Hyper.activity: Reading and writing in digital spaces.” Other recent articles include “New media and the teaching of critical race theory: Or, ‘How my computer taught me to speak,’” (published in Readerly/Writerly Texts) and “Narratives in the database: Memorializing September 11th online” (forthcoming in Computers & Composition).