What does composing look like in and across digital, networked spaces and the physical spaces our bodies inhabit as we compose? What does multimodal composing look like as we choreograph alphabetic text, images, sound, video, and more? In this project, we take on these questions as we capture and share our composing processes across mediums, platforms, localities, and languages.
Sara P. Alvarez
"'Cuando Escribo: When I Write': On Dynamic Practices of Composition"
"Creating a Slam Poem"
Dànielle Nicole DeVoss
Khirsten L. Echols
"Composing with Black Noise"
Layne M. P. Gordon
"A Writing Session"
Laura Sceniak Matravers
"I Move. I Write. I Move"
"Even with all this Technology"
Amy McCleese Nichols
"Composing Relationships and Experiences"
Caitlin E. Ray
"Embodied Composing in 'Crip Time': An Exploration"
"I Start with..."
"Composing in Three Dimensions"
Sara's composing process is dynamic, multilocal, and digitally pragmatic. When she composes "alone," she usually turns to Microsoft Word, her YouTube music playlist (mostly made up of songs in Portuguese, Spanish, and French), her favorite podcasts, such as Democracy Now! (in English and Spanish), and her personal and university emails. Listening to these different media in various languages, while writing in (and through) multiple intersections of U.S. Academic Englishes, allows Sara to access her full linguistic repertoire and translanguaging practices. She usually also has other tabs and applications running in Google Chrome—including Facebook and Twitter, and articles she intends to read, her class website, and her to-do list. It sounds like she composes alone, but her composing emerges during community meetings, conversations with her life partner, and dialogues with family, mentors, and colleagues.
Michael composes slam poetry (and, really, all writing) by brainstorming with friends, then working in isolation, and then again working with others, usually audiences. He employs kitchen table conversations, paper and ink, Pandora radio, social media, Microsoft Word, the World Wide Web, drugs (caffeine, alcohol), digital and physical sticky notes, pianos, FM radio, his own body, and the bodies of his audiences—all as media, all as digital and physical spaces networked, inhabited, and performed—to make meaning.
Michelle approaches composing videos through a negotiation of freedom and constraint. She constrains her physical and virtual workspace by performing the same precise set-up every time, and these constraints make room for her mind to wander through her creative process.
Dànielle has seven applications open: WordPerfect, where she maintains her daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists; Eudora, an outdated but beloved software for checking email; Mozilla Firefox, with 32 active tabs ranging from Facebook to several articles she thought important but hasn't had enough time to read yet; Adobe Photoshop, where she has eight images open she's in the process of editing to add to a presentation; Microsoft PowerPoint, where she's building a presentation for a workshop she will host later in the week; Microsoft Word, with seven different files open, including her daily schedule for the graduate seminar she's teaching, the outline for the workshop she's hosting later in the week, ideas for a manuscript, and notes for an upcoming conference presentation; and Adobe Dreamweaver, where she's building a small website that will host the workshop materials.
Khirsten writes with black noise. Composing while listening to black noise energizes and stimulates her writing process. This vibrant sound, which could be perceived as distracting to some people, allows her to find the groove of her thoughts as she navigates writing in academic spaces. As she composes her own black noise, she realizes that the sound and rhythms motivating her resembles her writing practices: cutting, blending, and (re)mixing. Black noise, then, functions as a liberating addition to a process that might have otherwise been limiting in its absence.
Layne toggles between writing on her computer and writing/graphing ideas on a pad of paper while listening to music and mining previous texts she wrote, all in an effort to start the writing task at hand. Her experience of composing can at times be seen as mundane and unrelated to writing, but it is these everyday practices of in-and-out-of writing—embodied—that gives life to her work of composing a text.
Ashanka composes across multiple interfaces. She navigates her MacBook desktop with Notability, a notetaking software on which she reads and annotates texts for class; a Microsoft Word document on which she records significant passages and additional reading notes outside of Notability; Google Chrome with 15 active tabs including conference calls for papers, Google docs and spreadsheets with both personal and research-related items, Pandora with the Vitamin String Quartet station running, PDFs she hasn't downloaded to read yet, and two email accounts. Her Apple iPhone is a close companion on which she actively uses apps ranging from emailing and text messaging to games and Goodreads.
Laura conceives of her writing process as happening both on and off the screen, something that is constantly running, often in the background of her daily life. She resists the idea that her writing process happens solely when she's in front of her computer or during a focused session of reading and writing. Her arguments largely emerge during everyday moments off the screen, such as conversation, collaboration, and movement—for example, when she is in class, meeting with a professor, or working out. Though not actively writing in such moments, these daily encounters or times of solitude are crucial to her overall composing process.
Jessica uses different mediums, different technologies, to compose hybrid texts of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She switches between composing by hand and typing on the computer, sometimes using both paper and screen at the same time. The decision of when to use which medium may not always be a conscious one, but, as suggested by her thought process as she composes, there is always a reason.
Amy is rocking her baby to sleep in a carrier, thinking about what to pack for her day on campus and his day at the sitter's, and typing out notes for today's class. Under this practical train of thought are half-formed sentences for various projects, poems, and papers that have to wait for the quiet moments when she can work alone. At the same time, the people around her are working at other activities that both enable and feed into her performance of the writing process. These embodied, networked activities cross the boundary of individual and collective, suggesting that her writing process is almost never the result of only her effort alone.
Caitlin constantly considers how composition and the body interact. She writes on her computer as she works to reference handwritten notes in a notebook. However, Caitlin is continually interrupted by demands from her body: She flexes her fingers, stands up and stretches, and takes medication. These constant physical demands of the body are visually represented through the fast and slow motion of the video, depicting what disability studies calls "crip time." Caitlin's composition process and resulting product are informed by the relationship between her and her body.
Jon considers his fiction writing process multispatial, in terms of both physicality and conceptuality. Physically he composes in mostly traditional spaces (desks, kitchen tables, etc.), although, while on the run, he frequently jots notes about stories and projects with his phone. Conceptually, he believes the composing process exists in a continuous state of happening: while actively thinking about and working on the project at hand, while thinking about the work that has already been accomplished, while inactively thinking about the project, while in conversation about it, while reading works by other authors whose words seem to speak to his project, while dreaming, and so on and on and on. In these ways, Jon trusts that the process of forming artifacts of meaning is ongoing.
Rick composes across modes and medium, both digital and tactile. He taps into open-source software and shared designs, and moves to a 3D printer to compose. His hybrid form of composing integrates multiple literacies into the fabrication of material artifacts.