– Or Thinking About What Multimodal Writing Means

We need to consider what is at stake – who and what it is we empower and discount – when we use the term [technology] to mean primarily, or worse yet, only the newest computer technologies and not light switches, typewriters, eyeglasses, handwriting, or floor tiles as well.

– Jody Shipka, Toward a Composition Made Whole

It’s hard, I think, to think about technologies in a manner more complex than the computers we’re accustomed to using. Growing up, I remember being taught about ‘new technologies,’ but somewhere along the way, that term was shortened to ‘technology.’ I distinctly remember and instance in high school when a teacher made the radical statement that a desk was technology.

“No, it’s not,” said some, “it’s just a desk.”

Our teacher said that, at one point, people didn’t have desks to write on, and that a desk would have been just as revolutionary as a computer is to us. (Thinking about it now, I would say that the very act of writing was at one point new and is, by this loose definition, a technology as well.)

I try to think about multimodal writing more complexly than just ‘digital’ or ‘audio-visual’ writing projects, but after reading the introduction to Jody Shipka’s book Toward a Composition Made Whole (and talking to Dr. Warnick, my Writing and Digital Media professor), I realized that I wasn’t. Not really. I’ve talked in the past about how writing in other genres (for I will contend that video games and movies are, in fact, genres) requires thinking more complexly about what it means to write, I have never really considered how technologies (pen and paper, computers, apps, mobile devices, desks) and environments (classrooms, the out doors, and the sights and smells and noises involved in each) affect my writing. Is it easier for me to blog on a computer, and write novels by hand? How does writing on a computer affect my sense of ‘writer’s block’? What about where I work?

These are questions I hadn’t considered before, but I believe they are essential to thinking about how you prefer to write, and what we consider multimodal. Because, as Shipka states in her exploration of the topic, multimodal writing is so much more than simply digitizing our words.