The Performance of Multimodal Composition

***The following blog post is a remixed version of my panel presentation given at Watson 2016. To see my Watson panel performance, watch my Video on Multimodality and Sketchnotes above. You can also access the blog post on my website: Why Wix?


Multimodal composition is a performative act that is designed through encounters with materials accessed as one moves through the world. This act of composing remains performative even when operating in a digital space—digital writers choose among a wide array of materials such as audio, video, image, hyperlinks, design choices, etc. However, it is important to heed the scholarship that has directed attention to the ubiquitous, yet unfortunate conflation of multimodal and digital composition.  Jody Shipka addresses this confusion in her work as she pushes the boundaries of text, media, and meaning; where knowledge, creativity and identity is constructed through the action of composing rather than solely through its product.  We must remember that, yes, digital composition is multimodal, but multimodal composition isn’t necessarily digital.

In her introduction of Toward a Composition Made Whole, Shipka evokes the words of Paul Prior and explores the radical assemblage of semiotic modes and prior experienced places and times in all textual representations:

Multimodality has always and everywhere been present as representations are propagated across multiple media and as any situated event is indexically fed by all modes present whether they are focalized or backgrounded…Through composition, different moments of history, different persons, different voices, different addresses may become embedded in the composed utterance. (27)

Shipka also points to Kathy Yancey’s 2004 article, “Looking for Sources of Coherence in a Fragmented World” to note that that she “reminds us that a composition is, at once, a thing with parts—with visual-verbal or multimodal aspects—the expression of relationships and, perhaps most importantly, the result of complex, ongoing processes that are shaped by, and provide shape for, living” (Shipka 17).

The Wix platform offers this space for living that student writers need in order to shape and develop their digital personae. By understanding how all online communication shapes and is shaped by their digital personae, students can begin to develop strategies for communicating online. Wix lets them connect their writing to other writers, other sites, and within their work through hyperlinks, design choices such as alignment and proximity, and their development of a community.

Wix provides a space for student writers to play with the fragmented digital world and work at putting all of the moving parts together.

Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011. Print.

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