Retrospective Discussion on Multimodality

After this class I believe that multimodality plays an important aspect in the outcome of some types of writing. To me, this is something that can more often than not supplement a composition and serve to enhance the work in one way or another. However, there are cases where using a multimodal approach isn’t necessarily helpful. It really depends on what the target audience is for a project, and it is always important to consider what there is to be gained through adding a multimodal aspect to your writing. As far as my own writing goes, multimodality has definitely influenced how I will approach future compositions and projects. Being able to frame and present my works in a way that adds more depth and substance will be a useful tool if not in my career then at least in the remainder of my time here at Santa Clara.

These course blogs have benefited my writing throughout this course by providing me with somewhere that I can write without worrying as much about structure and style, allowing me the time to focus on my actual thoughts and processes. For me, writing can often be tedious because I have trouble getting started and working out a common all-inclusive theme or thesis. Blogs don’t tend to have as much of a firm structure and were therefore helpful in allowing me to get straight to the writing.


Blog Post 13: Remembering The Sentence

Myers’ discussion on sentence structure and its relation to individual students highlights many key features of sentence composition in English studies today. What really stood out to me in this article was when Myers began to discuss templates and template structure, especially as it pertains to each individual. Myers states, “Students compose their own sentences using academic material they understand” (Myers, p. 621). This hit home for me considering my background studying computer science and math. Often, English courses can prove to be the most difficult for me because I spend a large amount of time doing math and very little time actually writing. In the context of composing based on academic material that I understand, I can say that not only do I tend to compose sentences that fit this rule, but I also tend to chose topics that I understand better. I am much more likely to talk about some sort of technology or new advance in science than about literature or art when given the opportunity to choose my own topics. Similarly, I tend to structure my sentence more like algorithms or proofs rather than being heavier on flow and wording.

Blog Post #12: Errors and Expectations

Shaughnessy’s investigation into the complexities of the student population who come to college unprepared to read and write at the college level shed an entirely new light on how I thought of higher education. Though I have struggled at times with difficult writing assignments since I began college a few short years ago, I can’t even imagine attempting to work at the college level and keep up with other students while working from what Shaughnessy refers to as a basic writing level. Whether students have been left behind from poor education in the past or simply speak English as a second language, or suffer from one of many other causes that put them in the basic writer category, there is a large gap in the preparedness of students at the college level. This creates not only many problems for the students themselves, but invokes many difficult and relatively new problems for the educators who must learn how to adapt their teaching styles in an attempt to bring students up to speed.

“Confusion, rather than conflict, seems to paralyze the writer at this level.” (Shaughnessy, p. 393)

Isolating the individual problems of each student in the basic writer category seems the only logical approach for educators who are working with basic level students, but in a college environment it is difficult to see how this is possible. The idea that any professor could take the time to work with all of their students who are struggling to write at even a high school level without sacrificing the education paid for by those who are prepared for college is preposterous. It seems to me that the only possible solution, which still doesn’t work in the more drastic cases, would be to create small free-help groups like the HUB Writing Center that we have here at Santa Clara. These sort of groups can fill in the cracks in an individual’s basic writing skills and work one-on-one in a way that professors simply could not do. The only problem is when we consider basic writers at the numerous scale that Shaughnessy talks about in the beginning of his introduction. When I think of a free tutoring center I picture maybe ten to twenty student-tutors maximum working individually with another student. In the case that Shaughnessy presented however, free college in the late sixties and early seventies brought some eighty to ninety thousand new students to be dispersed across eighteen schools. If even ten percent of these new college-bound freshman fell into Shaughnessy’s basic writer category that would imply each school would have, on average, nearly five hundred students that would need one-on-one help to catch up from varying shortcomings in their writing skills. Considering that each student has their own individual problem, schedule and educational background, this seems to be a near-impossible task.

Blog Post #11: Prior & Shipka

In this article on Chronotopic Lamination, Shipka and Prior analyse the writing styles, environments and methods of several different people in order to discover how each persons method shapes their work. What I found most interesting was the intense detail that one subject put into her creative environment, going as far as to control the spacing of different furniture in the room to create a comfortable work space.

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Orlie’s Depiction of a Writing Space

“She noted in this space the furniture, the placement of books, the position of windows, and various objects that helped create a mood, including a fountain with running water and a statue of the Buddha and, on her desk, a cup of black tea, a candle, plants, and incense.” (Shipka & Prior)

The extent to which Orilie prepared and focused on not only her immediate workplace but her entire work environment really fascinated me. In some ways, it seemed almost a little over-the-top, enough to where one might even think she was being obsessive. On the other hand, having this much control over how her environment was setup may enable Orlie to have more control over her writing and process. After reading this half of Prior & Shipka’s work, I couldn’t stop thinking about how many different methods, processes and environments people around the world must employ when writing something that requires actual concentration like an academic paper or novel. It’s really interesting just to think of how many ways people could work considering how many different people there are.

Blog Post #10: Decisions and Revisions

Berkenkotter’s analysis of the draft and revision process that Murray employed in his writing revealed true extent that some authors and journalists go through to turn words on a page into thought-provoking, reader-based work. As she shows us through her detailed study of Murray, writers can’t simply jot down their thoughts and go straight to print. It takes a huge amount of work and consideration of the audience and purpose of the writing to get it to the professional level.

“Only when he begins to discern what his readers do not yet know can he shape his language, structure and information to fit the needs of those readers.” (Berkenkotter, p. 166)

I found it interesting here how Berkenkotter notes that Murray really concerned himself with what he was trying to accomplish with his work. Rather than just writing what he wanted to he took the time to learn what his readers wanted to know, or what they did not yet know, and focused on bringing that information to them in a manner fit for the whole audience.

It is hard for me to even begin to imagine putting hundreds of hours into a rough draft, but I guess that’s why I’m not going into an English field after college. Murray on the other hand put several hundred hours just into working his thoughts out loud for a tape recorder and studying his own methods and audience. I feel as though this amount of time and effort is justified in a scholarly article, novel, or some sort of ground-breaking news headline but I also wonder how practical this is for more modern writings like online articles, blogs and journals. I wouldn’t think any real blogger would spend this much time developing a story, in fact I would assume the average blogger would focus on getting the story out as quickly as possible before someone else did. In Murray’s case however, and for writers similar to Murray, this amount of work and development of their writing makes sense and really helps get the point across.


In Class Response: Writing Process

Most of my friends outside of class are either Business or Engineering majors. This goes for everyone I live with as well. That being said, I don’t often see anyone who is writing out an essay focus on their process rather than purely focusing on the end product. I tend to observe people who sit down, make an outline of some sort, and then just write until they have reached the desired word limit. Honestly. the amount of process that goes into someone’s work as far as I have seen really tends to correlate with the amount of time they have spent procrastinating.

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If someone I know decides to start work on a large (over four pages generally) paper the night before it is due, their writing process will consist of research, gathering quotes, and a final draft. However, if one of my friends has no other work and therefore decides to start nice and early on an assignment then I definitely tend to see more process, especially as faras multiple drafts and revision go.

Blog Post #9: Process

“In sum, then, the shift from writer-based to reader-based prose involved not so much the reconsidering of what one thinks as the restructuring of what one has written…” (Harris, p. 90).

Harris’ chapter on process and the development of how process is taught is one that I found very engaging. As we shift from writing to the audience we are comfortable with to concerning ourselves with specifically who the readers are and how to best get the point across to them, while considering what style of writing will truly be most effective, our work becomes much more structurally sound and shaped more effectively towards our desired audience. The different processes that Harris mentions are all effective in their own way, but I thought the idea that really hit home was that how we create a writing piece is truly dependent on ones style and goals for the work. While our topic and thoughts on the subject itself may not change, it is important to restructure our thoughts and style to reflect not so much what we want for ourselves but what we want for our reader. When we consider that the author of a book, paper, or any other sort of text will engage with others and over time change not only what they have written but often how they think of what they have written, then the idea of a set process that doesn’t adapt to change is completely out of line. While I agree that in the sense of a business piece or something heavily more factual, the process can often be quite set in stone, I find that in nearly all other forms of writing the author can change as much and as easily as the words on the page.