Multimodality is missing something. And I want to find the missing mode.
As a fourth year English major, I have noticed that digital composition is often excluded from classrooms even though we use it in every other aspect of our lives. As a student, and a complete outsider to the complexities of designing a course, I can only assume that there is a good reason why integrated digital composition is left out of syllabi across departments.
I think the reason is that multimodality is missing something. Even if we are using non-traditional modes and mediums in composition classrooms, the assignments utilizing them are often structured in the same way that papers are. Brainstorm. Research. Outline. Produce. Classrooms are only translating paper assignments to different mediums which, while offering benefits of investigating the translation process, doesn’t allow for complete integration of digital literacy and composition. What’s the point of having a multimodal assignment if the application of it is the same as a written one? Sure, it’s fun and exciting to make a five minute documentary instead of writing a research paper, but is it really that different?
Multimodality is in need of a serious facelift because, right now, its not that different than any other verbal assignment. Syllabi have left out what makes technological multimodality so special: its ability to engage its makers and readers in conversation based on response. Engagement is the missing mode of multimodality. Conversation. Response. Immersion.
Incorporating responsiveness into any type of composition is difficult, but technology offers affordances that make it much easier. A paper spread across a website with links forcing the reader to decide which part they want to read next. A visual project that not only presents the viewer with an argument, but encourages them to upload their own photo. A story with multiple endings. A comment feature on a series of video clips.
By asking the student to think of ways to encourage their reader, viewer, or listener to respond, the student consequently increases their own level of engagement with the content. This way of thinking, engaging through composition, is what will make multimodality special.