I’m currently teaching a class on Medium and Design, and one assignment I have developed is based on Johnson-Eilola and Selber’s concept of assemblage. I developed the assignment based on a presentation I gave at Computers and Writing. In the presentation, I talked about the ways that students define genres in relation to platforms and templates, an approach that contradicts Karl Stolley’s idea in “The Lo-Fi Manifesto” where he argues that we overly rely on platforms to define our work: “As rhetoricians, we should resist allowing software, commercial or otherwise, to signify entire digital genres. But compare the number of results in a search engine for ‘rhetoric of PowerPoint’ versus ‘rhetoric of slideshows.’ The results are not encouraging—and suggest that ‘vendor lock-in’ has as much of a grip on discourse as it does on scenes of production.” I found the same phenomenon in student work, so I looked to assemblage as a way to untangle students’ composing from platforms. And the way I taught assemblage was through zines: “self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier” says Wikipedia.
Writing as Craft
What came about from this project was a lot of cutting, pasting, taping, writing, and combining to create rhetorically sophisticated, innovative, and brave texts. I talked about these texts at SAMLA under a metaphor of craft as it is defined by Kristin Prins in Arola and Wysocki’s edited collection. In the context of those ideas and projects, I was struck by this video by Hitchcock discussing methods of editing. His purposes are not that different from mine or my students. We are attending to an audience through a framework of media affordances and audience constraints. And we are acting through writing.