New Media and Multiliteracies
In 2003, Michael A. Pemberton wrote "Planning for Hypertexts in the Writing Center... Or Not." In this article he sets a premise for why tutors need to retrain and work with students and hypertexts (using computer language).
"Fundamentally, most of the interactions between students and tutors still center on the handwritten or printed texts that are placed on a table between them or, perhaps, shared in a word-processed file. These texts are structured linearly and hierarchically, moving along a single path from beginning to end, following a well-known and universally taught discourse that has emerged from a print-based rhetorical tradition.
But times may be changing. As we enter an era when electronic publishing and computer-mediated discourse are the norm, an era when new literary genres and new forms of communication emerge on, seemingly, a weekly basis, we must ask ourselves whether writing centers should continue to dwell exclusively in the linear, non-linked world of the printed page or whether they should plan to redefine themselves--and retrain themselves-- to take residence in the emerging world of multimedia, hyperlinked, digital documents" (9).
Youtube channel dedicated to tutoring students learning digital languages and software.
"New Media Matters: Tutoring in the Late Age of Print" by Jackie Grutsch McKinney. The Writing Center Journal 29.2, 2009.
To add to our section "Recommended Articles Pre-2009," we wanted to highlight McKinney's focus on tutoring and training. The importance of this addition is to prevail upon Diana George's "From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing." She maintains "that if we are ever to move beyond a basic and somewhat vague call for attention to 'visual literacy; in the writing class, it is crucial to understand how very complicated and sophisticated is visual communication to students who have grown up in what by all accounts is an aggressively visual culture" (1432). To progress beyond the single incorporation of visual literacies, George argues for an understanding of history and culture in accordance to such literacies.
In "New Media Matters: Tutoring in the Late Age of Print," McKinney surpasses George's argument for visual literacy by looking at and incorporating multiple literacies in tutor training/teaching. Founded on John Trimbur's "Multiliteracies, Social Futures, and Writing Centers" and his notion of "multiliteracies has to do in part with new text forms and new means of communication associated with the information age and knowledge economies of the globalized markets and societies of late capitalism" (29), McKinney assess what digital texts are and how tutors can be trained to teach/tutor the different literacies.
Before McKinney wrote this article in 2009, Michael Pemberton was the only other writing center scholar to write about digital texts and tutoring since 2003. McKinney argues against Pemberton's negative attitude towards writing begins by defining new media and reveals that there are three different characteristics. She says "the three definitions show a range of texts that are 'new' in significant ways; 1) their digital-ness; 2) their conscious materiality or form; 3) their multi modality; and/or 4) their rhetorical means" (31). By outlining new media, McKinney delves into new practices on how and why tutors need/can be trained to teach students in the digital era. She explains:
Before, putting a text on paper—and writing for that linear, left-to-right, top-to-bottom, page-to-page form—was the way to write. That has changed. Now, there are many ways to communicate through writing; consequently, putting a text to paper is now a rhetorical choice that one should not make hastily. We ought to really think through whether a paper essay, say, is the best way to reach our audience or purpose. If we decide to compose paper essays knowing we have the wide range of available textual choices, we are deeming the paper essay the best way to meet our rhetorical ends.Many of us, perhaps, have spent our lifetimes writing paper essays because that was how arguments were made—academically if not otherwise. The paper essay was the default. This is no longer the case even in academic circles. Many academic conference presentations are not paper essays read to the audience but arguments presented with PowerPoint slideshows, videos, animations, and print or digital posters, suggesting that many academic writers, upon weighing their rhetorical choices, are no longer choosing paper essays. (33).
With the move beyond "just" communication on paper to a digital format, the teaching/tutoring of writing calls for new types of training to teach different literacy forms. Thus, the importance of this article's inclusion helps to move beyond the old literacy theories of George, Trimbur, and Pemberton to the future. For our recommended articles on the future and beyond the writing center click here.