This webtext demonstrates the possibilities of using new media to teach students critical literacy skills applicable to the 21st century. It is a manifesto for what we think writing scholars should be teaching in general-education “writing” classes like first-year composition. In order to answer the question of what we should teach, we have to ask what kinds of academic literacy, if any, we value. We argue here that rhetorical theory is a productive way to theorize how meaning is made among new media texts, their designers, and their readers. We use the Ancient Greek concepts of topoi and commonplace to explain how designers and readers enter into a space of negotiated meaning-making when converging upon new media texts. That negotiated space offers a new-media space for learning critical literacies by means other than research papers. As examples, we discuss two student texts and the literacies they demonstrate.
Reading this Text
Our approach to new media literacies takes the form of two converging narratives. Ryan's approach from rhetorical theory is voiced in the blue serif font. Cheryl's approach from English studies—what it is and what it should be—and academic literacies is voiced in the black sans-serif font. When we speak together, it is in a black serif font, like this page. Our point is to show how our particular perspectives converge on new media as requiring a new theoretical base for understanding how readers make sense of texts. Rhetorically valid and academically rigorous, such readings shift notions of meaning-making from traditional, letterate texts to complex, multimodal texts.
To read this webtext, please follow the alphabet on the lower left. We have also provided some links in the text, to connect between our two narrative threads, when useful. The "back to the last node" links at the bottom of each page will take you back to the node you were on as opposed to back one node linearly in the alphabet. Our hope is that your particular path through our converging narratives will be your own. For those who desire it, we have also included a site map (click on T to access it).
Go back to the last node.