Composing Modes

composing(media) = composing(embodiment), edited by Kristin L. Arola and Anne Frances Wysocki, brings together a fantastic array of articles on media production and consumption and how that manifests in our interactions with the world. For the purposes of this post, however, I will focus on two of the articles found in this compilation: Wysocki’s Drawn together: Possibilities for bodies in words and pictures (2012) and Kristin Prins’s Crafting new approaches to composition (2012).

Wysocki (2012) illustrated (quite literally at times) the power and potential behind compositions and different modalities therein. Many scholars have made the claim that compositions are used to create identity, but Wysocki described how compositions also reflect components of an individual’s identity, including through the decision of what mode the composer uses to compose. Different modes hold meaning within them and are, thus, a reflection of the composer’s class, economy, history, etc. This meaning cannot be removed, but, as Wysocki argued, it can be used to help the continued formation of the composer’s identity.

Building on this thought laid out by Wysocki (2012), Prins (2012) stressed the importance of incorporating multimodality into the First Year Composition classroom. She introduced composing as a craft that uses different modes and is necessary for communication through digital technologies. In line with Wysocki and many others, Prins agreed that composers are transformed through their craft, but multimodal composing has yet to be used in the craft of the academe. She called for students and teachers to learn this craft together by testing out new technologies and provided potential options for doing so.

What we see here, and why I chose these two articles from this collection in particular, is the importance of multimodal composing. I’m hardly the first scholar to plead for the incorporation of multimodal composing in the composition classroom (obviously), and I am most definitely not the last, but the key here is that modes bring with them a meaning all their own—one the composer might not have considered in the first place, or even thought to consider. Take this post for example. I read a few articles, had a few thoughts, and thought to share them with my colleagues. My focus is on my meaning and what these words are conveying—but I made a conscious choice to use words. The written word holds a certain level of “prestige” (although, that isn’t why I chose this mode). They show my status as an academic. My inclusion in a group of elite. This meaning is attached only to my mode, not to my message, yet it influences my message immensely.

Why I chose to use only words in this post, though, is to show how my lack of different modes bears a direct influence on my message in other ways, too. Yes, a meaning all its own is attached to each mode, as Wysocki (2012) argued, yet I would say that meaning might not always be the main point taken away from a composition. The written word might reflect my membership in a group of elites, yet notice how here I argue for multimodality in composition and the academe, but I fail to incorporate it in the very argument itself. My mode might be one of prestige, but in this case, it destroys my argument by showing hypocrisy (and tearing down my credibility). Wysocki, herself, made a point of using the blank space of her article and incorporating illustrations and comics in connection with her written argument.

Many (dare I say, most) articles on multimodality steer clear of using it themselves. While that is a thought to ponder over, what I mean to show here is the relevance of Prins’s (2012) point. Multimodality has a lot to offer, especially in a digital environment (for instance, the inclusion of links in this post), and as the meaning of each mode may not be able to be removed (Wysocki, 2012), there might be meanings that ‘trump’ them that are also conveyed through mode, not message. All this further shows the absolute need of incorporating multimodality in the composition classroom—through the points made by Wysocki (2012) and Prins, but also through this post. Multiple modes bear a lot of influence on a message—to further it and/or to break it down. Our students, entering into a composition classroom to learn composing, deserve to be given effective tools to communicate through multiple modes, as well as in a digital environment.


Prins, K. (2012). Crafting new approaches to composition. In K. L. Arola & A. F. Wysocki (Eds.), composing(media) = composing(embodiment) (pp. 145-161). Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Wysocki, A. F. (2012). Drawn together: Possibilities for bodies in words and pictures. In K. L. Arola & A. F. Wysocki (Eds.), composing(media) = composing(embodiment) (pp. 25-42). Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.



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