Resonance, Refinements, and Rip-offs: Mechanizations of Sound in Audio-Visual Writing ~ Session E2

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Review by Mariana Grohowski


Read more about session E2 on the C&W conference site.
View video of session E2 online.
View Jody Shipka’s video “Stealing Sounds” online.

Panelists

Mary Hocks, Georgia State University
Bump Halbritter, Michigan State University
Jody Shipka, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Though the panel was absent one presenter (Bump Halbritter), in no way could this session be described as lacking. Mary Hocks and Jody Shipka’s video presentations and rich discussions during Q & A were revelatory and inspiring. Presenters Hocks and Shipka elucidated the importance of paying attention to sound in the writing classroom, noting the affordances and constraints of sound on communication practices.

“Creating social resonance”

Mary Hocks

According to Hocks, the term resonance best describes how sound affords a listener-centered approach to composing, by taking into account “the affective and embodied qualities of listening.” The term resonance encompasses an awareness of the multidimensional qualities of sound. For Hocks, having students focus on the resonance of sounds as they are composing fosters more “mindful” student communications and compositions.

Hocks shared a five-minute video to explain how students could produce fully online sonic soundscapes. Through the video, Hocks explained how sound reminds us that we are not separate from our environments. Additionally, Hocks noted that her efforts to theorize how sonic experiences engage audiences is a very rhetorical endeavor, which draws on a phenomenological understanding of mindfulness (scholarship she is pursuing with Michelle Comstock). Moreover, Hocks posited: “the immediacy and interdependency sound affords offer writers a stronger ethical position because of the attentiveness and awareness it facilitates.”

Hocks’ presentation offered only a taste of her current research and pedagogy with sound and audio technologies but the rich discussion occurring after both presentations further elucidated the potential of this work, thereby fostering audience anticipation for Hocks and Comstock’s forthcoming scholarship.

“Stealing Sounds: remixing media, time and place”

Jody Shipka

After a brief introduction, Jody Shipka showcased a 20-minute video sharing the title with her presentation. The video juxtaposed contemporary sounds she’s collected from her life with images she’s collected from silent film footage from strangers’ home movies and old photographs, which she’s purchased or been given (for free) at flea markets.

The video had three parts: Part 1. To haggle, Part 2. Unframed, and Part 3. Of subjects and meanings.

One of Shipka’s overarching arguments was her call made in the images, sounds, and her negotiation with a quote by photographer Walker Evans:

“Stare, pry, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

As Shipka remixes and remediates, she “haggles” Evans’ word choice of “knowing” for making (see image below). This act in the video is one of the many ways Skipka exemplifies her call for “forg[ing]connections between past and present, between strangers lives, and composing practices of strangers and of my own.”

In the third and final part of the video, the audience is transported through sound alone into Shipka’s classroom discussions; students’ voices reflect upon their work bringing old video footage with contemporary sounds. We hear students express the difficulty they feel with this project; the student voices support a binary brought up by both presenters through their works and discussions: the tension between resonance and dissonance that audio work entails.

zoom in on a page of typed text, clearly typed on a typewriter. The word "knowing" is crossed out with a marker, with "making" written above it in the same marker.
Screenshot from Shipka’s video presentation. Permission of Jody Shipka.

Takeaways

Because the Q & A was nearly as rich as both presenters’ video presentations, I offer three of the greatest takeaways from the discussion: 

1. Pertaining to the researchers relationships between time, labor, and mindfulness in working with audio-visual composing, a series of relationship emerging in both Hocks’ and Shipka’s presentations, Hocks and Shipka provided these additional insights:

Hocks addressed this prompt positing that sound “forces students to stay present with a sound or an image [which can be]disrupting.” Again, both scholars reinforced the theme of dissonance in sound composing. Shipka’s response revealed the taxing nature of her work on her body. Her response made me think that the field of computers and writing needs a collection similar to Royster and Rohand’s Beyond the Archives for digital archival research, as she noted “the cost on my body adding sound as element” to her work, causing her to injure her back before CCCC last March.

2. Many attendees asked the panelists to speak about the function and use of emotion in audio-visual compositions.

Hocks shared that having students use sound in a writing course allows them “to focus on the emotional aspect” they are experiencing from sound (her concept of resonance), which allows students “to think and feel differently.” Perhaps this response supports Hocks’ claims about how sound affords mindfulness in composing promised in her forthcoming work.

Shipka complicated the question by enquiring if her work conjures “emotion or nostalgia.” Audience members were left to think on this for themselves. However, Shipka reiterated that the intention of her work is “to move us from knowing, to making, to feeling.” Furthermore, Shipka revealed her feelings as archivist and composer, considering that she works with old artifacts that often get thrown away, which belong to “dead people” (her words). Shipka noted the ethical tensions she felt working with the artifacts of “unrepresented voices of dead people who can’t speak for themselves [some of whom]wouldn’t want me to speak for them.” Clearly the use of emotion in audio-visual work is an area in which many scholars desire more research.

3. The last question fostering much discussion was a request for advice on getting support for assigning audio-visual work in writing classrooms from home departments and institutions. Hocks, Shipka, and audience members Cindy and Dickie Selfe gave the following advice:

Hocks suggested that we “use the language of those in power (in our departments and institutions) to clearly explain audio-visual composing and its important connections to teaching students to be better writers.” Interestingly enough, Hocks’ sentiment was one that came up in a number of panels I attended, including Claire Lauer and Collen Reilly’s session (Session F8) could this be linked to my review of the session?

Building off Hocks’ comment, Shipka noted explanation of your work is crucial to garnering sustained support. Additionally, Shipka stated: “get people to understand the work and thought put in this work [by]explain[ing]the academic moves” the project engages. Doing so, assists others “to get past the final product” (the method or modality the work assumes) in order to focus on the content of the work.

Agreeing with Hocks and Shipka, Cindy Selfe suggested Debra Journet’s chapter “Literate acts in convergence culture: Lost as transmedia narrative” from Stuart Selber’s 2010 edited collection Rhetorics and Technologies: New directions in writing and Communication due to its contribution to the field of computers and writing. As Selfe explained, Journet’s work “ties specific moves [of new media work]to composition studies’; Selfe stressed that work like Journet’s is the best way to sustain and legitimize multimodal pedagogy and research for audiences outside our discipline.

Building off Selfe’s suggestion, Dickie Selfe added that “we have to be aggressive to negotiate for practices that will foster our work. So [it’s] not only [about]explaining [it is also about]asking for” what we may need in order to foster and sustain multimodal / new media work.

Indeed, the discussions stimulated and sustained by the presenters offered attendees inspiration and implications for establishing and maintaining audio-visual work in their own classrooms and research.

Mariana (Mare) Grohowski is a third-year Ph.D. student of Rhetoric and Writing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Her research examines the methods and methodologies of female military-service personnel’s literate practices. She is Vice President of Military Experience and the Arts, which encourages military-service personnel to heal themselves and educate others through artistic expression.

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