Generally, most universities conduct to two basic forms of classroom settings: online classes or in-person lectures — however, recent technological developments in the field of virtual reality (VR) have begun to makes these distinctions less clear. Bridging the gap between the two is Engage, a VR service that allows for virtual pedagogy in a more state-of-the-art fashion. What Engage allows you to do, either as a student or an instructor, is participate in virtual lessons in both realm-time and prerecorded sessions through its servers. Currently, this software can be downloaded through Steam for free, though it’s worth noting it’s still in an “early access” stage, meaning it isn’t a completely realized program yet.
Essentially, Engage works through compatible VR headsets and gives students and instructors a virtual classroom to navigate through, along with 3D models available to interact with. Additionally, students have access to a virtual tablet that allows them to upload their own PowerPoint presentations, present a YouTube video, or even navigate through websites by uploading a URL. And of course, there’s an interactive blackboard included as well.
While multimodal components to classroom discourse aren’t necessarily brand new, this certainly begins to deviate from multimodal composition in the classroom to creating a multimodal composition of the classroom. Beyond merely assigning students multimodal projects, students now have the opportunity to present their projects within a virtual, multimodal environment. So who’s to say eventually this won’t be normalized within a typical pedagogical setting? While the current iteration of the software might not provide an equitable substitute for in-person classroom meetings, or perhaps even online courses, there are ways in which Engage compensates for some of the disadvantages of either sort of traditional classroom conduct. In reality, students and instructors alike can “attend” class without ever having to leave the comfort of their homes, yet still experience a meaningful discourse within an academic setting, while engaging with their fellow classmates and instructors more personally than through online forum posts.
Image: “Mediations” by Jaeheuk Jeong, Indiana University
One of my favorite ‘multimodal’ pedagogical practices involves having students create images in Adobe Photoshop in which they use only visual elements (with minimal text) to represent, demonstrate, or explain concepts/practices/theories from the course readings. This not only forces them to work in a different conceptual mode, but asks them to genuinely consider the relationships at play in their very ways of understanding a topic, structure, or lens. At a class-to-class level, the images help generate/facilitate discussion about course materials, but every now and then I extend the activity into a course assignment. When this occurs, as it did recently in my Introduction to Digital Rhetoric course, the assignment asked students to focus more on their own explications and understandings. Now, each time I include this assignment, there is always at least one student who makes something that I can’t seem to shake. This semester has been no different. Over the past few weeks, my students have been creating an image that responded, in some capacity, to the guiding inquiry for the course: “What is (y)our relationship with technology?” These responses, of course, were meant to be informed by course readings, which included a range of texts, from selections in Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation andStafford’s Good Looking to Virilio’s “Third Interval” and Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto.” And while all the students produced interesting work, the image above (reproduced with permission from the student-author) is something I felt compared to share.
Jaeheuk Jeong’s image, “Mediations,” may operate with a minimalist aesthetic, but it speaks volumes to how he/we (and Bolter and Grusin) think about current practices of mediation and remediation. That is, in a simple image composite, Jeong has demonstrated not only how remediation functions, but how it can become the very focality by which we understand a person, place, thing, event.
We typically think of maps as a tool to get us from point A to point B—from where I am to where I want or need to be. Maps belong in our cars and on large signs at airports. But maps can also serve a more rhetorical function by making manifest where one place is in relation to another. Maps reveal relationships between places—between both physical/natural spaces and between social and cultural spaces. They reveal boundaries (natural or man-made), street patterns and names shaped by historical and cultural events, and voids where patterns (again, natural or man-made) break down.
Consequently, maps can be ideal for telling stories. Stories are, after all, about relationships. Relationships between characters and other characters, between characters and places, between characters and experiences. This is, perhaps, why so many authors include maps in their works. Readers like to be able to see the relationships between the places, events and characters they are reading about, and they like to be able to visualize those same places, events and characters in relation to their own lives.
Google Maps offers a feature called My Maps, which allows users to build and share personalized maps. Map-making storytellers can add pins to the map for readers to click on. Each pin can contain a video, photo, textual description and/or link for the reader. Using these various tools, the mapmaker can make visible the relationships between the people, events, places and experiences in the story he/she is trying to tell. The tools allow the mapmaker to develop a scheme to lead readers through the map in a particular order, or the mapmaker can allow readers to discover the sites along any path. The mapmaker tells his/her story by the places marked and by explicitly (and perhaps implicitly) revealing the relationships between them.
This feature of Google Maps provides a unique way to make a story visible and to emphasize the ways the spatial, social, cultural, and personal interact in ways that textual narrative may not make possible.
To learn more about how to create your own personalized Google map, visit this site or download brief instructions here.
Finding music to use as part of your digital media projects can be tricky: you need music that is engaging for audiences, can argue or back up a point, is free for reuse and modification, and is quick to find. For those looking for online music to use in a digital video or audio composition, here are some useful links and sites!
Dig at ccmixter.org. CCMixter is a community music remixing site that features music that is licensed under Creative Commons. All of the songs on the site can be used in your projects, but some songs have certain restrictions depending on what kind of Creative Commons license they hold. Each song on the site is clearly marked with a Creative Commons license that stipulates how you can use it. Here is more information about CCMixter and Creative Commons.
Listen to and download music from musopen.org. Focused primarily on classical and instrumental music, Musopen’s mission is “to set music free,” and they provide a large royalty free music catalog, sheet music, resources for music educators, and even a free radio station of classical music! You can search their archives by composer, performer, instrument, period, or form.
Find music through freeplaymusic.com. FreePlay allows free downloads for specific circumstances, including personal use on Youtube and classroom uses. To use the site, you are required to make an account, select a license type, and accept the terms of a license agreement that stipulates your use of the music. Here is more information about FreePlay and how the website works.
What additional sites do you use to find music for your projects?
A few years ago I was fortunate to have a colleague share this 2013 video short by Patrick Cederberg & Walter Woodman. Noah was created for a film class that Cederberg and Woodman were in while students at Ryerson University in Toronto, and it demonstrates not only the amazing work students do, but, just as importantly, how new modes and means of mediation allow for the telling of new kinds of narratives.
WARNING: Mature content
I regularly use this film in my multimedia composition courses because the entire thing is shot on a desktop (minus a few smart phone scenes). Or rather, it is represented from the perspective of the desktop so as to give the sense that everything we see is being facilitated through a computer screen. Cederberg and Woodman not only capture a cultural moment for a particular age group, but they demonstrate how hypermediacy can be experienced as an authentic mediated experience. By saturating us with multiple media streams as a form of montage, they are able not only to foreground the mediation involved, but to provide narrative detail and movement in dynamic ways. As such, when I show this in class we spend most of our time focusing on the media representation central to the film, how it was potentially created, and how it reflects certain cultural practices. We do, of course,spend a few minutes talking about the narrative arc of Noah, but what fascinates me is the mix of media central to the narrative and the ways in which Cederberg and Woodman created tension for viewers through controlled and yet frantic movements between media streams on the screen.
In 2015, Heather Harlow submitted this project to TheJUMP – one of the last projects we accepted before beginning the slow migration to our new site. Our reviewers loved this project, but timing constraints meant that it didn’t quite make it into Issue 6.1. In many cases, a two-year delay on publishing works like this often renders the work irrelevant—as technologies and cultures shift so rapidly. But Harlow’s project, which picks up with Douglas Ruskoff’s work on identity, anonymity, and civility on the internet, actually seems timelier now given today’s web culture and social media frenzy. While this project will fully release with Issue 7.1 (Fall Semester publication), we wanted to offer it here as a mid-summer teaser for the upcoming fall issue. Enjoy!
In this video, Harlow explores the ideas of Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and author of the book, Program or Be Programmed. According to Harlow, Rushkoff believes empathy is “a cure for incivility online,” and to achieve this “we need to drop the veil of anonymity and be ourselves.”