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Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications

Alyssa Arbuckle, Alison Hedley, Shaun Macpherson, Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, Daniel Powell, Jentery Sayers, Emily Smith, Michael Stevens, Authors

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Building as Writing: Building as Research

In using Scalar as a tool both to be learned and through which to demonstrate learning, we were able to gain the technical competencies necessary to critique digital work. In looking at our finished pieces now, it is clear—as is particularly the case with the Google maps we created—that the long processes that comprise a given result are in fact arguably more interesting than what is actually produced. Alyssa McLeod’s commentary on mapmaking tools highlights the time-consuming process of building a map. Learning to use new tools, having to think through how to store and link-out to the map, and then trouble-shooting the map when it didn’t work (all in addition to developing a theoretical framework) reveals the way in which the processes of building are, like writing, where learning occurs.  What is particularly interesting about McLeod's commentary is the way in which she points out how building became a mode of research:
Surprisingly, however, I took these mapping skills and applied them to my research in other courses (at a much faster rate this time around). While writing an essay on Somerset Maugham's Liza of Lambeth, for example, I made a quick map of all of the locations in the novel, which is set in London. The learning process in Scalar ended up saving me time and research in my other work.
In the case of McLeod's Maugham essay, although the map she made did not act as the final product of her research or the main object of inquiry in the end, the building of it became an important aspect of critical inquiry. Building a map as a mode of research might then be seen as akin to the various methods we all use in our research—from note-taking, to browsing an archive, to (as one classmate did) creating character maps in order to better understand the complicated connections between characters (see Daniel Powell's mapping of dialogue in Ralph Roister Doister). Whether digital objects make their own arguments, or whether they are simply methods of research, is what truly seems to be the question.

Authors: Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, and Emily Smith
Word Count: 343
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