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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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Designerly Engagement: Navigation Beyond the Class

In his comment on the Granulation exercise, Powell conveys his concern over the impossibility of expressing material textuality in online spaces. Appearing alongside Powell's concern is his reflection on the choice to include multiple pages in the Scalar paths for his response. Powell’s use of the multimodal space afforded him a way of expressing tension or complexity in his argument; indeed, he ultimately created more digital material in order to compensate for the inability to express materiality in his argument.

However, in doing so, he altered the community standards we had established for the book. These alterations made for productive engagement with Powell’s work, as fellow students were constantly having to relearn how to read his responses. This kind of freedom to experiment indicates a successful model, as defined by McCarty: “models, however finely perfected, are better understood as temporary states in a process of coming to know rather than fixed structures of knowledge” ("Modeling"). In the "process of coming to know," it was useful to have a model and space in which we could more freely experiment with form and design.

For publication, however, we were conscious of a very different audience. We removed all subnavigation from the exercises and instead chose to include each page of each assignment in the paths. In some cases, this change in form altered students’ arguments. Our assumption was that readers of scholarship are interested in following a linear argument. We felt the subnavigation systems would pull readers off the paths that we had established through the material. Thus, while one kind of model may be productive for experimentation, these models necessarily transform as they turn outward. As McCarty notes: "We construct a model of an airplane in order to see how it works; we design a model for an airplane to guide its construction. A crucial point is that both kinds are imagined, the former out of a pre-existing reality, the latter into a world that doesn't yet exist, as a plan for its realization" ("Knowing"). The problem when it comes to pedagogy in digital humanities is that the realization—the goal—may be the facilitation of a space wherein the act of construction itself can take place. However in the scholarship of teaching and learning, readers hope to find the finished product; what we need to communicate is a model for for a model of.

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Authors: Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, and Emily Smith
Word Count: 395

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