Digital Rhetoric/Composing with Words

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Composing vs. Writing[edit]

Do you use the words "composing" and "writing" interchangeably? Despite popular belief, a distinction between the two words does exist. Composing is when you take basic elements to arrange something, and writing is the action of adding text after thoughts and ideas are composed. Composer Nolan E. Schmit moderates a blog titled "The Composers Notebook Blog.” One of the topics distinctly addresses the difference between writing and composing. Composing is the “act of creating musical ideas,” while writing is “translating the musical ideas into a form that can be read by others.” Although the focus of these definitions is in music, they still apply to the topic at hand. In other words, composing is the brainstorming process and arranging of ideas, while writing is the presentation of ideas.

If you've read the "Introduction to Rhetorical Practices" section, you'll notice that these definitions are similar to the canons of classical rhetoric. For example, the composing aspect correlates with the invention and arrangement stages of classical rhetoric, while the writing aspect links to the style and delivery stages of it. Therefore, it is important to recognize the difference between composing and writing, because it demonstrates how aspects of classical rhetoric is still present in that of digital rhetoric.

Print/Traditional Writing and Web/Electronic Writing[edit]

Has there become a separation between writers? In this day and age people can write in two different mediums, the electronic and print. The difference between the two comes from the style of the writing and the audiences that will be reading it. It has become more prestigious to have one’s name on the spine of a hardbound book but people also take pride having their name, or alias, attached to online content. The web is an active medium and can only be worked by people who expect instant results. The world of print writing is more patient. To get a written work published one has to mail it to publishers wait for a confirmation and then do as many edits as the publisher says to do so.

Composition of web writing deals with sense of design concerning: color, typography, composition, navigation, and hypertext, as well as the mechanical basics of specific programs being used. All of these skills can be taught threw basics and later at a gradual pace be advanced to something creative (Nguyen, 2009). The web has given people the ability to create something colorful and insightful. Print writing does not give creators the option to insert different colors and fonts or even a graphic or two to their composition. Research shows that 79% of the users on the internet do not even read websites word-for-word but instead glance over the headings and use the information they need (Redshaw, 2003).

Online content also gives readers the ability to click on hypertext and find the sources of the topic they are reading. With the web writing, writers can portray exactly what they are trying to say with videos and audio, which the print medium cannot provide completely. In the print world those concepts are a separate entity. The web also provides readers with an active medium where they can make decisions and interact with what they are reading or even add their own opinion (Nielson, 2008).

When writing into a word processor, it is a digital tool, and also leads to a hard document or online content. The hard documents though limit the freedom of the reader and it gives them few options on how to attain the information. The reader can either “skim” the document which will show a general idea of the work or they can read the document word-for-word and that will give them all of the knowledge written on the paper. The role of the reader is to be in the background just listening, like in a lecture. Online writing has become more active, allowing openness and future editing by other parties. Once a book is printed though it is hard to recall copies and edit what is already printed on book's pages. This is why writers do drafts though, so when the final product is about to be published and shipped out, the work is in "perfect" condition.

The web site on the other hand allows for the reader to interact with what they are reading. It also allows for an abundance of mixed media from pictures and text to audio and video. The reader can click and watch a video explaining what they could read or listen to a narrator speak the text in front of them. This interaction with the information allows for more of it to be acquired and processed. Using the internet brings a hands-on experience to the reader which can be seen in the constructivist theory saying that people learn from experiences they have everyday. This drives the web site further because now the reader is experiencing the information they are reading, leading to a better understanding of the knowledge.

Traditional Written Media and Mixed Media[edit]

Some examples of traditional written media include books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and journals. These forms of written media may be accompanied by pictures, but that is as far as the mix goes. In Les Manovich's article "Understanding Mixed Media", he describes this hybrid visual language as "combining video, layers of 2D imagery, animation, and abstract imagery generated in real time." Most of these combinations tie into the following examples: commercials, music videos, and motion and TV graphics. The main distinction between the two types of media is that traditional written media is quite stagnant, while mixed media is much more dynamic.

Digital rhetoric creates a different avenue of learning. According to the Writing In Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center Collective, the tools of writing (e.g. alphabet, word, sentence) objectify language, while adding multiple media draws us closer to obtaining knowledge. In other words, if you wanted to learn about blogs, you may develop an adequate understanding of it by simply reading about it in a print article or journal or a section in a book; however, to fully understand it, you may want to use multimedia aids. Take a look at "Blogs in Plain English" by Common Craft, a husband-and-wife team who facilitates learning for various audiences. Their depiction uses layers of 2D imagery, audio, and animation to illustrate what blogs are and why they're important. In an ever-evolving world in which a majority of us would rather see how things work rather than read about it, digital rhetoric offers a solution. The "Why Should YOU Come to JMU" clip is another example of how mixed media works in favor of traditional media. Prospective students who are unable to visit the college may only get the experience through brochures and other traditional media; however, this multimedia presentation offers a creative approach to persuading students to come to JMU.