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“So too for electronic portfolios …”

From Davis & Yancey:

As important, the genre of the scrapbook fosters such an approach: as a vernacular genre, it is relatively unregulated, and its open-ness invites meaning-making for both composers and readers. Composers are free to select texts and to make texts, including photos, inside a scrapbook frame; the experience of the making of the scrapbook composition is enacted by readers, tracing their own and others’ meanings emerging from the reading, a tracing through which meaning is created. Such a reading lends itself to multiple interpretations—is the Charles Moore scrapbook about the San Francisco earthquake, the family’s experience, and/or the composing practices of the time?

So too for electronic portfolios. In some ways, electronic portfolios, although often based in school settings, are the 21st century version of scrapbooks in their newness, their open-ness, their ability to provide space for many different kinds of artifacts and modalities, their ability to point readers to many different paths, their ability to incorporate and inter-relate and layer the modalities of the age—layout and design; word and image; video and audio; rendering and voice-over. Moreover, they are not bound yet by expectation or school restrictions, not nearly fully conventionalized as a genre, at least not in the EWM major. Accordingly, students use the space to roam from personal compositions to school writings and back, providing multiple possible readings and interpretations through the interaction of multiple artifacts, tracing the connections they make across multiple sites of literacy, in the process using the screen to represent more fully embodied composing. Here Lester Faigley’s (1999) argument “that texts are not transparent and that reading and writing are situated acts” rings true both for us and for the composers we study (p. 174).

And interestingly, the physical—the felt sense of touch—haunts the eportfolio, which through its display on the screen tends to flatten three-dimensional composing processes and texts. Despite the fact that materiality is different for eportfolios and scrapbooks – and “in the face of claims that computer-mediated language and images have broken with the past and have lost reference to the perceived world” – these texts show that students still compose with an eye to the “material consequences” of their work (Faigley, 1999, p. 197). In other words, through the eportfolio’s ability to welcome artifacts and commentary, EWM students have demonstrated that they compose in and across three dimensions, that they evoke the senses in describing their composing, that they use the resources of the digital to show us what capacious, material-rich composing is like for them. What’s missing here is the handling that defines the materiality of the scrapbook—for both composer and reader.

Notes toward the Role of Materiality in ComposingReviewing, and Assessing Multimodal Texts.” Computers & Composition, 31.1 (2014). 13-28.