Using Digital Delivery Theory as a Heuristic for Multimodal Video Composing

Presenter: Chanon Adsanatham
School Affiliation: Miami University


This praxis project modifies the five topoi of digital delivery from James Porter's (2009) "Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric" into a heuristic for teaching and doing multimodal video composing. I recasted Porter’s topoi into a set of inquiry questions designed to help students plan and conceptualize their work. Thinking about delivery becomes a means for invention and reflection (Yancey, 1998). Students blog to the heuristic questions on a weekly basis, reflecting on one or two topoi a week. Doing so encourages them to think ethically (DeVoss and Porter, 2006), rhetorically, and critically on a wide range of issues in video composing.

Background: Porter's 5 Topoi of Digital Delivery

Delivery, the fifth canon of rhetoric, has been neglected in composition history and theory (Porter, 2009; Yancey, 2006). In both classical and contemporary discourses about composition, it often comes as a final stage in a process that starts with invention, the first rhetorical canon. The ever-increasing presence of digital technologies and access to globally connected, networked spaces, however, demands renewed attention to theories and re-definitions of delivery. Thus, Porter (2009) re-theorized the relevance of delivery for digital composition, presenting five topoi that are designed to “operate heuristically and productively across multiple situations to prompt rhetorical decisions regarding production” (p. 208):

  1. Body/Identity: Focuses on representations of bodily/identity markers in digital environments--body, gestures, voice, image, clothing, class, gender, ethnicity, etc.
  2. Distribution/Circulation: Focuses on the places and outlets for distributing the product in digital places, as well as how the texts can be circulated without the author's intervention
  3. Access/Accessibility: Focuses on access, which refers to equipments required to use the text, and accessibility, which refers to abilities needed to navigate the text
  4. Interaction: Focuses on the degree of engagement the text solicits and requires from users as well as the interactive restrictions it creates
  5. Economics: Focuses on copyright, fair use, and politics of information policy issues


Porter's Topoi Modified as a Heuristic for Multimodal Video Composing

I modified Porter’s five topoi into a series of questions designed to help students think about and plan their multimodal video project. Meant to function as a heuristic, students use the questions below to help generate ideas and possibilities and engage in critical reflection about for their work:


Think rhetorically, critically, and responsibly about embodied representations in multimodal work:

  • When applicable, what kinds of bodies, gestures, voices, dress, races, sexual orientations, ethnicities and genders will you include? Why?
  • What rhetorical effects might your body/identity selections have?
  • What kind of stereotypes and problematic sociocultural assumptions might you need to be aware of, and how might you circumvent them from being reinforced in your work?



Analyze the rhetorical situation, anticipate rhetorical velocity (Ridolfo and DeVoss, 2009), and promote viewership:

  • What is your rhetorical purpose, and who is your audience?
  • Based on your purpose and audience, where else might you publish your work? How?
  • Once the video is published, how might it be used and re-used in digital space without your plan or intervention? Think about various possibilities.
  • How might you limit or control circulation? What kind of disclaimer might you need to include to manage (expand or limit) circulation/usage?



Consider the affordances and limitations for interactivity that different websites provide:

  • What kind of interactivity does YouTube and the places where you might circulate your video allow?
  • How does it invite or limit people’s engagement and interaction with your work?
  • What are the affordances and limitations of the site’s interface?
  • Knowing this, what might you need to do, if you desire more interactivity?
  • Based on what you know about the interactivity of the interface where you will broadcast your project, what consideration or modification might you need to make to your video content? (Revisit this question in the revision stage after you have all of your “broadcasting sites” determined.)



Examine assumptions about audience ability and access to “distribution” outlets:

  • What skills, technical knowledge, or physicality must your audience possess to access your work?
  • What technology and equipment are required from your audience to view your work?
  • What do you know about your audience’s technical skills, equipment, knowledge, and physical ability?
  • What assumptions are you making about your audience’s ability, values, class, and background?
  • How does your distribution decision (see category 3 above) impact access/accessibility?
  • What modification, if any, might be needed to enhance accessibility?



Pay Attention to ethics, legality, source attribution, and fair use:

  • What information and material sources might you need to build your video?
  • Are they copyrighted?
  • What and whom do you need to acknowledge to use them?
  • How do you ethically and fairly use information?
  • What credits might you need to include in your video? Where and how?

To use these topoi a heuristic, each week I had students respond to a set of one or two topoi questions on a blog, and I encouraged them to revisit and re-reflect upon the topoi throughout their video composing process.

Class activities and lesson plans were made to align with the topoi students investigated. For example, when economics was the topos of the week, I discussed copyright and fair use with the students and introduced them to creative commons and online sources for images, music, and sound effects.

Collectively, the digital delivery topoi I modified from Porter is designed to help students think rhetorically, ethically, and critically on a wide range of issues in digital multimodal composition—from gender, racial, and ethnic representations; legality; exhibition outlets; usability to accessibility. They provide a theoretical framework for invention and composing. Digital delivery theory guides and generates praxis, creating a symbiotic relationship, where the fifth canon, delivery, is not separated from the first, invention.

Click here for the heuristic handout for students

The Pedagogical Scaffolding Process for Teaching Digital Delivery


  1. Introduce students to the 5 canons of rhetoric. List them on the board and define each one. Discuss their relevance to writing and communication. Examine how delivery is different for print and digital projects.
  2. Introduce students to the adapted topoi and provide them with the heuristic questions. Students blog to the questions on a weekly basis to begin invention and reflection. Match the course content/class activity to the topos that students will be blogging about each week. For instance, when body/identity is the "topos of the week," students critically analyze and read about bodily depictions and stereotypes in public and popular culture. When they focus on economics, devote class activities to copyright law, fair use, and creative commons resources.
  3. Students submit a prospectus in which they define their focused video topic and analyze their rhetorical situation. Provide timely feedback.
  4. Students sketch a tentative plan for their video in the form of a story board. They peer review each other's plans.
  5. Review student's video draft and provide feedback.
  6. Students develop a video marketing/circulation plan in which they strategize where and how they will distribute their finished project to the intended audience, drawing upon the distribution/circulation topos in Porter's theory.
  7. Students maintain an informal reflection blog in which they report their composing process, thoughts, successes, struggles, and the rhetorical moves they might make in their work. Blog goal: get them to think rhetorically. Provide feedback when necessary.
  8. Upon finishing their video, students submit a detailed reflection of their work.

(Note: If a student plans to interview people and would like to include them in her video, have her obtain written permission. Provide the class with an informed consent form. It is important for the interviewee to be fully informed about the project before participating.)



DeVoss, Dànielle N., & Porter, James E. (2006). Why Napster matters to writing: Filesharing as a new ethic of digital delivery. Computers and Composition, 23(2), 178-210.

DeVoss, Dànielle N., & Ridolfo, Jim. (2009). Composing for recomposition: rhetorical velocity and delivery.Kairos, 13(2), http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/13.2/topoi/ridolfo_devoss/index.html .

Porter, James E. (2009). Recovering delivery for digital rhetoric. Computers and Composition,26, 207-224.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. (2006). Delivering college composition: The fifth canon. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. (1998). Reflection in the writing classroom. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Created by admin. Last Modification: Thursday July 10, 2014 19:06:40 GMT-0000 by admin.