Reviewed by Dr. Joshua Daniel-Wariya, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK (email@example.com)
Chair: Lee Hibbard, University of Alabama in Huntsville, AL
Speakers: Ken Lindblom, Stony Brook University, NY, “Too Much Information? The Place of the Infographic in Writing Instruction”
Eric Walsh, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, “Hermes, Technical Communicator of the Gods”
Samuel Stinson, Ohio University, Athens, OH, “You Can’t Do This on Nintendo? Intellectual Property, Corporate Monetization, and the Greater Game”
The theme for the 2015 Annual Convention of the Conference on College Composition and Communication was Risk and Reward, a theme that explicitly called on teachers of college writing to present a wide range of innovative pedagogies and to engage both the possibilities and challenges presented by such innovation. In session I.09, “Teaching with Games and Infographics,” the presenters focused on the ways composers take risks and are put at risk in two types of multimodal compositions: infographics and videogames.
First up was Ken Lindblom, who presented his paper, “Too Much Information? The Place of the Infographic in Writing Instruction.” Lindblom framed his paper as a response to Doug Hesse’s call earlier in the conference for rhetoric and composition scholars to foster connections with K–12 English teachers. Of his own talk, Lindblom said, “My overall point is that, as comp-rhet scholars, we can help K–12 teachers bring rhetoric into their classes through infographics.” To make this case, Lindblom discussed the widespread use of the Common Core and its emphasis on informational texts, a term defined so broadly to include a wide variety of genres both familiar and not so familiar to instructors of English. The infographic, Lindblom claimed, provides one clear means for teachers in Common Core contexts to utilize in their classrooms informational texts that are rhetorically sensitive to considerations such as audience, timing, and situation. This, he claimed, makes them a good way for the field of rhetoric and composition to foster K–12 connections. Moreover, since infographics tend to tell stories, Lindblom reasoned that the form might encourage instructors to risk diving into unfamiliar, informational-style texts.
Next up was Eric Walsh, who demonstrated a game he designed about technical communication, titled Hermes, Technical Communicator of the Gods, which can be played online at http://rhetoricalgamer.com/game.html. Walsh began with a brief justification for why we should study games in rhetoric and composition—derived largely from the work of James Paul Gee and Jane McGonigal—which included supporting claims such as games’ emphasis on active learning, engagement, and interactivity. Walsh not only demoed the game, but also had a version of it online that allowed audience members to play on their tablets and phones. This reviewer played along with Walsh and discussed the game—which was not intended to be entirely bug-free or finished during the time of the presentation—with him later. In the game, players assign attention points to a variety of Greek gods and receive feedback on their progress. Ideally, players should score higher the more they enact good practices from technical communication in their allotment of attention points. Walsh ended his presentation by emphasizing the difficulty of designing games well, and announced his plan to eventually launch the game as a free mobile app. In this reviewer’s estimation, Walsh’s plan seems like a promising method for articulating some of the core principles of technical communication to students, especially those interested in mobile games.
Finally, Samuel Stinson presented his paper, “You Can’t do This on Nintendo? Intellectual Property, Corporate Monetization, and the Greater Game,” which was a summary of an argument he made previously through video. Stinson explored Nintendo’s seizing of the revenue streams generated by Let’s Play videos and asked how the intellectual property issues involved influence the kinds of moves students in our writing classes feel they can make in digital texts. Stinson argued that when we ask our students to engage with remix cultures in online spaces, we not only ask them to take risks as composers, but we also can put them at risk when remix practices are not accompanied with a nuanced understanding of the intellectual property issues involved. Stinson emphasized that corporate entities such as Nintendo have often exercised derivative rights—rights that allow them to seize monetary streams from works that derive from their intellectual property—that intersect with the composing practices of remix culture, especially as it concerns screencast videos that use gameplay footage. In addition to more common calls to raise student awareness of projects such as creative commons and to inform them about issues of plagiarism, Stinson argued persuasively that it is imperative for instructors to raise students’ awareness about Fair Use as well as the corporate marketplaces in which their remixed texts are enmeshed.
Overall, this was a very well attended panel, with approximately 40 audience members present, and there was a lively Q&A session at the end. On one hand I did feel that the panel might have better connected Lindblom’s early goal of using infographics and games to connect with K–12 education. On the other hand this panel did leave me with a lot to think about in terms of multimodal writing instruction, namely, what responsibility do we have as instructors to educate our students about the nuances of intellectual property when we ask them to compose arguments that utilize information, computational procedures, or video that utilizes resources invested in corporate culture?