Movement of Air, Breath of Meaning, and thoughts on my audio essay

Yesterday I wrote about the computer as actant; instead of burying the computer in a story about humans, I should give it equal status.  Or something like that.  Tonight I read Cindy Selfe’s article (title above) and listened to the four audio essay that shaped some of her thinking on the top of aurality and multimodal composing.  One of the pieces, the last and longest, linked from the CCC article to her website, is called “Lord of the Machines: Reading the Human Computer Relationship.” The audio essay uses a computer voice to read the essay; it does a great job of sampling TV shows like the Six Million Dollar Man and movies like Office Space, some music samples (Pink Floyd?) and it includes lots of great sound effects.  I probably won’t get that fancy, but I think making the computer the primary character / actant in my story might be an interesting re-write. The piece will actually end up being radically different, but that is one option when it comes to making an audio revision.

The article itself is a great, masterful piece: a short history of the exclusion of the aural from writing classrooms, the use of the aural as a foil and metaphor (but not a mode of composition), a critique of oral / literate divide with valuable sections reminding us that African American, Native American, Hispanic cultures have not been predominantly oral and white culture predominantly a written culture. Selfe stresses at key points that she is offering a both/and argument for including the aural in the writing classroom; she is not suggesting we do less writing or replace it with the multimodal / aural composition.

She does not go in to composition principles, however, so this will the a challenge for class: what makes for a good audio essay? Effective oral delivery, but what does that mean? Is the computer voice in this piece the right choice? Two of the four essays are read effectively, dramatically; one is an audio documentary with a handful of voices–all with rich Kentucky accents.  What role do sound effects and samples play? The essay with no samples, no remixes, is a powerful narrative, well told.  Content will shape those decisions. My story is not particularly whimsical; it is a straight forward narrative, probably best told in the plain style, although I am tempted to bring in a few Somali sound bytes.

Maybe Ira Glass has all the answers.


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