Category: Presentations

C+W2013: Roundtable on the Futures of Composition
MOOCs as filmic texts
Hello. I’m Virginia Kuhn. I wish I could be physically present but I thank my colleagues for allowing me to participate in this way. I am an Associate Professor of Cinema in the newly formed Media Arts + Practice Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

One of the key questions around which this panel was organized concerned MOOCs—massively open online courses—and their impact on FYC. And it’s no wonder: Even the most cursory search of the Chronicle of Higher Education uncovers copious articles that reference MOOCs. But what is even more revealing is when these references occur: 3 years ago there were 12, but in the last year, there have been 290. A search of Inside Higher Ed reveals quite similar results.

Whether it’s Coursera, Udacity, or Kahn Academy, MOOCs have captured the pedagogical imaginary across all disciplines in a way that is fairly unprecedented. MOOC mania does, however, bear some resemblance to the hype surrounding initial computer integration into schools. Like those early sound bites, MOOCs will either revolutionize education or ruin it. They will democratize access or stratify university education widening the chasm between elite institutions and all others. Beside this hype though, there is little evidence that these private companies are applying the principles of connectedness and distributed learning that George Siemens and Stephen Downes pioneered in 2008.

These issues are complex and compelling but for me, the more interesting area of inquiry centers on the actual ‘texts’ that comprise a MOOC. The architecture of computer networks [CLOUD] has only recently been able to accommodate the advances in graphics processing units [GPUs] which allow online hosting and streaming of big fat video files. But the impact is enormous. And I don’t think that is hyperbole. Video is everywhere. Not only do we view it [reading], we produce it [writing].

Indeed, much of my work centers on the premise that digital technologies endow filmic texts with book-like qualities. Unlike the ephemerality and broadcast nature of early television and cinema, video texts can be analyzed in a sustained way—they can be stopped, started, and studied with relative ease. They can also be created by anyone with a cell phone. In this light, we might view MOOCs as libraries that house these video-texts; flipping the classroom—a term that has been bandied about for assigning a video as homework and reserving class time for discussion. But this flipping is based on a lecture model: if we instead view these videos as the textbook that students are assigned to read in preparation for class work and discussion, then this flipped classroom is pretty much business as usual.

And this seems to be what Coursera has recently realized: on May 29, they announced a shift in their approach: they will partner with 10 public institutions to explore “campus-based MOOCs” or blended learning. As one astute article notes [screen shot of Jump the shark article], rather than competing with state universities as originally planned by inserting their rock star faculty’s lectures, they will now compete with Blackboard and other course management systems.

It is the composition of these video-texts that should concern us, just as the composition of alphabetic texts has been our focus to date.

A number of companies are in the video-making business and many see educational videos as a huge market. Indeed Kaltura, the video platform that offers both hosting and online editing, is holding a summit next week. The promotional materials explicating link commercial video with educational video. It’s not that there are no overlaps, however, pedagogy and advertising are (or should be) rhetorically discrete. Moreover, rhetoricians ought to be actively weighing in on the ideology inherent in cinematic language.

And some are. Kahn Academy videos have been called out by subject matter experts as being flawed and have given rise to Mystery Theatre style parody videos.

Or take the case of Common Craft educational videos. The Common Craft goal is explained in a book called The Art of Explanation in which the CC founder makes a case for creating videos that explain complex ideas in "Plain English." Lee Lefever notes that Common Craft has been hired by educational institutions, and the "Common Craft style" has emerged. It is worth mentioning that nowhere in this art of explanation is the word rhetoric mentioned.

But what happens when complexity cannot be represented in "Plain English" and/or when such companies, who work with little if any scholarly input simply get it wrong? There are numerous examples of flawed logic in the in the downhome style narrative of Common Crafts educational videos that cover topics such as plagiarism, RSS and Twitter.

Perhaps the most egregious example comes in the advice for constructing a video explanation. The recommended 3 minute length includes

If we consider writing with video as an extension and evolution of the academic essay, then the implications of this provocation for writing studies are numerous.

Thank you!

Works Cited

Common Craft educational videos:

Coursera jumps the shark, Higher Education Strategy Associates:

Coursera Blog.

Inside Higher Ed:

Kaltura’s video summit with recommendations for educational video based on business video:

Lefever, Lee. The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services easier to understand. New Jersey: Wiley and Sons. 2013

The Trouble with Khan Academy:

Embrace and Ambivalence, Academe
On Digital Scholarship and my digital dissertation.

Scholarly Tools: Filmic Texts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate, IJLM

These assets issue from the Writing With Video Workshop at the 2013 conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. See also Catherine Grant’s  post about this event at Film Studies For Free.

Chair: Virginia Kuhn
Participants: Vicki Callahan, Catherine Grant, Cheryl Ball, Michael Lachney, Virginia Kuhn
First, the prompt to which we responded:
Video is an increasingly ubiquitous mode of authoring brought about by the rise of consumer grade video cameras and other mobile devices (smart phones, iPads, flip cams) on the one hand, and improvements in graphics processing units for networked editing and cloud-based video hosting on the other. These technologies allow both the recording and the dissemination of video in ways that are utterly unprecedented. But what exactly are the possibilities for writing with video? Will the onslaught of “amateur” video merely reinforce current genres, lending credence to Peter Greenaway’s contention that, to date, cinema has been little more than 115 years of illustrated text?

Video remix, for instance, can offer an especially effective creative and critical strategy as it challenges authorship, reconsiders formal parameters, and builds new communities through shared cultural, analytical, and practical knowledge. That said, as a scholarly tool, remix faces a number of challenges in that the current paradigm of intellectual rigor is established primarily through complex textual arguments, and multimodal argumentation is still uncharted territory with respect to scholarly validity. Moreover, much of the critical work in video to date has consisted of text-based scholarly argument, which is illustrated by clips. If put in critical conversation however, the registers of word, sound and image could illuminate each other, calling each other into question and challenging their seemingly transparent meaning.

Jean-Luc Godard argues that cinema combines research and spectacle. This mixture makes cinema—and now by extension, digital media—a “promise” of radical political intervention, a promise to imagine a new world, unchained by past ways of singular, essentially linear thinking. Yet this promise remains unrealized.

In this workshop, we will explore how writing with video may be mobilized in ways that fulfill the promise of cinema, moving us past generic conventions which render video both static and overdetermined, and into the realm of radical rediscovery.

Critical Cinema: Beyond the Theory of Practice, Clive Myer, Ed. London: Wallflower P. 2011
Roland Barthes. Image, Music, Text trans. by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1978.
Jean-Luc Godard. Histoire(s) du Cinema, Gaumont, 1998.

Catherine Grant: My presentation to this workshop has a somewhat strange take on the notion of the capacity for “video-writing” to move beyond the “illustrated text”. The video it presents not only uses a good deal of text, but was also originally inspired by the idea of audiovisually amplifying, or supplementing, a long pre-existing written study of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film ROPE.

What making it demonstrated to me is that, in scholarly settings, even the simplest videographic act of presenting an assemblage of compiled film sequences involves medium-specific forms of argumentation, for example, the selection and presentation of evidence, montage and mise en scene, titling, sound editing and other creative effects, all aiming to draw from “a broader notion of pathos, logos, and ethos than that which has been reified in the age of print literacy”, as Virginia Kuhn has put it.* The result is not only the creation of an audiovisual argument, however, but also, importantly, of an active viewing space for live co-research – a framed experience of participant observation which, particularly through its online distribution, dialogically invites responses (including rebuttals!) through forms of remix.

*Kuhn, Virginia. 2012. “The Rhetoric of Remix.” In “Fan/Remix Video,” edited by Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 9. Online at

Film Studies and Videographic Assemblage from Catherine Grant on Vimeo.


Cheryl Ball: Networked Humanities Scholarship, or the Life of Kairos


Vicki Callahan on Collaborative Storytelling with Social Media Tools


Michael Lachney: Writing the World
Michael discusses the ways in which when we write with video, we write the world. Or we should do. His work with area youth should engage issues surrounding teacher strikes and other hard issues that inform the very programs in which these children participate. He asks, for instance, why, when Chicago school programs are closed, why media literacy groups do not take up the slack, allowing youth a voice. He shares links  regarding his media literacy/STEM work and another link referenced during the discussion regarding his work with classroom practices and new media.


Virginia Kuhn: Peer-reviewed video essays: she has edited two digital anthologies, the last of which was just recently published and, although the earlier anthology was done created using a Flash container, the current one uses HTML5. While we optimized for video, the journal editors had to put a note out to ask readers to be patient given load times.

Another digital publication includes the rubric for guiding student work. It can be found off the introduction page in the digital format: and here in its textual form:
















Finally, she shared some slides from a recent talk on multimedia project design and assessment which are embedded here.


This review, like all the Computers and Writing 2012 conference reviews, appears in the Gayle Morris Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collective, a project of the Gayle Morris Sweetland Center for Writing and the University of Michigan Press.

Few people can pull off what Will Banks did on Saturday morning at C+W 2012: He was the only panelist physically present at his session and yet, it actually took me until I was drafting this review for this simple fact to sink in: the session was smartly poly-vocal. Indeed, Will and Jonathan Alexander planned and conducted this featured session in a way that leverages digital technologies to spark dialogue and creating event-ness, a feature that is way too often absent from conference sessions. Will opened by contextualizing the session and outlining the schedule: In 2002, he explained, he and Jonathan tried to create a special issue in Computers & Composition which would be queer focused, and they were hard pressed to find submissions. Further, noting that they both wanted to give graduate students a voice, they launched interviews with eleven advanced graduate students (a few of whom are actually junior faculty), during the CCCC in March, and out of the ten hours of footage, they had a twenty-nine minute video cut (Jackie Rhodes cut this footage). The video includes clips of all 11 interviewees and is grouped thematically. In addition, Jonathan, who could not be present, recorded his own 4 minute video done in response to one of the strands in the interview footage.

After the introduction, Will played the interview footage and the audience heard  a nice smattering of issues as the grad students responded to questions Jonathan and Will posed about the nature of sexuality, identity politics and academia in general, and rhetoric and composition in particular. Since the session’s assigned room was laid out pod style—clusters of desks, each of which had its own screen—the effect of the video was quite nice and enacted the multi-vocal nature of the discussion. Will then led the audience through a lively discussion and, when the issue of downplaying one’s queer identity in order to get work in academe, Will played Jonathan’s video, which extended the conversation and provided a nice ending to the session, though, clearly many wanted to stay and talk.

There were numerous issues raised throughout the session, the nuances of which are not fully captured here, but I offer the following highlights:

–       Coming out online: can digital space provide a rehearsal for coming out f2f? What are the structural implications of social networking in terms of controlling one’s identity?

–       Queering as method: Hacking and remix are, in many ways, inherently queer practices. But if queer becomes a methodology—a disruptive practice which eschews the intent of the original—does it lose its political edge?

–       Private | public: What is the relationship between identity politics, the performance of gender and the private/public spaces that characterize digital networks? How do we understand scholars who are queer but who don’t do queer theory? What about straight scholars who focus on queer issues?

–       Separate but equal? What are the dangers of ghettoizing queer theory? One interviewee noted that the queer caucus sponsored two sessions at the CCCC, and they were held simultaneously effectively limiting who might attend.

–       Queer pedagogy? Is there such a thing? Should queer teachers step back and let students find their way? Is the skepticism required of critical thinking problematic when paired with progressive politics?

–       The whiteness of queer theory: how do we become more inclusive, particularly given the fact that often queerness is not as immediately visible as are the markers of race and ethnicity. How are one’s identity choices impacted by factors they cannot control?

Jonathan’s video found him picking up on a thread raised with regard to one’s professional stance: how does one balance one’s political beliefs with one’s desire to work?  How “out” does one have to be to stay true to oneself? And how does the performance of identity and gender impact one’s professional life, if at all?

The really compelling issues that arose in this session ultimately centered on the balance of retaining a fluid identity such that one can highlight or submerge certain characteristics in the service of others as is rhetorically valid.  On the one hand, you do not want to bifurcate yourself and violate your beliefs; on the other, the type of essentialism associated with stereotypes is worth fighting and so showing our complexity should be paramount.  In this regard, there is no one better to look to than both Will and Jonathan who have managed smart, successful careers as scholars and not strictly as queer scholars.

I believe Jonathan and Will are planning to publish some of this video work, and I look forward to the contribution it will make to this field, as well as to academia more generally.

C+W 2012 Constructing Queer Spaces: Images from Review

This five minute presentation done for Computers and Writing 2012, represents my reflection on graduate digital pedagogy and the ways in which I must work to complicate my own assumptions about what is important.

Along with my colleagues Elisa Kriesinger, bonnie lenore kyburz, Matthew Kim and Joyce Walker, I conducted a workshop  on 10/15/2011 at the Mobility Shifts conference in NY.  It was a wonderful event and the participants were fabulous.

While the use of video in university classrooms provides rich opportunities for critical literacy, leveraging video carries with it a particular set of challenges, such as technical, ethical, and economic considerations. Explore the use of different video archives as main course texts in the past several years. Issues discussed will include the students’ creation of digital arguments using varying footage size, genre, and background. Learn to encourage students’ remixes while ensuring that their outcomes are not predetermined by historical circumstance, generic conventions, or political arguments.

Iraqi Doctors Project:

Filmic Texts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate, from International Journal of Learning and Media:

Reelsurfer Indexing Platform: