Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Composing via Dialog among Image, Word, & Tech Features

When I’m reading or listening to our profession’s conversation about digital media production, a particular statement sets me off.  My roughed-up rendition of it goes, “Don’t let the students put their grubby paws on the production platform (e.g., iMovie, Movie Maker) before they have written a good draft.”  As elaborated in previous posts, Taking Tech from Glitz to Deep Learning and Identity Construction, I am aware of the dangers of the glitzy side of technology, but to handle it by “Do Not Touch” tosses out too much of the generative power.  Classical rhetoric began with the canon of “invention”; the dynamic features of digital media offer to fire up that reservoir of imaginative resources.  Let’s learn to use it.  As illustrated below, digital media programs can power up effectiveness in “ideas,” “organization,” and “voice,” in the language of contemporary rubrics and standards.

Composing with digital media, in my view, should not be imprisoned in the linear structure of print before media, write-the-script before opening the program with images, music, and technical effects.  This position reminds me of the notion that you start an essay with a thesis statement.  Such directives seem to come from persons who don’t know “writing to learn” and who haven’t experienced their voice-over forming and transforming in the dynamic exchange among image, word, and other tech features.

The dialog among image, word, and tech features brings in special effects that are not available in the prioritizing of word processing that usually dominates composing in schools.  I’m often pleasantly surprised at the inspiration that comes from the verbal, visual, physical reverberations.  For example, when putting images into iMovie on my iPad, I decided to play with the montage feature.  (Montage is defined in Pinnacle’s Help Manual: “supplied motion graphics templates with spaces provided for your own media. Think of using a Montage when you need an instant title sequence or a dramatic transition.”)

 I hadn’t planned on using a montage but was curious about how it worked.  So on a whim I dragged one onto the top track to see what it would do.  While not expecting to keep it in the project, the spinning shift from slot 1 to slot 2 must have made an impression because this montage later paid off by whirling in a brainstorm for the whole design.

This is how it happened.  As noted in the previous post, in making this digital media project we started by assembling ten images that came out of our working with narrative theory and playing with stories.  My set is shown in the previous blog & the categories are:
1 Photo of self that you like &
2 Photo of self that you don’t particularly like
3 Community with which you identify
4 Community of aspiration but not membership
5 The stranger from the Kanu story with whom you are most connected/identified
6 Representation of the mature masculine as developed in Kanu (other stories)
7 Representation of the “daughter of the village” from the Kanu story
8 Most important story you’ve heard
9 Landscape/seascape/skyscape of “destiny”
10 Image of obstacle/monster/villain

I told the students that this set was just for starters.  They’d probably need and want to add images and would certainly need to reorganize them in making the digital media production that showed and explained their own identity construction.

 In composing their projects, I told my students to imagine order coming out of disorder.  Look at the array of images and see which one might point to a state of confusion, chaos, nonsense, misdirection, or false identity.  Then the sequencing of the images can show how the construction of identity tended to the trouble.  As they pondered this, their voice-over would be composing to explain the movement and the construction of identity.

In working on my production, the dynamic of word, image, & tech made magic.   Some part of my mind held words from John Gardner on the purpose of art as ordering chaos, and this apparently provided a foundation for my process of composing.  Then, surprisingly, it seemed the whirling montage took the lead as I saw how it visualized the meaning as identity formation because ordering chaos involves a spinning out of control and then landing anew.  What images might go in slot 1 and slot 2?

In looking at the array of ten images, I found my focus drawn to the two horseman:

 Abrakadabra--that’s it: begin the production with the vision of the mature masculine (also expressed in Buck Brannaman’s text:  “I know what . . . feel is . . .”) with the second image showing me whirling in prefiguring the new identity. 

My change of identity has involved coming to know “by feel”* in addition to the other kinds of knowing, mostly cognitive, that are valued in academic circles.  The identity construction extended to communities of practice in education, not only in horsemanship.  And thus the dynamic of word, image, & tech gave me the stuff for my production: the structure, the articulating words, and the fire to do it.

The burst of composing, “invention,” also led to the subsequent ordering of my draft.  I imagined how #8—important story (mom & L; Epam2) could follow; and being put in the context of this production, I also gained a deeper understanding of that “nonsense tale.” 

Next, I began to see how the “stranger” (biting fly) and the “monster” (baba yaga) played a role in my engagement with the two communities.  Finally, the sunset (journey) initially looked to be a good closing but when re-arranging the images on the storyline, it provided a good visual and metaphor for the journey earlier in the production; and the horseman image (#7) promised a better closing as it provided the coherence of returning to the beginning.

A few sources on “feel”:
Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens: Body & Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. Mariner, 2000.
Desmond, Leslie & Bill Dorrance.  True Horsemanship through Feel (2nd Ed). Lyons Press, 2007.
Gendlin, Eugene. Experiencing & the Creation of Meaning. Northwestern UP,1962/1997.    See his notes at end that summarize Hussrl and others
        Focusing. (Second Edition).  Bantam, 1978/1981.
Perl, Sondra.  Felt Sense: Writing with the Body. Boynton-Cook, 2004.
        Sheridan Blau reviews Felt Sense:
        Also see Perl’s book:  On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate. 
            Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2005.