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Pedagogical Reflections and Approaches to Meaning-Making in Zine Multimodal Composition

ENC 1136: Multimodal Writing and Digital Literacy, Fall 2023

Instructor: Chandler Mordecai
Student Contributors: Andrea Blanco Camacaro, Kolton Powell, Jinghan Wu (Kevin)

In ENC 1136: Multimodal Writing and Digital Literacy, students write, read, and learn about digital media to think about how humans interact with technology to navigate, engage with, and create multimodal compositions. We explore the intersections of writing, multimodality, literacy, and the creation of compositions through specific meaning-making strategies and mediums. The course’s subtopic, Digital Writing, Digital Bodies, Digital Activism, is our way of exploring the complexities of multimodal media and compositions as spaces for support, civic engagement, and narration of lived experiences. We also discuss how trauma, racism, and oppression exist and are often perpetuated in digital media. I developed this course with this underlying focus as a means to encourage students to cultivate, research and write about their passions. 

The projects and lessons in this course derive from a technofeminist framework, which “urges teachers, designers, and students to consider the ways in which our orientations to and uses of technology shape and are shaped by bodies, cultures, and systems” (Shivers-McNair et al 45). 

Students enrolled in this course create multiple multimodal compositions using a wide range of digital tools, from online apps and design platforms to “our fingers, our digits” (Haas 84). The student examples featured in this edition are from the Image/Text Unit’s culminating project. In the following sections, I detail the pedagogical approaches I used to prepare students for this culminating project. 

In the Image/Text unit, students investigate the relationship between images and text and explore various digital and print mediums. During this unit, we discussed several forms of image/texts and visual/print culture and history, including zines, picture books, fanzines, infographics, comics, advertisements, and scrapbooks. Following a lecture on the history and impact of zines, I asked students to design a single page for a class zine entitled “ENC 1136’s UF Survival Guide.” Students were asked to reflect on a piece of advice or knowledge they would give an incoming University of Florida student. I provided students with markers, newspaper clippings, scissors, craft paper, glue, and tape and students constructed their own Do-It-Yourself zine containing illustrations, advice, and personal narratives about their experience as college students. Students discussed topics ranging from tips on parking and navigating bus routes, which dorms to avoid, and the importance of wearing headphones when walking past a particular location on campus to avoid being approached or heckled by student groups, street preachers, and other on and off-campus organizations. Through this in-class project, students were able to reflect on their experience with campus life and create an archive of advice for future students. Students, as a community, “digitally” shared their experiences through cutting, pasting, and drawing, while practicing image/text-based composition in preparation for their final unit project. 

At the end of this unit, students were asked to write and produce an Image/Text project in a genre of their choice. Students could select a topic of their choice, but I asked students to consider the ways that the scholars, activists, and artists we had been studying, such as Titus Kaphar, Reginald Dewayne Betts, and Caroline Paquita, used multimodal composition to express their dreams, beliefs, and messages. Students were asked to consider the rhetorical relationship between images and text and how this affects the content, design, and organization of information. Their projects had to convey information using images and text and have a clear point of view. As part of the University of Florida’s 6,000-word writing requirement for lower-division courses, students were required to complete 1,000 words of writing that could be included in the Image/Text project or in an accompanying maker’s statement. The student projects included here chose to make digital zines, but students had the option to make digital or physical projects.  To help students articulate their project’s topic, I created and gave each student an “Image/Text Brainstorming Worksheet.” This document included the following guiding questions: 

  1. What are two or three possible messages you would like your project to discuss? 
  2. What information will your reader need to know to understand your message, viewpoint, etc.? This may be your personal narrative, notable quotes, facts or statistics, sources, or step-by-step instructions. 
  3. What design features or images will you need to include? What will be your primary color scheme? Will you use drawn images, screenshots, charts, tables, graphs, and images from the internet? 
  4. In what order will you display images and text? Chronological, linear/non-linear, most important to least? Sketch an outline of the order of your project. 
  5. What technology, software or tools will you use? This may be physical paper, newspapers, magazines, markers, or design platforms like Procreate or Canva.
  6. What are two goals that you want for your project? This may include: What do you want your audience to gain from your work? What do you hope to accomplish with your work? 

I encouraged students to think about their writing/creating as their activism, a core tenet of the course. Students were also encouraged to reflect and draw on their positionality, daily experiences, and cultural communities. Students noted in their worksheets that when they leaned into the larger purpose of their work, outside of a required class assignment or word count, they found their projects to be more fulfilling and transformative. 

The following examples offer a glimpse into these individual students’ passions and are vastly different in topics and style. These zines are exemplary in establishing a purpose, point of view, and conveying information through page design, organization, and aesthetic. Andrea Blanco Camacaro’s zine, “What is F1” is an informative and inspirational zine detailing the motorsport, F1. Stemming from the popularity of Netflix’s recent docuseries “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” (2019) and her personal experience with the motorsport, Andrea created her zine so readers, particularly girls, can learn about the sport and its jargon. Kolton Powell’s zine, “FRANK” details the biography and discography of American singer-songwriter and rapper Frank Ocean. Kolton utilizes typography, color, and images to curate a unique aesthetic that tells Frank Ocean’s story yet defies linear structure. Jinghan Wu’s (Kevin) zine, “What is UX Design” is a tutorial-style zine that breaks down terminology and design principles of the UX field. Kevin incorporates graphs, text, and images to demonstrate everyday examples of UX design that readers may encounter and gives readers their very own “UX Design Challenge.” Andrea, Kolton, and Jinghan Wu’s (Kevin) maker’s statements can be viewed below. 

“What is F1”

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Andrea Blanco Camacaro: “My personal relationship with the sport is that I have been watching it with my dad for as long as I can remember. Since most of the races are on the other side of the world and because of time zone differences, races were usually between 7-9am east coast time. Growing up I would stumble out of my room on the weekends, still half asleep, hoping there was a race that my dad was watching so I could continue to sleep on his lap and half watch it with him. The earliest F1 memory I can recall is probably the 2014 season because I remember drivers like Jenson Button and Maldonado (who is the only recent Venezuelan driver). Neither of them was world champion that year but their names stick out as a starting point from when I was conscious of the races happening. The 2016 season though is when I actually started to pay more attention to the races as I remember Nico Rosberg was crowned World Champion and proceeded to retire and that was a big deal at the time. While I no longer watch DTS because I do not like how the drama is played up, I cannot deny the success the show has brought the sport and acknowledge new fans who found the sport that way who do not have a dad or someone who already knows about the sport to teach it to them.” 


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Kolton Powell: “Frank Ocean composes music that is truly authentic. It’s raw and emotional. What resonates with me most is his willingness to push boundaries, which in a way defined my later teenage years. This project not only allowed me to showcase Frank Ocean’s talent, it was an opportunity to present his works in the light as I see them.”

“What is UX Design”

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Jinghan Wu (Kevin): “I have long been interested in finding solutions to make technology more accessible for users. I was glad to have found my interest in UX (User Experience) design but realized that its impacts are often being overlooked. I intend to use this journal to be a guide for people with little or no design backgrounds to take a peek into this fascinating field and learn more about the thought process behind everyday products”

Works Cited

Haas, Angela M. “Wampum as hypertext: An American Indian intellectual tradition of multimedia theory and practice.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 19.4 (2007): 77-100.

Shivers-McNair, Ann, Laura Gonzales, and Tetyana Zhyvotovska. “An intersectional technofeminist framework for community-driven technology innovation.” Computers and Composition 51 (2019): 43-54.


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