New Media and “Generous Texts” Presentation

The following presentation was created for Samantha Blackmon’s New Media class at Purdue University during the Fall of 2007. The presentation was inspired my Anne Wysocki’s work published in Writing New Media. During the time that I created this presentation, I was teaching a Multimedia Writing class in which I focused on the idea that multimedia should be considered more than digital/technological media. My approach to the class relied on the idea of generous texts and multi(ple) media. For more information on the course that I taught, check out my site, Writing New Media and/or previous course websites, Multimedia Writing Fall 2007 and Multimedia Writing Spring 2008.

My presentation, “Writing New Media: Written on Screen, Cake, Body and Paper,” relied on several “texts’ to convey an understanding of how media can be read outside of common perceptions. To accomplish this, I created four texts to convey my meaning. The first is a fairly traditional new media text, a Keynote presentation. The following text was also fairly conventional, a printed handout. The final two texts were the ones that required the most generous reading. I distributed cupcakes to each class member and each cupcake was inscribed with a different word. My classmates were asked to read the word on the cupcake that they were given. The following quote was created by their voices and provided through a sensual text that would, if nothing else, be memorable: “New media depends upon texts and intent.” The most controversial of texts was my body. With the assistance of a friend (and some creative cutting of a t-shirt that allowed my body to be “read” without being overly revealing), I covered my arms, neckline, and a portion of my back with quotes from Wysocki’s text. The idea for this was partially based on Luce Irigaray’s theories of “writing on the body” and on the idea that new media can use any type of text to convey rhetorically significant information. For example, tattoos on the knuckles are frequently signs of former incarceration and convey information about the person who has chosen to have them written on their body. My statements were less permanent (though it did take weeks to remove them completely) but no less significant to my purpose, and one of the quotations was placed on a part of my body that has been permanently inscribed: a scar that stretches around my left shoulder blade marking the surgery used to remove a cancerous tumor. This scar conveys significant information for those who are able to “read” it. The size of the scar is consistent with a thoracotomy performed on a small child and the large stitch scars are evidence that the suturing was completed prior to more sophisticated suture materials, which leave much smaller scars. Only certain people are able to read this text, usually health care professionals, and, of course, me. I read further into that text; it marks a time in my life filled with pain and fear; it reminds me of my mortality; and its limited audience makes it no less significant. I have included photos taken the day following my presentation and the Keynote that I created.

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