As the creation of digital texts flourishes in and out of the classroom, new strategies for composition are needed. Digital stories are multimodal by nature; they communicate meaning through multiple media, especially the combination of text, audio, image, animation, video, and interactive content forms.

Kress, Van Leeuwen, Wysocki, Ball and other multimodal scholars believe that as we see writing transition to the "logic" of the senses, new spaces and new approaches are necessary. DeVoss & Selfe (2002) argue for new "rhetorical positionings" for teachers of writing in digital environments to "help students explore, develop, and communicate more effectively within online realms" (Devoss and Selfe, p. 146). It is clear that as both teacher and student navigate these mediated spaces, new approaches are needed for the composing and designing of multimodal texts.

Our webtext, a collaboration between teacher and student, seeks to better understand and communicate how multimodal texts rhetorically "work." A digital storytelling experience involves the central idea or story arc and how it engages the senses and creates meaning through the combination of its form and content. The cards in this project illustrate some of the ways we believe multimodal stories can be shaped. We draw across disciplinary borders -- from rhetoricians, philosophers, aestheticians, social theorists, technologists, artists and interaction designers to offer digital storytellers a heuristic to compose and evaluate multimodal works (and bridge the gap between theory and practice).

Both of us need to make in order to think. Admittedly a little obsessed with design that is both meaningful and functional, we created a toolkit in order to see the design process from multiple perspectives. This piece is a distillation of a five-year conversation (with developers, rhetoricians, craftspeople, storytellers, theorists, artists, interaction designers and each other) where we constantly worked and re-worked our human-centered, design-based approach to making digital stories. The four themes we developed help makers examine a constellation of possibilities for designing engaging experiences. (Also, we can tell you that this conversation is far from over; in fact, it is probably just beginning.)

Caption: We Tell Digital Stories All the Time - here is a toolkit to help tell them better

Click the image or click here to view: original "webtext."

About the Author(s)

Aimée Knight (@aesthetically) is assistant professor in the Communication Studies Department at Saint Joseph's University. She humbly eats her bowl of rice as she acknowledges that we are all part of a long line of individuals who are constantly shaping our world in ways big and not so big.

Austin Starin is a designer and front-end developer working in client services and is passionate about his everyday work. Other interests include big open spaces, guacamole, and Sunday mornings before the sun comes up.



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