Remediation and Multimodal Rhetorics


The cartoon above is an example of remediation. That is, the digital illustration and the photo of the penguin are mediums representing the physical form of a penguin. As such, the new visual representation is dependent on the older one (Bolter & Grusin, 19). Newer media representations can also be remediated by older forms. In the above cartoon we see this as the penguin begins as an illustration, becomes a photo-real image, and then reforms as an illustration. This focus, having the two mediums side-by-side, create a hyper-awareness in the viewer. Bolter and Grusin define the cycle of remediation in the following way: “Media are continually commenting upon, reproducing and replacing each other, and this process is integral to media. Media need each other in order to be media in the first place” (22). This concept is central to Digital Rhetorics as a whole, as all meaning is derived from usage and context. Digital Rhetorics is the next wave of composition studies as it offers a wider variety of mediums to express ideas.

Some fear technology and new media as a devolution of the written word and rhetoric and they certainly think it has less value in the classroom than traditional rhetoric and composition studies.



Technology is available and young people arrive in classrooms ready and linked in. As a teacher, I am prepared to consider the different forms of rhetoric students are prepared to engage in. Ignoring the possibilities of digital rhetorics is sacrificing a large part of the cultural development of composition and rhetoric. In chapter one of the book Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers, the changes that have occurred within the ways rhetoric is viewed is chronicled. The chapter mentions Socrates and Aristotle being opposed to writing their orations as this could diminish their rhetorical skill of memory. With every new technology academics have opposed the change, believing it to dampen their intellect.

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But even this Aristotle definition of rhetoric seems to imply that we should use all media that can persuade our audience. I certainly think it is logical to use mediums that a particular audience would be familiar with. If students engage more with technology than textbooks than as teachers we should, at the very least, design opportunities for the students to use their full rhetorical vocabulary on some assignments. As the Multimodal Composition chapter suggests, incorporating a variety of mediums in the classroom allows greater opportunities for students to connect with the material.

I thought I might as well add a GIF of that panda bear from the Smithsonian National zoo. If it is important enough for CNN to report, it’s good enough for me.


Wait that’s not it. I mean this one!

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This little one has made a variety of appearances on the web in multiple forms!


Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. “Remediation.” Configurations 4.3 (1996) 311-358. Available online

Selfe, Cynthia L., and Pamela Takayoshi. “Thinking About Multimodality.” Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers. Chapter 1. 2007. 1-12. Web.