Composing is not just about crafting traditional essays by typing into a word-processing program. Today writers compose by using a variety of platforms to produce different forms. We compose slide shows, videos, audio documentaries, brochures, Tweets, Web sites, and much more. If we want to be effective composers in our complex, global world, we have to learn how to compose using these different platforms, and we have to understand what such forms allow, disallow, and require. We need both technical skill and critical understanding.
Faculty and students in the Composition program are committed to exploring the possibilities and challenges of composing in digital media. In many of our classes, students are invited to engage with digital composition from both production and critical standpoints.
For example, you might be invited to re-mix your response to a published essay by composing a three-minute digital essay that uses film and video clips, photographs, songs, noise, paragraphs, and/or sentences to explore what this material allows you to say. You might compose an original piece consisting of 12 photographs, photo editing effects, and an introduction that brings to life someone or something that has been forgotten or undocumented. You could compose a five-minute audio essay that draws upon research and uses your voice (tone, volume, speed, pauses) as one of your composing tools. You could, based on your research, compose a four-page layout that uses text and graphics to persuade a specific audience to take action.
Since software is constantly released and updated and hardware changes from one year to the next, the digital media landscape continually changes as well. Because of this reality, while you will learn how to use specific software packages in our courses, we hope that you more crucially learn how to keep your digital media abilities relevant.
While you are at Pitt, you have free access to thousands of software tutorials at Lynda.com (you can access these through my.pitt.edu). Your composition teacher will sometimes require that you work with these tutorials in addition to receiving instruction in class.
Below are some examples of digital projects created in Composition classes at the University of Pittsburgh. We hope to add to this collection each term.
Maggie Giuffrida created a project that explores narcissism and social media: “The project focuses on how social media today has morphed perceptions of self-image into extreme narcissism and a bogus sense of fulfillment. I find that it is easy to feel lost in the virtual space and so I created digital content to portray this. Most of the footage in the narcissism project features my physical image and my voice—this was definitely awkward. While producing the content for this project I participated in narcissistic online behavior and received a lot of attention on mock accounts. Needless to say, my point was made ever so clear in the process of constructing this project.” Maggie was in Ali Patterson’s Composing Digital Media class when she created this project.
Amelia Ohm created a profile of Sarah Meyers, self-admitted crazy cat lady and writer in “Sarah Meyers Video Portrait.” Amelia was in Trisha Campbell’s Composing Digital Media course.
Kate Miltenberger created a set of pieces that she calls “The Welcome to English Project”: “The ‘Welcome to English Project' started out as a way to explore the untold history of English-as-a-second-language students at the University of Pittsburgh. This has been a topic of growing interest to me since I began working with a freshman ESL student from China. Through my conversations with her, I started to see how different the "Pitt experience" could be for an outsider. So I started to ask questions: What's it like going away and trying to live in a different language? What are the unique challenges of this situation? How does the Pitt community either embrace or reject these students?” Kate was also in Ali Patterson’s Composing Digital Media class when she created this project.
Kayla Sweeney profiles Tory Sher in an effort to better understand what might attract someone to a sorority in “The Mystery of Tory Sher.” Kayla was in Trisha Campbell’s Composing Digital Media course.
Julia Bucceri crafted an audio project a "Day in My Life" in Trisha Campbell’s Composing Digital Media course.
Trisha Campbell provides a remix her Fall 2013 students did of their Composing Digital Media course.