I am most interested in rhetoric and composition because I love teaching, and teaching is what carried me to this field. The work of others inspires me to clear my own path, one that is certain to evolve, but has always centered on technology, pedagogy, and change. In David Sheridan, Jim Ridolfo, and Anthony Michel’s 2012 book The Available Means of Persuasion, they use the phrase “multimodal public rhetoric.” I believe this term encompasses the work I want to do, simply and concisely, but allow me to expand before I share the three journals for this assignment.
I am interested in pedagogy and technology and ways they can facilitate community action and engagement. I hope to initiate the use of technological tools—possibly even their design as well—to help grassroots organizations gain momentum and create change in their communities. Further, I want to engage students in their communities through action, and in turn, prepare them for literacies demanded in public life.
I am also interested in learning about how activist groups have produced and circulated deliverables (newsletters, flyers, zines, posters, maps, etc.) to reach public audiences—both print and electronic—in hopes of informing the design of digital tools to improve outreach. How does the delivery of these documents constellate with community action, and what can a study of this rhetoricity do to inform the design and use of digital tools?
These are just a few scholars whose work have helped me clear my path, one that is currently centered on community action, multimodal pedagogy, and professional writing: Steve Parks, Linda Flower, Jenny Rice, Ellen Cushman, Jeff Grabill, Melanie Yergeau, Geoffrey Sirc, and Amy C. Kimme Hea.
My path is continuously marked by discovery. Exploring the areas of multimodal pedagogy, professional writing, community-based learning and teaching, and community publishing will allow me to further articulate these ideas and put them to action in research and teaching.
I chose the broader disciplinary field of rhetoric and composition for my journal review with a narrowed focus of what I consider to encompass multimodal public rhetoric. It might be worth noting that I am crafting my own understanding of this term for the purposes of this analysis, which I hope will propel me forward for this kind of work. The three journals I selected fall under three very different emphases—theory, professional writing, and community writing—and each speaks to a different, yet vital approach and attitude for the kind of work I want to do.
Theory // JAC
JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics
JAC is created by the Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition, who is also the group behind Composition Forum. First published in 1980, JAC has experienced a number of name changes throughout the years, including JAC: Journal of Advanced Composition, JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, and now JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics. Despite the changes in its name, it remains centered on featuring interdisciplinary scholarship in composition theory, broadly conceived, and is published four times a year. JAC Online is a space where readers and writers can get more information, like search archives, learn about submission information, and see contact information of the editors and editorial review board.
The journal accepts only theoretically-driven manuscripts of 25-30 pages, mailed in paper copy format. Response essays and book reviews are also accepted. According to the website, “Manuscripts judged by the editor to be appropriate for the journal are submitted to blind review by external readers. Ordinarily, decisions will be made within sixteen weeks of submission.” Writers should follow MLA formatting and citation style.
Professional Writing // JBTC
Journal of Business and Technical Communication
According to the description on Sage Jounrals: “Journal of Business and Technical Communication (JBTC), peer-reviewed and published quarterly, keeps you informed about the latest communication practices, problems and trends in both business and academic settings or sectors. It covers written, oral and electronic communication in all areas of business, science and government.”
Also a quarterly, JBTC was established in 1987 and is published by Sage Publications. The journal accepts a number of different pieces, including:
- Article-length studies (6,000-12,000 words)
- Approaches and practices (3,000-6,000 words)
- Commentaries (2,000-3,000 words)
- Book reviews (800-1,200 words)
- Comments and responses (up to 2,500 words)
Documents should conform to APA style (the website has extremely detailed information about the review process and submitting manuscripts).
Community Writing // Reflections
Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning
From the journal website: “Originally founded as a venue for teachers, researchers, students and community partners to share research and discuss the theoretical, political and ethical implications of community-based writing and writing instruction, Reflections publishes a lively collection of scholarship on public rhetoric and civic writing, occasional essays and stories both from and about community writing and literacy projects, interviews with leading workers in the field, and reviews of current scholarship touching on these issues and topics.”
Electronic submissions are preferred for Reflections, and manuscripts should be between 10-25 double-spaced pages and conform to either MLA or APA guidelines. Some examples of work published in Reflections include:
- Academic articles
- Community writing
- Case studies
- Student papers
- Policy papers
- Recorded interviews
- Short videos
Findings about the Articles
JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics
Schell, Eileen. “Transnational Environmental Justice Rhetorics and the Green Belt Movement: Wangari Mixta Maathai’s Ecological Rhetorics and Litericies.” 33.3-4 (2013). Print.
Abraham, Matthew. “Recognizing the Effects of the Past in the Present: Theorizing A Way Forward on the Israel- Palestine Conflict.” 33.1-2 (2013). Print.
Staying true to the mission of the journal, both articles I read in JAC were indeed theoretical in focus. Schell offers a rhetorical analysis of a Kenyan environmental activist and women’s rights advocate, in hope of informing how transnational environmental activism can be applied to other contexts. Abraham encourages us to think critically about how our pedagogies can easily turn into “us telling others what to think or believe, or how to act.” He does this through an analysis of WPA listserv responses to the announcement of the Rachel Corrie Award for Courage in the Teaching of College Writing—an analysis that reveals much about our values and positions in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict (as both researchers, teachers, and something in between).
Both articles are carefully and thoroughly argued, and are incredibly dense as a result. While Schell attempts to analyze a figure outside of scholarly conversations in our field (to bring her in), Abraham looks to a conversation happening directly within our field to unveil more about our values and pedagogies. Both use theoretical frames to approach their pieces, in turn presenting arguments that contribute to a body of theory. Their data include symbols and artifacts, analyzed to unpack their meaning and contribute to their arguments.
Eva M. Moya, & Guillermina G. Núñez. “Public Art, Service- Learning, and Critical Reflection: Nuestra Casa as a Case Study of Tuberculosis Awareness on the U.S-Mexico Border.” Latin@s in Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning (Spec. Issue). 13.1: 127-151 (Fall 2013).
Catherine Girves, Lorrie McAllister, Dickie Selfe, and Amy Youngs. “Reflections on Community Future Casting: Digital Storytelling to Inspire Urban Solutions.” 12.1: 152-159 (Fall 2012).
Moya and Núñez present a case study of a TB awareness exhibition originating at UTEP. The authors reflect on the work that moved across academic boundaries as they reached diverse audiences through the exhibit.
Grives, McAllister, Selfe, and Youngs reflect on a grant supported community media project in Columbus, Ohio, “meant to create change in the neighborhoods around the Ohio State University” campus. Though not specifically called a case study, the piece is a brief and informational reflection of their experiences engaging in the project and an outline of what they hope to accomplish.
Both articles are accessible to read and present ways that academics and community members have worked together in actual projects. Their methods are reflective and help display how others can enact community projects for themselves.
Journal of Business and Technical Communication
Neil Lindeman. “Subjectivized Knowledge and Grassroots Advocacy: An Analysis of an Environmental Controversy in Northern California.” 2013, 27.1: 62-90.
Miriam F. Williams. “Reimagining NASA: A Cultural and Visual Analysis of the U.S. Space Program.” 2012, 26.3: 368-389.
Williams uses concepts from narrative theory and visual rhetoric to analyze images used in a commemorative NASA website. She uses arguments from Sontag and Barbatsis as a theoretical frame to explain how the photographic narrative tells a story of triumph, tragedy, and diversity in the history of NASA. Williams’ data included images found on the NASA website, which were then analyzed to show the larger narrative of the space program’s story told through images.
Lindeman’s article was interesting in that he studied how a grassroots opposition movement stopped an aerial spray program from eradicating a light-brown apple moth in California. Lindeman studied technical documents the grassroots movement used to establish expert authority about the light brown apple moth and successfully oppose a government-issued task force that planned to use aerial spray.
As noted above, Lindeman’s data included technical documents the opposition movement produced (including how they produced those documents). Both articles are clearly and concisely written, and they also expose how artifacts produced for public audiences can be unpacked to expose how they operate rhetorically. While these practices and approaches are not exclusive to business and technical writing, the investigation of scientific and environmental artifacts help align these articles within the focus of business and technical communication.
Findings about the Journals
Rhetoric and composition, as the broader disciplinary field, was represented in each journal. Each journal featured articles that, while not specifically naming the field of rhetoric and composition, were written from the cultural and institutional influence of that field. Each article used a theoretical frame, analyzed data, and showed what can be learned from that analysis/why that analysis is important. Each article also located a gap where conversations hadn’t covered the specific topics they explored.
The subfield I’m interested in pursuing (which is arguably a subfield but I choose to call it one for the purposes of this analysis), multimodal public rhetoric, was threaded throughout each article I selected in these journals.
Each journal, then, serves as a space for:
- the critical analysis of multimodal artifacts -AND/OR-
- analyzing or reflecting on the production, reflection, or circulation of multimodal artifacts in public spaces -AND/OR-
- revealing the rhetoricity of artifacts –AND ALWAYS-
- finding a way to place that analysis, reflection, or investigation within the conversations of a subfield (composition theory, community writing, business and technical communication)
Despite the considerable overlap with elements of multimodal public rhetoric, there were significant silos that the journals attempted to adhere to in their focus that the articles sought to fight against. The citational practices alone can help display these silos; JBTC, for instance, values APA citations and frequently publishes pieces influenced by social-science perspectives. The journal is also included in the Social Sciences Citation Index. JAC differs greatly, featuring pieces adhering to MLA guidelines and the values of traditional humanities-based approaches to scholarship. Reflections, keeping true to a highly-interdisciplinary approach, accept pieces adhering to both APA and MLA style; in turn, this journal is the most eclectic and interdisciplinary in its scope. Though JBTC is focused on business and technical writing, pieces bleed into the realm of both publics and classrooms, dealing with cultural, pedagogical, and workplace topics. JAC tends to extend to an incredibly diverse range of issues and topics, all connected to rhetoric and composition through the threads of theory and pedagogy. As Reflections is specifically a community writing and public rhetoric journal, the perspectives come from a diverse group of individuals from both rhetoric and composition, activists, community organizers, and all other disciplines who engage students in community-based work. Out of all the journals, Reflections is the one that truly featured multimodal public rhetoric in action.
The best session I attended at C’s this past year was the Geoffrey Sirc tribute panel. During Q&A, one audience member simply said “Thank you for doing the theory that makes teaching fun.” In that moment, the comment was sort of subsumed into the praise that a thoughtfully crafted, multimodal tribute panel would get from the audience. At that moment, and now several months later, I’m still in agreement and disagreement with that audience member’s single comment—I think that theory is much more than helping make teaching fun; I think it has much more to do with how it informs the teaching that we do, it informs teaching that matters. It takes a step back from our practices, if only for a moment, to collect our thoughts on issues, culture, on activism, on composing and multimodality, our publics (among other things) and explore those topics through thoughtfully crafted arguments—these arguments are vital to helping us frame our approaches to teaching composition and helping students understand the complexity of issues they encounter in their literate lives.
Theory is integral to composition theory, just as it is to work in business, technical, and community settings. I found JAC to present that needed work of theory to the other two journals I selected, but to be certain, each journal presents a vital area of focus. Rhetoric and composition presents an enormous amount of institutional and cultural thrust, one that shapes and guides the methodologies writers take in these publications. This analysis has enabled me to gain a greater understanding of how journals, though focused in their approach and contribution to specific contexts, and opportunities for work that cross and blur the boundaries of professional writing, community writing, and multimodal pedagogy. I hope to do work that complicates boundaries, and a focused study of these publications helps me gain an understanding of what I must do rhetorically to contribute to specific conversations in these sub-fields, further showing how that work truly does traverse the borders represented by these journals. Foremost, this analysis has allowed me to not only focus on three very different journals, but also to zoom in closely on multimodal public rhetoric as a specific area of study and action.