Remediating an Assemblage Activity
Purpose: The purpose of this activity to provide students with the experience of composing an assemblage. I generally devote one class period to this after they have read a text introducing the concept of assemblage (Johnson-Eilola and Selber, 2007). Students engage with the concept of assemblage in two ways: first, they compose a textual assemblage out of existing poems; second, they engage with a media assemblage as they design that new text to be circulated to an audience of their choosing using Canva. After composing, students are asked to reflect on who and what contributed to their finished text.
Time: One class
Needs: Students will need access to the four poems (in print or via links) and then access to Canva (either through a web browser or app).
Procedure: First, review Johnson-Eilola and Selber’s definition of assemblage with the class. I also like to have a conversation about authorship here—if assemblages are compositions, should we recognize them as having one or many authors? Then, tell students they are going to think of an audience and context they feel serves as an exigency for them as composers—it might be the current political climate, an upcoming holiday/event, or a local/campus issue. After identifying the audience and the context, distribute at least 4 poems (this semester, my class worked with Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” Langston Hughes’ “I, Too,” Gloria Anzaldùa’s “To Live in the Borderlands,” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “People at Night”) and ask students to compose a short poem in response to the audience and purpose they identified—they may not use their own words, but can use the words and phrases from the poems they have been given. I give them 15 minutes to work on this, then they reflect by freewriting on these questions: (1) How do you feel your poem responds to the audience and purpose you identified? (2) Which of the poems did you use to make this new poem? (3) What was your role in this process and how is it similar/different than composing something in your own words? (4) Who would you say is the author of this text? Why? (5) Is this an assemblage? Is this a composition? Why/Why not?
After reflecting on the textual assemblage, I ask students to go to Canva and design their poem so that it might circulate on social media through the audience they identified. I try not to give them too much direction in design at this point. I ask them to credit the authors at the bottom of the image so that as it circulates, it attributes. I give them another 15 minutes, then they reflect by freewriting a longer response to these questions: (1) What is the context you imagine this text existing in? (2) What were your rhetorical goals in designing this text? (3) Does the audience need to be familiar with the original texts to understand this new text? (4) How is the new text transformative? How does it create new meaning? (5) What platform did you use to create this text? How did that platform guide your design (in other words, if I asked you to use Powerpoint, would the design be different)? (6) What modalities (text, image, audio, moving image, etc.) are at work here? What does each mode contribute to the text? Do all the modes reinforce the same meaning or do different modes do different things for the audience? (7) When comparing this final text to the template you began with, what elements of the template did you change? How can you defend that this text is transformative—more than just you filling in the template’s pre-made design? (8) How do your choices in font, arrangement, color, and background reinforce the rhetorical goals of this text? (9) Who did you choose to list as author(s) of this text? What does someone have to do to be considered an author in your mind? (10) Did you list the platform, the creators of the template you used, the creators of the fonts you used, the creators of the images you used, the creators of the poems you used? Why/Why not?
After completing this longer reflection, we talk again about authorship: What someone has to do to be considered an author, why we might be more willing to recognize the poets as authors over the media creators, and how we might be ethically positioned if the only author we listed on this text was ourselves. Students then have a chance to revise their text based on our discussion (that’s homework) and I ask them to share out their text when they are done on a class Twitter or the LMS discussion board.