In the summer of 2013, I attended the Digital Media and Composing (DMAC) Institute at Ohio State University, facilitated by Cynthia L. Selfe, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, and a host of other smart and innovative faculty and graduate students. It was at DMAC that I was first introduced to the “Concept in 60” assignment that Amelia would later complete in my digital composing class, and which became the first draft of the video she presents here.
The Concept in 60 has been a mainstay of both the DMAC Institute and Ohio State’s writing courses for a number of years, something that DeWitt discusses in more detail than I can offer here in a forthcoming webtext in Computers and Composition Online (DeWitt, Harmon, Lackey, and LaVecchia). Both the DMAC assignment and my iteration ask students to choose a concept and represent it in a video 60 seconds long, “no more, no less,” using nonliteral means. That is, any video footage should be stripped of matching audio (so if someone is speaking, I explain to students, we should not be watching them speak—we should be watching other video shots). While video footage and images can be original, students may also use work released through creative commons licensing, or they may secure permission from copyright holders. Students are asked to include an original title screen and to credit the authors of any secondary material they use.
What I like about the Concept in 60 is that it presents learners with opportunities for creativity as well as generative constraints. In order to construct an abstract concept through their videos, students must rely on associations, tensions, contrasts, and metaphors—they have to become storytellers. The 60-second time limit keeps the project manageable, and both a sense of play and a short production timeframe (highly recommended) keep students from falling down the editorial rabbit hole in search of a perfect final product.
I first viewed Amelia’s video during our in-class gallery day. Gallery day is a day of sharing: I ask each student to leave their project up on their respective computer and we spend that class period wandering among the projects as one would wander through a gallery. When I came to Amelia’s computer station and watched her video, I was struck by how successful she was at working with a complex idea. I see her piece as difficult to pin down, in a good way; it is an expression of an affective stance and an attempt to map out the mundane, fleeting, and subconscious nature of our daily interactions. What’s more, her project takes one of the central principles of our digital composing course to heart: she uses the affordances of the mode (here, video and its ability to connote ethereal and temporal ideas) in order to make her argument.
The Concept in 60 allowed my digital composing class to step outside of the processes and habits we developed for writing print texts and learn to compose through arrangement. We learned about timing, transitions, and the importance of pairing effective sounds (or silence) with visuals. We came to understand both the affordances and limits of sound, image, and video modalities. Most of all, we learned to approach texts playfully, which kept our focus on the process of composing and gave us the energy to challenge ourselves with something new and complex.
DeWitt, Scott Lloyd, Brian Harmon, Dundee Lackey, and Christina M. LaVecchia. “Techne in 60: The History and Practice of the Concept in 60.” Showcasing the Best of CIWIC/DMAC: Approaches to Teaching and Learning in Digital Environments. Ed. Cynthia L. Selfe, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, and Trey Conatser. Issue 1. N.p.: n.pub., 2015. Web. <http://www.dmacinstitute.com/showcase/issues/no1/dewitt-harmon-lackey-lavecchia-techne-60>.
Christina M. LaVecchia is a doctoral candidate in rhetoric and composition at the University of Cincinnati, where she has taught first-year and intermediate composition, digital composing, and peer tutoring pedagogy courses. She loves helping undergraduates like Amelia find homes for their work outside of the classroom, and is grateful to have been recognized by the UC English department (2012) and the UC Graduate School (2014) for excellence in teaching. Her research interests include writing pedagogy and theory, the rhetorics of media and culture, affect, and writing program administration.