Taking Risks and Code Meshing: Multimodal Approaches to Engaged Pedagogy (Roundtable)

Rhetoric & Composition / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Melissa Adamo (Montclair State University)

Daniel Dissinger (University of Southern California)

In our binge-mode culture, TV has become students’ preferred access point to critical thinking. Most college students do not see themselves in canonical texts or feel confident with analysis. Yet, students are typically employing skills of argumentation an analysis in dissecting shows on television, Netflix, and/or Hulu. Even though intellectual discussions, like the ethics around NBC’s The Good Place, occur on podcasts and cultural criticisms online, instructors often cast these opportunities aside as less than tertiary. However, these “alternative” discourse spaces often mirror the level of engagement instructors want to see in the argumentative papers their students write for composition and literature-focused classes.

Multimodality and popular culture helps students not only understand canonical texts but also fosters a deeper love for literature, critical thinking, and methods of applicable inquiry. This roundtable will propose practices to pedagogically switch from an intellectual binary separating “academic” materials for an approach akin to code meshing, a term Vershawn Ashanti Young eloquently defines as “mulitdialectalism and pluralingualism in one speech act, in one paper [that] blend[s] dialects, international languages, local idioms, chat-room lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups.” Applying code meshing to critical analysis, synthesis, and discourse opens the space not just for television as text, but also Hip Hop, advertisements, stand-up comedy, sketch comedy, etc.

Furthermore, this roundtable will challenge instructors to truly grow and learn with their students; as bell hooks’ reveals: “any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow and are empowered by the process.” Asking teachers to take risks themselves by exploring multimodal texts leads to student engagement that strengthens an applicable transfer of skills, and as bell hooks argues, freedom by shutting down academic gatekeeping.

This roundtable invites proposals from a variety of perspectives on using pop culture and multimodality in the classroom to help foster open dialogue, deep reading, and analytical skills. Those who take risks in their classroom and work toward engaged pedagogy through other multimodal approaches are invited to submit proposals to enhance this discussion on challenging traditional notions of the composition curriculum.