I am an Assistant Professor of Digital Writing and Rhetoric in the English Department at the University of Virginia. I earned my Ph.D. with a concentration in "Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric" from the University of Pittsburgh. My research and teaching interests include multimodal composition, sound studies, pedagogy, digital rhetoric, disability studies, sensory rhetorics, gender and women's studies, music, and pop culture. In addition to coediting a "Sonic Rhetorics" issue of Harlot, I have published scholarship in College English, Composition Studies, Currents in Electronic Literacy, Sounding Out!, and Provoke! Digital Sound Studies. I am currently working on my first book, which proposes an expansive approach to teaching with sound in the composition classroom.
[transcript for audio]
In his book Sinister Resonance, David Toop explores the spectral qualities of sounds. He writes that sounds are “phenomena that are difficult to control or subdue, signals that may seem to come from nowhere, or an unknown source, then fade and die…sound seems disturbingly intangible, indescribable or inexplicable by comparison to what we can see, touch, and hold” (xii).
That makes sense. But what about the fact that you can probably see and hear my voice in the form of sound waves as I’m talking to you right now? Or see the words I am sounding out on the screen in front of you? Or the fact that you could take this audio clip, touch it with digital tools, and mangle or transform it?
Sonic experience isn’t as spectral as it seems. And I’m not just talking about sound in digital environments. You might feel the sonic vibrations from the semi-truck that just passed you, or see sound when loud music disturbs the water in your glass. Sonic experience is often a physical, multimodal event.
This is what my research is about. I’m interested in how the whole body figures into human interactions with sound. In my current book project, I examine listening practices that are used by a range of listeners in diverse contexts—including a deaf percussionist, acoustic designers, and automotive acoustic engineers. The listening practices these people employ account for sound as a full-bodied experience as opposed to something that can only be accessed through the ears. I use the term multimodal listening to describe these practices, which involve attending to the ways that multiple sensory modes—sight, sound, and touch—work together during sonic events. I argue that teaching students to practice multimodal listening will enhance their understanding of how sound works as a dynamic mode of composition in both digital and non-digital multimodal experiences.
My research on sound and listening is ultimately aimed at developing more expansive notions of multimodality in rhetoric and composition studies. Because sound is often experienced via multiple modes, I think it serves as an ideal starting point for developing practices that will deepen our knowledge of multimodal engagement and production, as well as help us cultivate more explicitly embodied pedagogies in the multimodal composition classroom.
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Thanks to ieatpants for providing the ambient music track used in this piece.
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