Connecting Aurality and Popular Culture with Cynthia Selfe

Think about all the aural modes of communication our students interact with on a daily basis: YouTube, music, Snapchat video, Vine, Facetime, music editing software, recorded lectures, podcasts, and many more. Cynthia Selfe, the pioneer of digital and multimodal studies, speaks about popular culture and aural composing in her article “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing.” I’ve never come across a Selfe publication that I don’t enjoy reading, and this was no exception (7280 is actually the third class for which I’ve read this piece). The section on popular culture resonated with me the most, as popular culture is a big factor in my own teaching.

            As Selfe articulates (much better than I could): “teachers continue to recognize its [aurality’s] importance in the lived experience of young people” (631). What better way to reach students than popular culture? Note: I do not proclaim that popular culture reaches all students. Selfe mentions bringing popular music into the center of class assignments; I thought I was big shit for developing a “Music Video Visual Rhetoric” assignment, but Selfe beat me to the punch. Yet, Selfe reveals, written discourse was still the end product for these aural texts. I don’t believe this has changed in a large-scale way, but more and more of my colleagues have begun to incorporate multimodal products into their curriculum—yay! In my mind, multimodal end products best suit multimodal classroom assignments. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

            Hopefully academic attitudes toward popular culture have matured since 2009, because I was surprised to see that academics treated popular culture as something to vaccinate against, resist, or avoid altogether. Now, I would argue that more teachers are seeing popular culture as something to deconstruct, study, and recognize implications of, which are all more positive goals. What do my readers think? 

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