weblogs week 6: reflection

Reflections by Kaptain Kobold

Reflection appears easy: Just write what you think, off the top of the head, fast and furious, no revision because that wouldn’t be authentic. That’s the start of reflection, but you miss a lot if you stop at that. Better to start with just a list. That way, you don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ve reflected.

I want to say “Reflection is hard,” but it’s not really that hard. It’s first off a stock-taking, which is easy enough. Get your ducks in a row, your shit together, your poo in a pile … Make a list. The first move of ordering or collecting or gathering represents what’s significant and what’s less so; it specifies those artifacts that are going to be part of the new artifact; it represents what that stuff is going to be this time; and it represents the relations between the stuff. The problem is that people often stop with the pile-making. “There’s my list. Now you sort it out.”

I could sort it out. So could the list-maker. But there’s so little to work with at this point that the working out is boring and trivial. We both need another move.

To reflect is to go one step further make semiotic sense of those now-collected artifacts. It’s one of those moments when we freeze the ongoing internal semiosis by putting it into external form. That’s the harder part. Hard for the rhetor. Not so hard as to be undoable. It just requires a little more effort than a mind-dump. But it’s the interpretation of the artifacts, the re-presentation, that really opens to the reflection.

But the situation is this: The rhetor is only so adept with with the affordances of the artifacts. To the rhetor, that he represented what he learned as a list of statements, ordered not by time of occurrence but by order of recall, may not have any semiotic potency. To the rhetor, the ordering of the list might be insignificant, inert. To the rhetor, what might be significant is compiling the list itself: the task represented, not the representation.

To the interpreter of the reflection, the semiosis might proceed very differently. Like this:

Here’s Kress working with a child’s drawing as he details how Georgia uses the affordances of drawing to represent her place in the family:

In Figure 3a Georgia stands on the right hand side of her mother; in Figure 3b she stands between her parents. I will not elaborate any more than I did in relation to the linguistic examples. In Figure 3b Georgia is the centre both of the representation and of the family (she

Fig. 3. (a and b) Georgia’s family.14 G. Kress / Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 5–22

was then the only child), framed by her parents; in Figure 3a she is on the outside of the group, though next to one parent—nearer to her mother and consequently more distant from the other. The relations between the three participants in the two images are structured and represented as being profoundly different. The means for making these meanings are the resources of spatial and simultaneous representation. Georgia has used other affordances of the spatial mode: size for instance. In reality, she was, at that time, taller than she has represented herself here; hence, her size is the representation and/or sign of an affective meaning: affectively she sees her parents as so much bigger. She has also used placement in the framed space, so that her father is, so to speak, lifted off the ground by several inches; in reality he was much shorter than his wife, but Georgia’s sign endows him with the same height, though remaining accurate about his actual size. Colour is also affectively used: Her mother is drawn as much brighter, much more colourful than her father, more even than she has drawn herself.

When she creates her reflection, the rhetor is in the position of Georgia: Using semiotically active resources to make sense of her recent activities. Not all the potential semiotic resources will be active for the rhetor. This isn’t a matter of awareness, or partial awareness, or deficit. Assume that the rhetor is using the affordances she’s aware of and adept at to create the best possible representation at the moment, and the representation will hold. It will tell us what we want to know: How does this rhetor represent her knowledge at this moment? It’s in this way we can use reflection as a legitimate means of evaluation.

The interpreter has other knowledge of affordances and can use elements that the rhetor may not be familiar with or aware of to create an interpretation of the reflection. The original rhetor will have her interpretation of the reflection, too, which she will create as she knows how. But the interpreter knows, too, according to her knowledge, and we would expect the interpreter to be able to bring more semiotic resources to bear on the artifact. If not more, than other.

Anyway, that’s why I encouraged students to shift mode when they created their reflections on their first 5 weeks in Weblogs and Wikis.

3. Then, using your list as a guide, create an artifact that lets you reflect on what you’ve done in the course so far and to consider where you are going next. This can be a mind map or concept map, a time line, a flow chart, a set of linked pages on your wiki, a PPT deck, a comic, a prezi, an online scrapbook … you know the range by now. (But because knowledge is interlinked, a concept map of what you have learned in this class so far might be a good artifact to work with on this one.)

If you’d rather, you can use a written reflective essay (a set of concept maps), extensive poem, video, or audio. Whichever lets you reflect and articulate what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, and where you plan on going next.

The activity was phrased to allow each student to choose the media and mode she each thought would best represent what she knows and has done. I’m assuming that some students will be most comfortable with and feel most adept at the semiotic affordances of the word-processed university essay. I’m hoping that others might try new media, which, being new to them, could make them more aware of affordances as affordances, might even open alternative representations. Making the choice of media is part of the representation of knowledge: It signals which media and mode the student now feels is most apt to the characteristics of what she wants to represent.  That was my thinking, anyway.

Like this, again from Kress:

The new media make it possible to use the mode that seems most apt for the purposes of representation and communication: If I need to represent something best done as image I can now do so, similarly with writing. Aptness of mode to the characteristics of that represented is much more a feature now—it is a facility of the new media. Aptness of mode and what is represented is not the only issue: Equally significant now is the aptness of fit between mode and audience. I can now choose the mode according to what I know or might imagine is the preferred mode of the audience I have in mind.

So, what happened? Dunno yet. I’ll save that for t0morrow.

Cited here: Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22(1), 5-22. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2004.12.004

See also: Bezemer, & Kress. (2008). Writing in multimodal texts: A social semiotic account of designs for learning. Written Communication, 25, 166. doi:10.1177/0741088307313177