Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Harker

Second Advisor

Lynée Lewis Gaillet

Third Advisor

Mary E. Hocks

Fourth Advisor

Ben McCorkle


This case study investigates students’ experiences with multimodal composition in our current technological moment; furthermore, this dissertation reaches beyond scholarly characterizations of multimodal composition, including the multimodality myth, by emphasizing student conceptions of composing, especially ones privileging both audio and visual modes of production. The multimodality myth spreads believable half-truths and presumptions about digital composition and multimodal composition more generally, creating impossible expectations for students and teachers alike, such as writers can choose to be multimodal, multimodality is all-digital or everything non-print, or multiliteracies are either print or digital but never both/and. To redirect the myth to more progressive ends, this project argues that writers are always already intermodal, incapable of switching off or mentally separating their multimodal means of communication and, building on that knowledge, posits that multimodal composition exceeds the digital and that multiliteracies, which directly inform the use of multimodal composition in the field, resist the print/digital binary. Paying close attention to theories of crossover, transfer, and intercultural communication, this case study builds upon the arguments of Rhetoric and Composition scholars Ben McCorkle and Jason Palmeri, who model methods for remix as an analytical framework, as well as Jody Shipka, who argues that academic conversations about multimodality often exclude materiality. This project demonstrates how theories underlying multimodal composition pedagogy and application depend on restricted views of the rhetorical situation more generally, one that is defined not by singular modes of production (audio or video) but by the interplay among the varied, uneven, and perpetually converging modalities that constitute intermodality. To support this theory of intermodal composition, this dissertation draws on findings from numerous focus groups comprised of first-year-composition students, personal interviews, multimodal writing samples, and multimodal literacy narratives. Over a period of three months, the participants, who were first-year students, described their experiences with writing, production, and communication more generally in the age of social media. These transcripts were analyzed to re-contextualize existing theories of composition and pedagogical conditions for our students in a fashion that reimagines what it means to participate, compose, and advocate with multimodality in the composition classroom.