Digital studio

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Students working in the FSU Digital Studio

A digital studio provides both a technology-equipped space and technological/rhetorical support to students (commonly at a university) working individually or in groups on a variety of digital projects, such as designing a web site, developing an electronic portfolio for a class, creating a blog, selecting images for a visual essay, or writing a script for a podcast.[1]



Digital Studios (such as the one at Florida State University), and places with different names but similar objectives (such as the New Media Writing Studio at Texas Christian University), have arisen in response to the need for resources dedicated to improving students' interactions with digital technologies for rhetorical ends. Digital Studios have often been theoretically and administratively linked to writing centers, which are sites where students can seek assistance with their text-based projects. The academic term that has been used for this kind of site (i.e. a writing center with a focus in digital and new media) is multiliteracy center. Besides having a multimodal focus, Digital Studios also make a departure from the writing center model in allowing students the freedom to work in the Studio without one-on-one interaction with a writing tutor.

The rise of technology[edit]

Computer literacy in popular culture[edit]

As early as 1983, computer literacy was being hailed in The New York Times as the "new goal in schools."[2] As computer technology became more ubiquitous, as the world wide web became more popular and accessible, and as the teaching of computer skills became official US policy with the enactment of the "Technology Literacy Challenge" by the Clinton Administration[3] in 1996, educators across the disciplines began to investigate with renewed vigor the role of computer technology in the curriculum as both a means and an end.

Scholarly interest in "multiliteracies"[edit]

The same year that President Clinton initiated the "Challenge," the New London Group (NLG) issued a call for scholars of literacy pedagogy to

account for the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies. This includes understanding and competent control of representational forms that are becoming increasingly significant in the overall communications environment, such as visual images and their relationship to the written word – for instance, visual design in desktop publishing or the interface of visual and linguistic meaning in multimedia.[4]

This account for new text forms, combined with a similar account for "increasingly globalized societies," the NLG called "multiliteracies."

Technological literacy in rhetoric and composition[edit]

Two years later, during the 1998 CCCC Chair's Address, Cynthia Selfe (who had founded the peer-reviewed journal Computers and Composition in 1983) addressed professionals in the field of Rhetoric and Composition with an objective similar to that of the NLG, arguing that as a field, composition scholars had "paid technology issues precious little focused attention over the years," which lack of attention she called "dangerously shortsighted."[5] What was needed, Selfe claimed, was for teachers to "pay attention" to "how technology is now inextricably linked with literacy and literacy education in this country."[5] Selfe's call ceremoniously if not officially marked the beginning of a new scholarly interest in what Selfe called "critical technological literacy":

Composition teachers, language arts teachers, and other literacy specialists need to recognize that the relevance of technology in the English studies disciplines is not simply a matter of helping students work effectively with communication software and hardware, but, rather, also a matter of helping them to understand and to be able to assess – to pay attention to – the social, economic, and pedagogical implications of new communication technologies and technological initiatives that affect their lives.[5]

Scholars who took up this call included Barbara Blakely Duffelmeyer, who conducted studies involving the incorporation of "critical computer literacy" (an adaptation of Selfe's term) into first-year composition.[6]

Communications across media, inside and outside school[edit]

The years following Selfe's address saw more rapid advancements in mobile technologies, social media, and Web 2.0, creating even more new venues of composing for teachers to pay attention to. In her own CCCC Chair's Address in 2004, Kathleen Blake Yancey cited these new venues in her argument for a "new curriculum for the 21st century," one that would bring "together the writing outside of school and that inside."[7] Such a curriculum, she said:

is located in a new vocabulary, a new set of practices, and a new set of outcomes; it will focus our research in new and provocative ways; it has as its goal the creation of thoughtful, informed, technologically adept writing publics.[7]

A professor at Clemson at the time of her speech, Yancey also argued for the creation of an undergraduate major in composition and rhetoric. She soon moved to Florida State University, where she helped to establish a new major in line with the one she argued for at CCCC called Editing, Writing, and Media (EWM) and also helped to open the FSU Digital Studio.

As teachers and administrators across the country looked to incorporate more digital technology into their curriculum, the need for spaces for digital composition and for support with the innumerable digital composing platforms became apparent. A Digital Studio is one such space.

Link with writing centers[edit]

With the need for support for students who would engage with digital writing and multimedia projects, professionals involved with work in writing centers began to draw comparisons between their traditional work—assisting students with alphabetic texts on the page—and a new kind of work: assisting students with their multimedia projects on the screen. John Trimbur predicted in 2000:

My guess is that writing centers will more and more define themselves as multiliteracy centers. Many are already doing so – tutoring oral presentations, adding online tutorials, offering workshops in evaluating web sources, being more conscious of document design. To my mind, the new digital literacies will increasingly be incorporated into writing centers not just as sources of information or delivery systems for tutoring but as productive arts in their own right, and writing center work will, if anything, become more rhetorical in paying attention to the practices and effects of design in written and visual communication— more product oriented and perhaps less like the composing conferences of the process movement.[8]

Later, just months before Yancey delivered her CCCC Chair's Address, Michael Pemberton, writing in the Writing Center Journal, asked:

As we enter an era when electronic publishing and computer-mediated discourse are the norm, an era when new literary genres and new forms of communication emerge on, seemingly, a weekly basis, we must ask ourselves whether writing centers should continue to dwell exclusively in the linear, non-linked world of the printed page or whether they should plan to redefine themselves – and retrain themselves – to take residence in the emerging world of multimedia, hyperlinked, digital documents. To put it plainly, should we be preparing tutors to conference with students about hypertexts?[9]

Pemberton also surveyed (by his account) the forty-year history of how "writing centers [have] viewed new technologies," observing that "the relationship between writing centers and computer technology has been, overall, only a cordial one." [9] Pemberton's article is evidence of the continuing discussion among writing center professionals about the need for support for students' digital creations, support which they saw as analogous to work in writing centers.

In 2010, a collection edited by David Sheridan and James Inman, Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media, and Multimodal Rhetoric, was published. Many of the chapters therein cite the above Trimbur and Pemberton quotes as they work to explain the exigence for the collection, the instances in which multiliteracy centers have been established (the founding of the Clemson Class of 1941 Studio for Student Communication is the subject of two chapters), and both theoretical and practical analyses of potential futures of such work.

'Studio' vs. 'center:' a break from the model[edit]

The conflation of digital studios and writing centers into multiliteracy centers is helpful in some respects, e.g. that administratively the two may be managed in similar ways and staffed by the same people. In other respects, it has been said to be better to separate them into two distinct kinds of facilities. The very choice of naming a "writing center" or "digital studio" by either (or another) title, for instance, ought (according to some) to be informed by what kinds of student-activities are expected to take place there. Gresham and Yancey, in their recounting of the design and establishment of the Class of 1941 Studio for Student Communication (AKA the Pearce Studio), explain:

This center, now also called the Pearce Studio, is like the “studio” model of composition of instruction (Grego) and unlike it, and also like a Writing Center and unlike it. Like the studio model of composition, the Pearce Studio includes writing and fosters collaboration, but it’s not a site for courses. Like a writing center, it assists students to develop process and product, but those products include posters and speeches as often as print texts.[10]

Gresham and Yancey also recount their discussions with the architects who helped design and build the physical space for the studio:

We showed the architects some Writing Centers, online, and described them. We then explained to the architects how we thought the Studio was like a Writing Center—in its inclusion of writing, in its processes, and its attitude toward students—but and how it would be different—in its specific attention to speech, in its focus on collaboration, in its attention to digital texts.[10]

For Gresham and Yancey, a writing center is a place for individual students to seek help from individual writing tutors with print-based texts. A studio model creates opportunities for collaboration among students with or without tutor-involvement for many different kinds of projects in many different modes.


FSU Digital Studio[edit]

FSU Digital Studio Welcome Sign

The mission of the FSU Digital Studio:

The Digital Studio provides support to students working individually or in groups on a variety of digital projects, such as designing a web site, developing an electronic portfolio for a class, creating a blog, selecting images for a visual essay, or writing a script for a podcast. Tutors who staff the Digital Studio can help students brainstorm essay ideas, provide feedback on the content and design of a digital project, or facilitate collaboration for group projects and presentations. Students are not required to work with a tutor; the Digital Studio is open to those seeking to work on their own to complete class assignments or to simply improve overall capabilities in digital communication, with or without a tutor's assistance.[1]

Student work in the Digital Studio[edit]

Sam Wyzan in the FSU Digital Studio

Students engage in many different types of projects in the FSU Digital Studio:


The FSU Digital Studio opened in the fall semester of 2008. The Studio is open during the fall, spring, and summer semesters—as long as class in session. The Studio is open on weekdays.

Current iteration[edit]

The FSU Digital Studio is currently housed in the Williams Building, operated in conjunction with the Reading Writing Center, and aims to serve students and faculty from all disciplines (although the majority of visitors are students in the new EWM Major). The Studio is open five days a week and is staffed by Graduate TAs from the English Department.


The FSU Digital Studio has seven staff members in the Spring 2011 semester, all of whom have varying levels of expertise with a variety of software and applications, including Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Powerpoint, Prezi, Movie Maker, Vuvox, etc.



The FSU Digital Studio is equipped with four dual-screen PCs each running Windows 7 and another Windows 7 PC connected to a Smart Board. The Studio is also equipped with a color scanner.


The five computers in the FSU Digital Studio each have Microsoft Office 2007 and Adobe Design Premium CS5 installed.
Spring 2011 Digital Symposium Website
Learning studio[edit]

The new FSU Learning Studio commons area, scheduled to open in Fall 2011, will house a satellite Digital Studio location.

Digital symposium[edit]

Each semester, the FSU Digital Studio hosts a day-long Digital Symposium during which members of the University community are invited to visit the Studio and observe a showcase of student-designed digital and multimodal projects. Tutoring services and regular studio hours are suspended to leave workstations open for visitors who wish to browse the Digital Symposium website, a new version of which is created each semester with links to individual student work. Food and beverage are generally provided to visitors.

Social media presence[edit]

The FSU Digital Studio has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account.

TCU New Media Writing Studio[edit]

The mission of the TCU New Media Writing Studio (nmws):

Located in Scharbauer 2003, the nmws is a space where teachers and writers from any department or discipline can gather to work on all kinds of digital writing: presentations, web design, video, and more. The Studio can be reserved for a single instructional session or for a multi-week unit while classes are working on computer-intensive projects.[11]
They have a facebook page and a Twitter feed.

EKU Noel Studio for Academic Creativity[edit]

The mission of the EKU Noel Studio for Academic Creativity:

The Noel Studio is designed as a dynamic, technologically sophisticated learning environment that will inspire individual and collaborative learning. In the Noel Studio, spaces and techniques recognize multiple learning styles. Open and fluid spaces provide the flexibility to let educators and students use the Noel Studio to maximize learning.[12]

Clemson Class of 1941 Studio for Student Communication[edit]

The mission of the Class of 1941 Studio for Student Communication:

The Class of 1941 Studio for Student Communication is the first communication studio in the country to include both teaching and research. Its goal is to bring together the study and practice of the communicative arts in new and exciting ways.[13]


  1. ^ a b "FSU Digital Studio". Archived from the original on 9 June 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Field, Elizabeth (10 April 1983). "Computer Literacy: New Goal in Schools". New York Times. 
  3. ^ "Technology Literacy Challenge". Technology Literacy Challenge. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  4. ^ London Group, New (1996). "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures". Harvard Educational Review. 66 (1): 60–92. 
  5. ^ a b c Selfe, Cynthia (February 1999). "Technology and Literacy: a Story of the Perils of Not Paying Attention". College Composition and Communication. 50 (3): 411–436. doi:10.2307/358859. 
  6. ^ Duffelmeyer, Barbara (2000). "Critical Computer Literacy: Computers in First-Year Composition as Topic and Environment". Computers and Composition. 17: 289–307. doi:10.1016/s8755-4615(00)00036-0. 
  7. ^ a b Yancey, Kathleen Blake (December 2004). "Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key". College Composition and Communication. 56 (2): 297–328. doi:10.2307/4140651. 
  8. ^ Trimbur, John (2000). "Multiliteracies, Social Futures, and Writing Centers". Writing Center Journal. 20 (2): 29–32. 
  9. ^ a b Pemberton, Michael (2003). "Planning for Hypertexts in the Writing Center...Or Not". Writing Center Journal. 24 (1). 
  10. ^ a b Gresham, Morgan; Kathleen Yancey (2004). "New Studio Composition: New Sites for Writing, New Forms of Composition, New Cultures of Learning" (PDF). WPA: Writing Program Administration. 28 (1-2): 9–28. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "New Media Writing Studio @ TCU". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  12. ^ "Noel Studio for Academic Creativity". 
  13. ^ "Class of 1941 Studio for Communication". 

External links[edit]