Prelude to Sophie

I’m still trying to produce a text using the Sophie software that we’ll be teaching at DMAC next week. Ultimately, I’d like to produce a text using only digital media as my composing tools. Of course I realize that a word processors and blogs are highly digital tools. But what we’re going to be talking about (I think) at DMAC is how to use tools that have, as their primary purpose, modes of composition that work outside of alphabetic-privileging technologies. Or if not outside of them, then only using alphabetic text as one among many strategies.

So how might this work? Well, I’ve only got about 48 hours to complete this task. That means I’m going to have to develop a goal for the project, work through it as I produce my text, and then publish it to my blog or website. Here are the tools I have at my disposal: Sophie rich media editor (for combining and editing the various media in a single text); SnagIt screen capture software (to document some of the on-screen strategies I’ve employed during this process); Audacity audio software (to edit voiceovers and songs); Mindjet MindManager; Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium (to handle photo editing, web page design, graphics, and other various editing tasks that the other software might not be able to handle). I’m hoping to use as much as possible the free versions of all of this software, but I’m not familiar enough with Sophie to know what I can do with it, so I’m using the Adobe products only as second choices for certain tasks.

I’m going to use the following hardware: Dell Inspiron 1721 with an additional 19” external monitor; Canon Elura 100 video camera; Canon Powershot A610; Edirol R-09 audio recorder; a Labtec Stereo 242 headset; Sony MDR-NC11A noise canceling headphones.

I have two goals for this exercise. First, I want to start thinking about the ways that alternative digital composition tools (software and hardware) might enable or force changes to more traditional pen-and-ink or word processing strategies. In other words, I’m curious what it means to us video or audio recording devices tool for developing and shaping an idea? This question comes out of something I noticed in a class in multimodal composition at the University of Louisville last summer. My classmates and I more often than not used alphabetic literacy as the heart of our processes. Often people write down what they were going to say into the microphone or video recorder. People brainstormed on paper. When we reflected on what we were doing, many of us (even with all of this software and hardware available to us) still returned to the comfort of alphabetic text production. What I found most challenging about the class were those moments I challenged myself to forego the familiarity of alphabetic strategies and just jump right into the technology. Those moments were fascinating, indeed, but they were so challenging that I couldn’t sustain the exploration into anything more than a short, quickly edited piece involving one or two modes. So I’m hoping that this project is a bit more sustained, with more depth.

The second goal, as I’ve already stated above, is to learn the basics of the Sophie software. I’m almost totally unfamiliar with it at this point, but the few attempts I’ve made to begin have been frustrating. I couldn’t figure out which tool to use to open the tutorials, and I couldn’t get the sound to work when I did. Debra mentioned that the sound doesn’t actually work on the first tutorial, so I was probably doing it right to begin with. She also warned me that the program is really buggy. I’ll have to keep saving all the time. That’s one of the joys of a young open-source program, I guess.

I’ll be back soon. For now, it’s time to begin…

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