A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley

Founder
WritingCommons.org

Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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In the late 1930s, the novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo read an article about the Prince of Wales paying a visit to a hospital in Canada for veterans of the first World War and meeting a soldier who had lost all of his limbs and senses from an explosion. From that inspiration Trumbo wrote his most famous novel, Johnny Got His Gun, about a soldier who wakes up in a hospital to find his arms and legs amputated and that he is blind, deaf and mute. It was published in 1939 to great success and in 1971 was adapted into a film that has since become a classic. But the adaptations didn’t stop there: it was also turned into a play in 1981, and the version you are probably most familiar with was the inspiration for Metallica’s 1989 song “One,” with scenes from the 1971 movie appearing in the music video.

These adaptations are examples of process of remediation at work. Each of the artists behind these adaptations had to make decisions about how to take the idea behind the source material to create his or her own vision for the work. By telling the same story through each of their respective art forms, these artists were able to present a new interpretation of the original story, each of which gives us a new lens through which to understand the soldier’s experience.

Remediation is the process of taking a text, whether it is a newspaper article, a story, a film or even something like a business proposal or a report, and translating it into a new medium. Remediation is based on the idea of the famous media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who once said that "the medium is the message." McLuhan meant that how we perceive information changes based the way in which that information is presented.

Let’s think about this in terms that you might be more familiar with: many of you have probably had to write a paper for which you had to give an oral report that included a PowerPoint presentation and possibly a handout. Each of those elements, the report, the PowerPoint and the presentation, is a remediation of your original paper. You would not present information in the same way in a PowerPoint as you would on a handout or when you delivered the content verbally. Because of the changes you make from one medium to the next, your audience perceives the information differently based on how it is delivered.

Audience is one of the most important elements of the remediation process, because the creator of the medium must take into consideration how her work will be understood and interpreted. Let’s go back to the example of Johnny Got His Gun. When it was published in 1939, Trumbo knew that Americans were hoping to avoid having to enter World War II and that people would respond well to a book portraying the horrors of war at its worst (incidentally, that sentiment backfired on him after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, after which his book went through a period of great unpopularity).  The film adaptation was not made until 1971, when anti-war sentiments towards Vietnam were at their height and younger filmgoers were once again open to the message Trumbo (who also directed the film) had originally tried to convey. By the time the late 1980’s rolled around and Metallica recorded its version, much of the controversy around the book and the film had died down and so the group was able to write a song that spoke to the horror of being imprisoned inside your own body without the baggage of pro or anti-war sentiments.

Regardless of what kind of remediation you are taking on, whether it’s artistic, academic or business-related, it is vital to understand how the remediation process works.  By knowing how to interpret the most important ideas from the original text and by transferring them in such a way as to give new meaning to the interpretation without misrepresenting the original, you will be far more successful in conveying important ideas to your audience and in understanding how important the way you present your information is.

Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham

Editor-in-Chief
WritingCommons.org

Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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