Crafting and DIY can make students better digital writers

Graduate Student Spotlight: Kristin Prins

Kristin Prins

Fifth-year PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition

Dissertation: Materiality, Craft, Identity, and Embodiment: Reworking Digital Writing

UpdateCongratulations, Kristin! She is now an assistant professor in the Department of English & Modern Languages at Cal Poly Pomona.

As a graduate student in Rhetoric and Composition, I study multimodal writing—how people compose with words, images, sounds, videos, textures, gestures, etc.—and I’m interested in connections between crafting (or making things) and writing (or composing things).

Traditional and digital crafts have enjoyed huge popularity in the past fifteen years, and groups like Stitch ’n Bitch and Sparrow Collective, activist organizations like Cast Off, websites like Craftster and Ravelry, and places like the UWM Studio Arts & Craft Centre and Milwaukee Makerspace are all parts of that movement. It has become common in our society for regular people to make digital and physical objects to meet their needs, shape other people’s thinking, circulate information, and amuse their friends. And there’s a lot of excitement and pleasure that comes from that kind of work.

Crafters have a lot to teach us about building better writing practices and better communities. I want to leverage the excitement and pleasure of craft work in ways that help writers get better at, and feel better about, actually writing. My dissertation digs into craft and do-it-yourself (DIY) histories and practices to help writers pay attention to the range of choices they can make as they compose multimodal texts and, of course, to help them choose better. My goal is to get students excited about what their writing can do, such as engaging readers or helping readers see things from a new perspective. I also want students to see exactly how they can accomplish those things, by writing really smart sentences or by combining images and sounds in more compelling ways.

Beyond my dissertation, I’m interested in researching the work that craft and DIY do as productive social practices that touch many areas of our lives. How do multimodal projects shape public discussions? How have yarnbombers redefined urban spaces and the ways people use them? How have digital crafters made political arguments by Photoshopping images on social media? How have acts of self-provisioning like urban gardening changed national conversations about production and consumption? Craft and DIY are complex rhetorical activities, and my research is trying to understand how that work works.