English Ph.D. Dissertations


The Semiotics, Practical Application, and Assessment of the Modalities

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing) PhD

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Gary Heba (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Becca Cragin (Committee Member)


This dissertation examines the influence digital composing spaces, e.g. networked technology, have on composition instruction, student composing practices, and assessment of student work. Recent conversations - Pamela Takayoshi and Brian Huot (2003), Cynthia Selfe (2007), Joddy Murray (2009), and The National Writing Project (2010) - recognize that the presence of technology has given rise to multimodality in composition curricula. Thus, this project first questions what can be considered multimodality by examining where print and digital composing spaces have differences and similarities. Second, whether the multimodal composition process occurs in print or digital composing spaces, the process of multimodality (either instruction or production) relies on Semiotics as a basis for visual interpretation and theory. To showcase this theory in practical application, this project analyzes advertisements for technology to map society’s history with various technological landmarks. Next, this project then considers how multimodality can be used in composition curriculum by exemplifying an Intermediate Writing. However, the presence of multimodality in the classroom raises the question of assessment. As a result, this project utilizes Semiotics in conjunction with theories of discourse as a foundation for assessing multimodal composition projects. Finally, this dissertation provides discussion that speculates on the future direction of composition. This speculation recognizes that the influence multimodality has is not just noticeable in popular composition textbooks. The influence reaches us as members of contemporary society.