This study investigates the processes and products of multimodal and multi-authored digital media composition. Using ethnographic case study and Mediated Discourse Analysis (Norris & Jones, 2005), this study focuses specifically on the digital media composition of radio and film documentaries, examining struggle among students, media, and technology as vehicles for knowledge construction and social position. (Erstad & Silseth, 2008; Holland, Skinner, Lachiotte, & Cain, 1998). Drawing on the work of Bakhtin (1981, 1986) and Nelson and Hull (2008), struggle is theorized as a diverse "heteroglossia" or "many-voiced-ness," inherent in all acts of communication, in particular digital media texts.
Conducted in an diverse, urban high school, data was collected from a variety of sources including field notes, class work, final media projects, and several hours of audio and video footage of students' collaborative process. Findings reveal intense engagement in the digital media composition process, often fueled by struggle surrounding media selections. Analysis of both the collaborative production process and final media products reveals a series of multimodal struggles in which students appropriate certain modes of communication within the documentary (e.g. sound, video, interviews, or voice over) in order to express nuanced views on the issue that may or may not be shared by the whole group. In gaining a deeper understanding of the struggles involved in the process of collaborative digital media composition, it becomes clear that literacy practices involve a continual negotiation among the various people, technology, and media involved. Such nuanced depictions of literacy provide theoretical infrastructure and frameworks both for researchers, who seek to impact policy related to literacy instruction, and teachers who continually guide students in their search and appropriation of a media voice.