research statement
I position myself as a scholar of American Indian rhetorics, multimodal composition, and digital rhetoric. I am deeply committed to making visible and working to disrupt colonial practices within theoretical frameworks and pedagogical practice. As such, I work to interrogate and encourage pedagogies that allow us ways of understanding digital composing practices within larger social and cultural contexts.

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Recent Projects & Articles

writer designer 2ed Ball, Cheryl E., Jennifer Sheppard, & Kristin Arola. Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. 2nd Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2018.
Grounded in multimodal theory and supported by practice in the classroom, this 2nd edition of Writer/Designer streamlines the process of composing multimodally by helping students make decisions about content across a range of modes, genres, and media from words to images to movement. Students learn by doing as they write for authentic audiences and purposes. The second edition of Writer/Designer is reimagined to clarify the multimodal process and give students the tools they need to make conscious rhetorical choices in new modes and media. Key concepts in design, rhetoric, and multimodality are illustrated with vivid, timely examples, and new Touchpoint activities for each section give students opportunities to put new skills into practice. (from Macmillan website)

handbook of digital culturesArola, Kristin L. “A Land-Based Digital Design Rhetoric.” Routledge Companion to Digital Writing & Rhetoric. Eds. Jonathan Alexander & Jacqueline Rhodes. New York: Routledge, 2018.
This essay turns to work in cultural rhetoric (Ortoleva 2017, Riley-Mukavetz & Powell 2016, Rìos 2017) as a way of understanding online design through an indigenous lens, specifically one of relationality as enacted in a land-based rhetoric. By bringing together a land-based rhetoric one that, as Rìos argues, “recognizes the productive potential of nature and of embodied ways of knowing” (68) and multimodal design theory, I propose an ethical, relational, and material approach for multimodality. I offer three criteria for rhetorically engaging with digital design, criteria that reflect how our experience with digital spaces are shaped by our embodied interactions in the biosphere itself (Dobrin and Weisser, 2002). I then use these criteria to analyze an American Indian educational digital storytelling project. By doing so, I offer a multimodal pedagogy that acknowledges how land, bodies, and composing practices are co-constituted.

handbook of digital culturesArola, Kristin L. “Composing as Culturing: An American Indian Approach to Digital Ethics.” Handbook of Digital Writing and Literacies Research. Eds. Kathy Mills, Amy Stornaiuolo, Anna Smith & Jessica Zacher Pandya. New York: Routledge. 2018.
This essay explores the crafting and gathering practices of the Anishinaabe peoples of the Upper Great Lakes so as to suggest a path for an ethical digital literacy, one that moves beyond a fascination with remix culture on the one hand (one where texts are seen as freely available for the taking) and an obsession with catching plagiarism on the other (one where texts and authorship are held as static truths). An indigenous ethical approach to digital writing and literacies asks that we approach digital production with care, acknowledging the ecologies of meaning within which we craft, compose, and circulate.

social writing/social media Arola, Kristin.“Indigenous Interfaces.” Social Writing/Social Media: Pedagogy, Presentation, and Publics. Eds. Douglas Walls and Stephanie Vie. Parlor Press, WAC Clearinghouse Perspectives on Writing Series. 2017. Article and collection available at
this article tells a story about what happened when college-aged American Indians were asked the question, “What would Facebook look like were it designed by and for American Indians?”  I first describe the two main categories of answers received: 1) The Visible Indian: answers relating to images typically thought of as representing true “indianness” such as eagle feathers, the four colors, tobacco bundles, etc. 2) Enacting Indian: answers relating to actions typically associated with being Indian such as powwow updates, use of heritage languages, and insider jokes about rez life. I unpack these answers to problematize both my question and the challenges of looking for race online.

assembling compositionArola, Kristin L. and Adam C. Arola “An Ethics of Assemblage: Creative Repetition and the Electric Pow Wow.” Assembling Composition. Eds. Kathleen Blake Yancey and Stephen J. McElroy. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. 2017.
This text explores the concept of assemblage through an indigenous lens, exploring issues of cultural ethics, appropriation, and rhetorical context. We use the First Nations’ hip hop group, A Tribe Called Red, as a point of study to suggest how the Deleuzian concept of assemblage enables a reconsideration of traditional tropes of cultural authenticity as they bear upon acts of expression. A Tribe Called Red’s remixing of traditional powwow music with modern beats works to disrupt European notions of propriety, authenticity, identity, and essence. We suggest that conceiving of composition as assemblage is a more appropriate and effective means of expression for indigenous cultural artifacts than its more rigid counterpart: the trope in which the author is creator or master of their product. As such, composition as assemblage supports Scott Lyons’ (2000) notion of rhetorical sovereignty, and acknowledges Native people’s right to develop notions of their own identity through textual production.

composing media Arola, Kristin L. and Anne Frances Wysocki, Eds. Composing (Media) = Composing (Embodiment). Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2012.
Kristin L. Arola and Anne Frances Wysocki argue that composing new media is composing bodies. The media we produce—and consume—embody us in a two-way process. The chapters in this collection articulate how our media carry us out into the world when, in producing texts, we feel ourselves to be individually expressing what matters. But available media also give us—and so limit us to—what makes sense among various structures and institutions: each text we consume teaches us (usually not overtly) some way of being in the world. (from USUP)

crosstalk Villanueva, Victor and Kristin L. Arola, Eds. CrossTalk in Comp Theory. 3rd Edition. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2011.
For the third edition of Cross-Talk in Comp Theory, Victor Villanueva recruited the expertise of colleague Kristin L. Arola in order to flesh out the discussion on composition and technology. The quick movement of the paradigm—from the personal computer to local-area networks to the rise of social networking—suggests the need to recall the talk and the cross-talk concerning computers and their products for composition. The third edition maintains the historical perspective of previous editions while continuing to provide insights on the relatively new discipline of composition studies. (from NCTE)

writer designer Arola, Kristin L., Sheppard, Jennifer; & Ball, Cheryl E. Writer/designer: A guide to making multimodal projects. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2014.
Whether at school, on the job, or just in everyday life, multimodal texts have become an essential part of communication practices in nearly every arena of contemporary culture. The widespread use of design and media software, Web 2.0 technologies, and other digital media has increased opportunities to convey information and has also changed the expectations of readers. This book teaches students to make conscious multimodal choices in the texts they create. We explore communicative modes and illustrate how to analyze and create multimodal texts like websites or biology posters, PowerPoints or reports—basically, any kind of writing for any kind of situation.