Defining Multimodality Edit

Definition Breakdown: Edit

[muhl-tahy-moh-dal-i-tee]: The multiplicity of modalities is at the root of multimodality. The root of modalities is modals, or modes. In turn, when understanding multimodality, it should be understood that it is the harmonious use of modes.

Full Definitions: Edit

First definition, (noun): "an inter-disciplinary approach that understands communication and representation to be more than about language. It has been developed over the past decade to systematically address much-debated questions about changes in society, for instance in relation to new media and technologies."

Second definition (noun): "communication in more than one mode, e.g. text/graphics or text/audio"

Third definition (noun): "the different modes of human communication (visual, verbal, gestural etc). In many web-based texts, meaning is communicated through a subtle interplay between different expressive modes"

Fourth definition (noun): "refers to the coordinated deployment of non-verbal resources such as gesture, facial expression, gaze, body display, as well as verbal and paraverbal resources such as (morpho-)syntax, lexico-semantics, phonetics, and prosody"

Fifth definition, derived from previous definitions (noun): multimodality is the harmonious use of modes for communication.

Quick Overview Development Edit

Multimodal writing practices has always been a part of our literacy, according to Andréa D. Davis when reviewing Jason Palmeri's Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy, Carbondale, IL, Southern Illinois University Press, 2012, 216 pp.. In Palmeri's text, "he responds to claims and assumptions about the development of multimodal composing practices being a result of recent adoption of digital tools and affordances" (Davis 1). This development of mutlimodal composing practices is additionally dressed in the three interconnected theoretical assumptions.

Three interconnected theoretical assumptions Edit

  1. "Multimodality assumes that representation and communication always draw on a multiplicity of modes, all of which contribute to meaning" (Bezemer 1).
    • This assumption focuses on all the resources people use (visual, spoken, gestures, written, three-dimensional) in various contexts and show how they're arranged to make meaning of something.
  2. "Multimodality assumes that resources are socially shaped over time to become meaning making resources that articulate the (social, individual/affective) meanings demanded by the requirements of different communities" (Bezemer 1).
    • In other words, these semiotic resources are considered modes which must be used over and over again in different and particular communities. The more they're used, the more they develop a particular meaning which can vary.
  3. "People orchestrate meaning through their selection and configuration of modes, foregrounding the significance of the interaction between modes
    • Thus all communicational acts are shaped by the norms and rules operating at the moment of sign making, and influenced by the motivations and interests of people in a specific social context" (Bezemer 1).

Core Concepts Edit

  1. Mode
    • How a culture shapes something through its daily use.
  2. Semiotic Resource
    • The representational meaning and how people interpret and use them.
  3. Modal Affordance
    • "The term modal affordance refers to the material and the cultural aspects of modes: what it is possible to express and represent easily with a mode. It is a concept connected to both the material as well as the cultural and social historical use of a mode" (Bezemer 1). How the mode is 'best' used.
  4. Inter-semiotic relations
    • How modes are used harmoniously and interconnect in different contexts.

Examples Edit

"What is multimodality?"

"What is multimodality?"

Video Lecture

The video on the right is a more interactive explanation of multimodality. The caption on youtube below the video states, "Berit Hendriksen and Gunther Kress discuss the notions of 'functional specialisation', 'functional load', 'coherence' and 'layout.'"


Example 1

The example 1 is about multi-literacies and the various modes that interact with it: audio design, spatial design, gestural design, visual design, and linguistic design. This example primarily relates to the first interconnected theoretical assumption.

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Example 2

Example 2 shows the multimodality of travel from road, public transport, rail, airports, maritime river.

Further Reading Edit

  1. Literacy, media and multimodality: a critical response: Educators have recently realized the importance of addressing wider ranges of text in the classroom. However, this author is concerned with the issues that are associated with new teaching methods.
  2. Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms: The author explores how knowledge is represented through various forms of media.
  3. Multimodalities, Neuroenhancement, and Literacy Learning: On average, school-aged children in the United States spend about six hours in from of a screen. It is important that classroom incorporate ways of learning that interest students in today's technology age.
  4. Visual Culture Isn't Just Visual: Multiliteracy, Multimodality and Meaning: Modern cultural through various forms of media combined visual images as a communicative mode. The author observes the challenges that emerge through traditional visuals.
  5. Composing Film: Multimodality and Production in Elementary Classrooms: Many elementary schools do not incorporate multimodal learning. This article observes two projects being integrated in the classroom and the benefits on elementary students.

Citations Edit

Bazalgette, Cary, and David Buckingham. "Literacy, Media And Multimodality: A Critical Response." Literacy 47.2 (2013): 95-102.Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 May 2015.

Jewitt, Carey. "Multimodality And Literacy In School Classrooms." Review Of Research In Education 32.1 (2008): 241-267. ERIC. Web. 10 May 2015.

Sanacore, Joseph, and Joseph Piro. "Multimodalities, Neuroenhancement, And Literacy Learning." International Journal Of Progressive Education 10.2 (2014): 56-72. ERIC. Web. 10 May 2015.

Duncum, Paul. "Visual Culture Isn't Just Visual: Multiliteracy, Multimodality And Meaning." Studies In Art Education: A Journal Of Issues And Research In Art Education 45.3 (2004): 252-264. ERIC. Web. 10 May 2015.

Husbye, Nicholas E.1, and Sarah2 Vander Zanden. "Composing Film: Multimodality And Production In Elementary Classrooms."Theory Into Practice 54.2 (2015): 109-116. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 10 May 2015.