After I finished the chapter “What are Multimodal Projects,” I reached for one of my favorite pieces of candy—a peanut butter-filled Dove chocolate. (I love candy, so prepare to hear a lot about it as a reader of my blog). As I unwrapped the lovely little treat, I eyed the package that it came from and found myself looking at it…. differently. It was not just a package of candy anymore, but a multimodal text that uses the linguistic, visual, and spatial modes of communication!
Linguistic: The package uses words to inform consumers about the product. The front of the package communicates the brand name (Dove), type (Silky Smooth Promises) and flavor (peanut butter & milk chocolate), as well as information about the serving size, calorie count, and net weight. The back of the package contains information about the Dove brand, nutrition facts, and ingredients.
Visual: The package uses color, style, and image to help describe the product. To reflect the flavor, the primary colors on it are brown and orange. The letters on the front are brown and glossy like chocolate, and the cursive font and background waves advertise the product as smooth and luxurious. Next to the words there is an actual-size image of one of the chocolate pieces.
Spatial: The package uses the spatial mode to organize the visual and linguistic information so that the consumer can easily make sense of it. The word “Dove” is most prominent on the front—it is in the center, and the other descriptions frame it above and below. The image of the chocolate is also central to the package’s façade. On the back, the dense nutritional information and ingredients listing are organized geometrically so that the consumer is not overwhelmed.
While savoring my little square of peanut butter luxury, I mindlessly browsed my facebook newsfeed. And alas! Just like the candy package, the page revealed itself to be a multimodal text that uses most, if not all, of the five forms of communication.
Linguistic: My facebook newsfeed is filled with linguistic information. There are the names of my “friends” who have recently been active, the names of groups that I am a part of and pages that I have “liked”, brief descriptions about people’s activities (___has had a birthday, ___has posted in ___page, etc.), newspaper headlines, and much more. Then there is information provided by other facebook users, in the form of status updates, photo captions and comments, etc.
Visual: Facebook uses small icons to describe people, groups, and functions, i.e. a speech blurb depicting “messages,” a graduation cap indicating the “Univerity of Michigan” group, and a square next to every person’s name that can be filled with a profile picture of choice. It also allows individual users to post photos that will be made public to their “friends.”
Spatial: The facebook newsfeed is split up into three columns, an arrangement that organizes the chaos of all it has to offer. The middle one is constantly changing, as it is a stream of the activities of people and groups that is updated by the minute. The left column contains several lists, including groups one is a part of, popular apps, and the locations of one’s friends, and the right column provides information about upcoming events and trending news. Next to this column on the right side of the screen there is chat bar that advertises one’s online friends.
Aural & Gestural: While the facebook newsfeed does not communicate by itself through the aural and gestural modes, it allows users to share music and videos with each other. Thus facebook arguably enables communication using all five modes.
During my lovely chocolate-eating, facebook-browsing session, the football game that was on in the background switched to a commercial break and the TV screen was smothered by a close-up image of cinnamon swirl bread. Seconds later the female boxing champion Ronda Rousey appeared on the screen, looking tough and holding a medal. The commercial l turned out to be an advertisement for the restaurant chain Hardee’s, and I counted all five modes of communication operating in it.
Linguistic: The linguistic mode is used in this commercial both visually and orally. The commercial visually presents information to its viewers through words on the screen: it provides us with the name and title of the boxer as well as descriptions of the food and deal that it is promoting. It uses language orally as well—at the end of the commercial a male voice describes the food in more detail and then declares, “only at Hardee’s”.
Visual: The commercial uses images to persuade its viewer to buy its product. As I mentioned above, it begins with a close-up picture of cinnamon swirl bread. Later it shows the whole breakfast sandwich, up-close as well. These images are designed to make one’s mouth water and stomach rumble. The commercial also uses the image of the tough-looking yet scantily-clad and make-up wearing boxer to convey a message of strength, power, and sexiness.
Spatial: The simple layout of every scene of this commercial makes its message very clear and accessible. The images are up-close and blown-up, and the letters are similarly oversized. The commercial ends with an image of the boxer, standing still and looking fierce, while a Hardee’s coupon slides onto the screen next to her face. The spacing of these two objects is balanced, causing the viewer’s gaze to bounce back and force between both sides of the screen.
Aural: Throughout the commercial there is head-banging music going on in the background, in addition to noises of a boxing match complete with the rowdy cheering of fans. These sounds capture the attention of the viewer and create a mood of rowdiness and fun. The commercial also uses sound effects to make the food appear more desirable: when the boxer bites into the sandwich it makes a satisfying crunch.
Gestural: The gestures of the boxer communicate various things to the viewer. In one scene, she is rubbing her wrists and looking menacingly at the camera in a don’t-mess-with-me kind of fashion. Later in the commercial, after she takes a bite of the breakfast sandwich, she licks one of her fingers and smiles. These contrasting gestures communicate to the audience the “tough but sweet” message that supposedly encapsulates the nature of the sandwich.
The two texts that I have analyzed that have the primary purpose of advertising a product—the Dove package and the Hardee’s commercial—are similar to each other in that they both appeal to the consumer’s senses to make their product more desirable. They both display images of their products, and while the Dove package supplements these images with specific colors and flowy patterns the commercial uses sound to underline the sandwich’s essence. The facebook newsfeed is of a slightly different nature because it is an interactive text. It is not merely informing its audience, but also encouraging its users to participate in the site. Because of this function, the spatial mode is much more important in this text than in the other two.