Crap, Now Everything is a Multimodal Text



Freedom isn’t free? 

What’s important about this text–whether you interpret it to be an attack on capitalism, America’s billions of exploits, or whatever– is that the message wouldn’t be understood if it was just the single sentence, only the linguistic mode. At least, I would be asking myself what the writer meant by “Freedom isn’t free.” But whoever created it (props to you), utilized the visual mode by including a widely remarked symbol of freedom, the American flag, to denote he or she is talking about the U.S. The lack of red, white, and blue color also contributes to the absence of patriotism. We can assume he/she isn’t conveying a positive message about Uncle Sam. Flipping the flag vertically (spatial mode) and turning it into a barcode screams money. Interestingly, I think the gestural mode hones the message in. The text mimics the scanning motion of a barcode, but more slow and deliberate than usual giving the whole thing a haunting mood. You can’t help but wonder what the price for freedom is.

california drought

California Drought 2k15

There’s a ton of statistical evidence explaining how drought conditions in California have worsened in the past years. None of that data is probably as compelling or memorable as this text. The visual and spatial modes of writing are crucial here in deepening the message. In two seconds, the diagram at the top shows the drought progression for three years. Current California is covered in red, a color associated with blood, anger, and stopping at traffic lights, to stand out. The visual not only communicates statistics quickly, but also adds the drama.Nothing shows change more clearly than before and after photos. After the reader sees how bad things have become in general California, his eyes are guided to three specific pictures of locations. Incorporating the spatial mode, the before graphics are all in one column and the after’s in an opposite one. Placing the pictures in close proximity contrasts the collectively blue side with the brown, dry land on the right. We can all agree that this type of text does the job way better than an annual report on weather conditions in Cali.




Nike Women Better for It Commericial

This commercial was the only thing I collected that incorporates all five modes. The aural mode is creatively included as chatter inside the women’s heads while the visual mode shows their exterior world of going to the gym or taking a yoga class. It adds an element of reality to the commercial, making it clear the target audience is women because a large majority of us can relate to what we hear. The visual mode is the strongest here because it is a commercial, but the linguistic and gestural mode are also incorporated in the end to show that the commercial is a. talking about Nike and b. urging you to click on the link and get started. Placing the link at the very center of the page makes it jump out at you in a way you’re more susceptible to click on it.


Everything I look at now becomes a multimodal text. I gathered up business cards from a local tattoo shop, a random code of conduct, a flyer for the Dayton Accords Symposium, my water bottle, even my room key. Usually everything I found incorporates every mode except the aural one. The texts that are most similar–business cards, flyers, the freedom gif, and the drought diagram all share a common goal of selling you something, whether that something is an idea or a product. For all of these, pictures played a big role, overshadowing the words. The texts were all also designed for you too look at going top to bottom. The two most contrasting texts were the Nike commercial and the code of conduct, which isn’t surprising since they have two very different aims. Commercials are advertisements while codes of conduct don’t have to sell you anything. They come after the fact. You’ve already been sold.  While the Nike commercial utilizes all five modes to make the consumer’s experience more colorful, the code of conduct only uses linguistic and spatial. If you were to read it, you would notice things blocked off into sections and further into bulleted points.

I find that commercials or infomercials would all generally use all the modes because they have similar aims. It’s all about the person viewing it. Texts that serve a “duller” purpose like scientific journals or contracts don’t care about the reader, they just care about getting their information across clearly.


2 thoughts to “Crap, Now Everything is a Multimodal Text”

  1. Lorena,

    First, I just want to complement your extraordinarily distinct voice. I love that your blog posts (at least of what I’ve seen) never come across as being fake or just aiming to get a good grade– you have a style and you own it. I think that’s awesome.

    I’m so glad that you read the gif format of your first text as using the gestural mode, because that’s how I saw it as well. Even though we aren’t necessarily getting human body language or facial expressions from it, the text still shows motion and allows us to imagine someone running a scanner across the American flag. Also, I hadn’t considered the absence of red and blue from the text when I first saw it, but your point about how that absence sort of drains the text of patriotism clicked as soon as I read it.

    You noticed (I’ve found this too when looking at texts) that the aural mode seems to be the least common form of communication, which is probably because incorporating sound to texts is often impractical. Do you think this diminishes the value of the aural mode? Or does this rarity make the mode more effective and stirring to the reader when it’s used effectively?

  2. Hi Lorena!
    I really love how you developed your thoughts surrounding the different modes of communication, going into depth about how the audience would digest each mode. I especially like when you go into depth talking about the color red in the California drought image. I am in this Visual Culture class right now and a lot of it has to do with pulling away meaning from simple signs, such as colors. A lot of the time, we do not really consider the messages that are being created with simple everyday messages, such as color, because it has become naturalized within our mind’s framework of thinking. However, I think it’s important, as a writer and designer, to recognize the messages seemingly simple and arbitrary signs are sending us.
    One of my favorite lines:
    “Commercials are advertisements while codes of conduct don’t have to sell you anything. They come after the fact. You’ve already been sold.”
    This made me think about the ways we can become “bonded” to the messages we constantly receive everyday without even knowing that we are being sold something and then consuming it. Have you ever taken a Communications class before? All of what you are saying is very similar to what I learn in the majority of my comm classes! I love reading and learning about this stuff haha. Great work!

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