Let’s Talk About Starbucks & Access

Before I read the first chapter of Writer/Designer, I really thought the only way to achieve multimodality was to have some complicated and labor-intensive podcast where an animated video would be projected Star Wars holographic style into the homes of my audience. Little did I know, multimodality is already apart of my everyday life. Let’s take a look at some of the texts I view throughout my daily routine and see how oblivious I really was to this multimodal thing.

Clueless GIF
Me after reading the first chapter of Writer/Designer. (Also, shoutout to all of my Clueless fans out there.)


Like the Type A person I am, there is never a time I go on my computer or phone without checking my email. I am one of those people who gets freaked out by the little notification numbers that start to stack up if you don’t check your email enough. That being said, analyzing something that is very much apart of my daily life was really interesting. First, Gmail implements the linguistic mode as each email sent and recieved uses words to convey messages, as well as the written language used to tell the user where to click on the screen to enter certain parts of their email. Visually, some emails contain images that allow for more detailed messages to be conveyed compared to emails that just contain the linguistic mode. Gmail also uses the spatial mode by having the buttons used to compose and view past and current messages on the right hand side, and the columns of messages showcased on the left hand side. Finally, Gmail implements the gestural mode by allowing user interactivity through the search bar at the top of the interface. This one is a bit of a stretch, but as defined in the reading, gestural mode is included in not only face-to-face interaction, but also in interactivity.


Another place I’m sure many of use check frequently, because skool = lyfe (just kidding…kind of). Similar to Gmail, there are several portals/tabs to click on that implement linguistic text in order to convey meaning. There are also several pages of linguistic text, such as announcements from professors, links to class readings, and conversation forums. Visually, Canvas is home to several pictorial modes, such as the picture on the homepage of the Writing 220 canvas site!  Also similar to Gmail, Canvas has a particular spatial set-up that allows for the user to understand how the site works and where to find the information they are looking for. Tabs are also set up on the right hand side, and the messages contained on the left hand side. There is also a column on the very left that allows the user easy access to all of the assignments due and a calendar of assignments (my personal favorite; calendars are my jam). Finally, Canvas allows for the gestural mode of interactivity. One of the ways it does this is through the ability to click on links to readings and submit assignments right on the site.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte Starbucks Sign
I awkwardly snapped this picture in the midst of a huge line and a bunch of confused looks from the baristas behind the counter. #DoItForTheBlogPost

Starbucks Menu Signs

I figured my obsession with Starbucks would have to come out at some point throughout the semester, so why not now! I am actually sitting in Starbucks as I write this blog post, so I figured I would analyze my surroundings while blissfully sipping my grande iced decaf latte with classic (one pump, not two). Taking a look at the menu signs placed behind the barista counter, there are the obvious linguistic messages, such as what kind of flavor shots you can add to your machiatto, and advertisements for the pumpkin-spiced latte (personally, not a fan). Along with those linguistic messages, there are a ton of visual modes, such as images of fall-colored leaves, pumpkins, and the PSL cup itself. Spatially, these signs are placed high behind the counter in order for the customer to see what they would like to order and relay that information to the barista in a smooth fashion. The signs themselves do not hold any aural or gestural modes. However, if I include the barista who helps the perplexed Starbucks noobie order from the menu boards, aural and gestural modes can be analyzed. Aurally, the Starbucks barista helps the customer with their order by talking to them through one-on-one communication. This aural communication goes hand-in-hand (pun intended) with gestural modes as the barista may point at the starbucks menu signs and use their hands while talking–there’s a pretty emphatic barista at this Starbucks who likes to practice both of these things.

Everyday Feminism Facebook Screenshot
Here is an example post from the Everyday Feminism page. Note the image description!

Everyday Feminism: Facebook Page

One of the pages I follow on Facebook to stay current on social justice issues is called Everyday Feminism. They are a really awesome website for anyone interested in learning more about social justice and how they can contribute to making this world a more inclusive and safe environment for all people. One of the things I love about the page is how they post each article by describing what the article entails via the linguistic mode, include an interactive link to the website (gestural mode), post a picture with the article (visual mode), and then describe in words what the picture looks like. By not only posting the visual mode of the picture, but also describing through the linguistic mode what the picture looks like, Everyday Feminism allows for their post to be accessed by a larger group of people with differing abilities. For example, if someone is blind and they would like to know what the picture posted looks like, they can hear through aural mode a person reading the linguistic text of a detailed description of the photo. I just think that’s awesome and inclusivity rocks!

All four of these textual examples represent the modes of communication in similar ways, but ultimately carry varying meanings. A tab on Gmail may be formatted the same as a tab on Canvas, but the places they take you to online and the information they hold is entirely different. These differences are cool to think about, but I am more so interested in how much multimodality is present within our daily lives that we don’t even think about. We are constantly bombarded with information, while at the same time are sending out information from all different modes of communication. I think it is important to recognize, as the chapter states, the ability for us as writers/designers to “compose for access.” Since communication through several modes is impossible to escape, it is important to understand how someone from a varying background/ability may not be able to obtain the same information as you when using a certain mode. Like Everyday Feminism, I think it would be awesome to incorporate universal access into my e-Portfolio and beyond.

One thought to “Let’s Talk About Starbucks & Access”

  1. Madeline (Is it Maddy? I’m sorry if I got this wrong. I’ll know for sure soon),

    I felt like I was talking to you while I read this post, which is fantastic because it made reading it fun and easy. I’m also glad that you’re taking this assignment so seriously and that you #DoItForTheBlogPost.

    I absolutely agree with your argument that interactivity on a website utilizes the gestural mode. Searching through old emails makes me imagine sifting through old letters manually, looking for whatever it is that needs to be found, so I absolutely understand your point that technology is incorporating gestural modes in new ways.

    I also found really intriguing your analysis of Starbucks, and your inclusion of the barista as part of the text. Being a Starbucks noob, I definitely need the assistance of the barista’s aural and gestural communication to get my order right, because I’ve always found the language on and the layout of the menu to be a bit confusing (I always have, like, a nervous breakdown as I’m in line).

    I wonder what you think about the use of the gestural mode in photographs, like, for example, the one you captured from Everyday Feminism; do you think the facial expressions and body language of the subject can tell us more about a text? If so, how? Is the gestural mode as powerful in photographs as it is in videos (I could see arguments for both sides of that debate)?

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