What are multimodal projects?

Before reading the first chapter of Writer / Designer I had no idea what multimodal projects were, but now I realize I see many every day. Whether it is an add on television or a meme on Twitter, they constantly pop up all over our lives. Multimodal projects are broken down into five different modes of communication that all play a factor into how we are perceiving what we are watching. The five modes are linguistic (language, words used in text), visual (what can be seen), aural (what can be heard), spatial (the way text and pages are laid out) and gestural (how movements and gestures convey meaning). I will now give a couple of examples of texts that I found where different modes worked together I came into contact over the last few days.

The first text I chose to look at was a page on Bonobos website I was linked to from Jimmy Butlers Instagram account. Jimmy Butler is one of my favorite basketball players and Bonobos is a clothing store. The page the link took me to was an add promoting a new line of clothes they came out with together. This page uses all five of the modes of communication. Linguistically the words on the page offer either suave descriptions of the clothes or funny questions and responses from Jimmy Butler. Through the words on the page, Bonobos and Jimmy Butler are communicating to me reasons the buy their clothes and reasons to like Jimmy Butler as a person, and not just an athlete. Visually pictures of Butler and the clothes dominate the page. Connecting it to the spatial mode of communication, attractive photos are nicely spaced out into different “looks” Butler wears that I can buy. Each look fits into its own full window on my browser and helps to create an overall look that is very aesthetically pleasing. The photos also help to communicate gesturally. In the photos of Butler, he is always posing in an interesting and cool way. This draws my attention and reinforces the idea that he is awesome, and these clothes are awesome. While the page itself has no sound, there is a video at the top of the page that can be played that advertises Butler in the clothes. Sound is key in setting the tone in this video. Using old classical music gives the clothes an epic feel. This juxtaposed with Butler’s humorous narration makes the ad very fun to watch.  All in all the five modes of communication work well making me perceive Jimmy Butler and Bonobos clothes as a dynamic duel of coolness.

For my other text, I cheated the rules a little bit because this video is one I had previously seen. It is a Met Life ad that is one of the most beautiful and sad commercials I have ever seen. It is a little longer than a normal ad but communicates so much more than most. Linguistically it communicates through the narration of the little girl. Her words are first the happy and later the discouraged but hopeful ones that take us through the story. She is so young that it is impossible not to feel for her. Aurally the music set the somber tone for the ad. Visually and spatially the commercial does well at piecing together the highs and the lows of their lives. The distinct contrast of the two was very apparent and powerful to me. Visually is also where the gestural mode is communicated. Whether it is the sad face of the little girl who knows her dad lies; or the pained face of the dad doing one of his many odd jobs to support him and his daughter, the facial gestures and body language the actors use sells their story completely to the viewer. Overall it all contributed to moving me deeply, especially the first time I saw it, and making me consider big picture questions about life. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t make me want to buy insurance. I don’t think I am the intended audience, but it was beautiful none the less.

With this exercise opening my eyes to multimodal projects, I now see them everywhere. What I have found is they don’t often come in a similar time period, location, publication or similar types of texts, but rather are all around us all the time in everything. While I think Facebook and Twitter are the epicenters of multimodal texts, I think they are still abundantly evident on most website, commercial, memes, you name it. I think communicating in all modes is more effective than any single mode on its own. Seeing how well multimodal projects have communicated to me I think it’s imperative I make my e-portfolio one when the time comes.


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