Multimodality in Everyday Texts

After reading Chapter 1 of Writer/Designer, I began to pay more attention to the modes used in texts I encounter in my everyday life. The 5 modes discussed in the chapter are: linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, and gestural. As I focused more on the texts I saw, I started to notice the use of these modes everywhere:

  • Gmail: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy (Youtube): Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Facebook: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • LinkedIn: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Handshake: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • The Forest and the Trees: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Graphic T-shirt: Linguistic, Visual Spatial
  • Rowing Poster: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Pleasantville (Movie): Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Canvas: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Google Calendar: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Philanthropy Video: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Sociology Powerpoints: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Psychology Articles: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Soymilk Container: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Menu at Angelo’s: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Michigan Agenda: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Internship Applications: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial
  • Instagram: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Snapchat: Linguistic, Aural, Visual, Spatial, Gestural
  • Flier in Ross: Linguistic, Visual, Spatial

While I may not have caught all the multimodal texts in my environment, I definitely noticed a lot more than I would have before reading this chapter. Looking at the list above, it’s easy to see that all of the texts I have encountered use linguistic, visual, and spatial modes. I attempted to look for texts that only used one mode, but it was impossible—multimodality is present in every text, the modes are just used in different ways and with varying degrees.

7/20 of these texts contained all 5 modes. Upon closer observation, I realized that all the texts I saw with all 5 modes are social media sites and videos, forms of entertainment. It is no surprise to me that forms of entertainment utilize all 5 modes, as their deliberate usage increases audience engagement. While social media sites and videos are comparatively new, forms of entertainment have always used these 5 modes, proving their effectiveness through the ages.

Perhaps the two most different texts were an internship application and Pleasantville, a movie. As you can see from one page of the application shown, Cisco only utilized linguistic, visual and spatial modes. The usage of the linguistic mode can be seen through the simple word choices, as well as the organization of the words into questions and answer choices. The visual mode contributes to the layout of the application as well as the black and white color scheme. The spatial mode accounts for the organization of the application in different “steps” as well as the arrangement of the questions. These modes are effectively used to create a simple and intuitive job application that doesn’t look to “busy”. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pleasantville uses the linguistic, aural, visual, spatial and gestural modes. The trailer for the movie can be viewed here: The linguistic mode is evidenced by the word choice as well as the delivery of the movie script. Music, sound effects, tone of voice, volume, and emphasis are heard through the aural mode. The organization and proximity between people/objects of each scene is arranged through the spatial mode. The gestural mode applies to every movement—on the face, hands, body—of all the actors in the movie. These modes are used to increase the entertainment value of the movie, capturing the attention of audience members by providing constant stimuli. The difference in the use of modes definitely contributes to how different these two texts are. It is extremely interesting to see how these modes work in different types of texts, catering to the various functions of the texts.

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