Day-to-Day Multimodality

Out of the many texts I encountered this week, I chose four that qualify as very different types of media. The first text, a music video for Lawrence’s “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?, uses all five modes. The linguistic mode is crucial to the music video because the words of the song convey specific meanings and emotions, and the aural mode, since the sounds experienced by the listener come from the musicians’ musical choices. The spatial and gestural modes encompass the artists’ movements, facial expressions, dancing and arrangement in the room, helping Lawrence create a relaxed, casual and welcoming ambiance. Lastly, the visual mode plays a major role in the music video, because the living room setting and the funky, casual outfits of the musicians contribute to the overall feel of the video and the message of the song.

Another text I selected is Julia Alvarez’ In the Time of the Butterflies, a fictional novel about the four Mirabal sisters, who opposed the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. Since it’s a novel and the author’s meaning is conveyed through words, the text relies heavily on the linguistic mode. It also employs the spatial mode because the arrangement of the text affects the reader’s experience; each chapter is written in the perspective of a different sister.

This week, I also encountered a text in the form of a speech by Professor Joan Greve at my initiation into Beta Mu Epsilon, a professional Biomedical Engineering fraternity. Professor Greve spoke very briefly, touching on the mission of the fraternity and of biomedical engineering in general. She encouraged us to work dedicatedly in our field of choice. Professor Greve used the linguistic mode, selecting vocabulary that made her speech inspiring and engaging, as well as the aural mode, since we were listening to the speech and she had to choose which words and phrases to emphasize volume-wise. I think Professor Greve’s speech also employed the gestural mode because her facial expressions, stance and hand motions helped communicate her excitement and seriousness at different parts of the speech.

Lastly, I decided to analyze the written directions for an EECS 215 problem set. This text uses the linguistic mode, since it’s written, and the visual mode, since it included visual diagrams and examples to help students understand the content. It also uses the spatial mode because the order of the questions and pictures follows the order in which class material was taught.

The four texts I chose are very different in terms of form and purpose. Overall, I think the problem set and music video are the most different from one another, since they have such different audiences and messages. The one similarity I can identify is that the music video, speech and homework set are all very recent texts, while the novel was published in 1994. The two written texts, the novel and the homework set, are alike in their reliance on the linguistic and spatial modes to get the majority of the information across. The other two texts, the music video and speech, incorporate other modes to create meaning and impact the audience.

I find it interesting how all four texts use the linguistic mode, but in very different ways. As in the music video and speech, the meaning behind spoken or sung language is often supported by visual and gestural components, whereas authors of written texts need to rely more heavily on the linguistic mode to evoke emotion or communicate a message.

I particularly appreciate how the music video uses every single mode to create an ambiance. All five modes play into the upbeat, relaxed, low-key feel of the video. I realize that music videos allow for a lot of creativity because they can benefit from the affordances of all five modes, although I don’t think using fewer modes necessarily stifles creativity.

2 thoughts to “Day-to-Day Multimodality”

  1. Alice! I really liked how you juxtaposed so many different pieces with each other, because it really made your analysis of their mediums that much cooler. Your last sentence really made me think – I believed, when we first started learning about modality, that limiting yourself to fewer modes sort of placed limits on where you could go with your piece. Obviously, using fewer modes does not stifle creativity. In fact, it might force you to be more cognizant of the mode that you are using and be more creative in that regard.

  2. I think that the fact that you pointed out most texts depend primarily on linguistic mode is significant – this seems to be reflective of most texts that exist in the world. I think your observation that the other modes usually serve as complements to linguistic is also important and is telling of how people generally communicate. Pulling from very different types of texts was also a good choice – drawing the connection between a fictional novel and a math homework problem set would usually be a bit difficult, but when we look at it through the lens of mode analysis, they are actually very similar.

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