Multimodal Texts Over a Weekend

Over the weekend, I jotted down a few of the multimodal texts I came across and a brief description of each of them. In this blog post, I expanded upon the descriptions to include commentary on the similarities and differences between the various texts.


  • Trevor Noah YouTube video – Trump 8-Ball skit:


This is a YouTube video in which Trevor Noah’s team creates a short clip mimicking a TV commercial. The clip advertises the “Trump Magic 8-Ball”, an 8-Ball that when shaken, plays a short clip of Donald Trump speaking vaguely, such as “We will see.” The entire video combines all modes – visual, linguistic, aural, spatial, and gestural.

In regards to the visual mode, the skit presented in the video includes a clearly diverse cast of children, which is one of the many elements set up to contrast Trump and what he generally stands for. An element of linguistic mode is in the form of the dialogue between the children, and from Noah himself as he introduces the video with current events and the general context. Aural and spatial modes come into play with the cheery music added to the background of the mock advertisement and with how the children are placed in a semi-circle for full viewing and the 8-Ball passed around them being a focal point. The children hug each other and don’t have qualms about sitting close to each other; gesturally speaking, they represent what – again – the opposite of what Trump stands for.


  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite reads from this past year, and although I didn’t read it recently, I was in the library and I saw it so I picked it up and flipped through. I had nearly forgotten its beautiful illustrations, and how it adds to the written story.

Formally, this book combines linguistic with visual modes. The linguistic mode is simply the written story, and the visual mode is the illustrated component. What’s most interesting about Neverwhere’s text and illustration duo is that Neverwhere is very much from the fantasy genre, and so the illustrations would supposedly give some idea as to what the magical creatures and fictional environments would look like. However, this is not the case; the illustrations are at most pointers in the right direction – some of the illustrations are of the back of character’s heads. Ultimately, the illustrations somehow simultaneously add another layer of mystery and a layer of clarity to the story; they give visual evidence that this fantasy world exists, but the reader still cannot see it perfectly because they don’t live in that world.


  • Facebook invite to BYX event 


One of my friends is in BYX, a Christian fraternity on campus, and he often invites me to their (dry) parties. I really enjoy their Facebook invites, because like the above, they typically combine linguistic and visual modes: a photo to represent the theme of the party (last Friday’s was a USA themed party so the picture had red, blue, and white hues stamped over an image of a rager) and a text describing the event. One of my favorite parts of the linguistic mode is that they frequently refer to the beverages offered at their parties as ‘Jesus Juice’; zesty and non-alcoholic. It adds to the appeal of the event; it’s a fun, brief description coupled with an image that conveys the vibe of the party without being too flashy or too simplistic.

This multimodal piece is most different from the Trevor Noah video. Although the two texts have overlapping modes used, the ways in which they use the modes are very different. Noah’s visuals are within a video, and feature subjects (the kids and the 8-Ball), while the Facebook invite has a single still image that does not feature any one thing in particular but rather depicts colors and a vague picture. Noah’s linguistic mode comes through in the spoken dialogue between the children and his own comments; the invite has an ambiguously authored paragraph that reaches a wide audience.

Interestingly enough, they are similar in where they come from – both pieces are digitally distributed and published within the same month.


  • Poster in the Duderstadt to join a club


In the Duderstadt, there’s a long cork board just inside the entrance that’s just for student organizations, programs, and events to put up flyers. The other day, I saw a poster for a new college class that would combine engineering with music. The gist was that people interested in computer programming and music theory would enjoy the class, and not that much more information was provided. In regards to spatial mode, the name of the course was the largest and boldest font and it was placed in the center of the poster. Underneath and in second largest font was a question surveying interest: “Do you love coding? Do you love music?” Something like that.

This is very similar to the Facebook invitation; not necessarily because they use the exact same modes, but the overlapping modes are used in a very specific way. Both use linguistic modes for brief, succinct descriptions and use visuals simply to complement the text rather than take attention away. Their place of origin is not necessarily the same – the Facebook invite is digital and can reach specific individuals and the poster is in a physical location that is available for passerby to glance over. This, coupled with the origins of the Trevor Noah video and the Facebook invite leads to the conclusion that similarity between multimodal texts must not strictly depend on when and where two pieces are published.


2 thoughts to “Multimodal Texts Over a Weekend”

  1. I like how you drew comparisons between the Facebook invite and the poster. Although one is digital and the other on paper, they serve very similar functions and employ the linguistic, visual and spatial modes in very similar ways. The one main difference is audience — because it’s online, the Facebook invite can be sent to a target audience or spread to a much wider audience. The paper notice can be placed in a specific spot, but can’t be targeted in any other way, and its reach is limited.

    Your comments on the Gaiman book made wonder whether authors can invoke the visual mode without using actual pictures or diagrams. If an author writes a vivid description that makes the reader “see” something in their mind, is that a use of the visual mode?

  2. First of all, I love Neil Gaiman! Neverwhere has been on my “To Read” list for months.
    One of the more interesting comparisons I saw here was between the Facebook event invitation and the flyer – I thought it was really interesting that though these two pieces use the same modes, their entire purpose is existing. The FB event has a significantly more casual connotation than the flyer, though both are essentially informational. Your post reminded me that modes are more foundational than they are limiting.

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