In searching for examples of multimodality around me, I wanted to hone in on what people don’t often consider texts for the purpose of this assignment. Whether it be a financial spreadsheet or a grocery store receipt, we often overlook how those texts are formatted visually, spatially, linguistically and aurally or gesturally if presented that way. Over the last few days, I noticed a few examples of texts that requested further understanding into why the elements of that texts are arranged as such. In this assignment, I contrast the the grocery store receipt and the romantic comedy, compare the vintage circus sign and the modern billboard advertisement, and discuss why Ted Talks are effective.
The Grocery Store Receipt vs. Romantic Comedy
Date noticed: Sept. 22, 2017
These two are examples of texts that are vastly different in rhetorical situation. The grocery store receipt is a series of tightly arranged lines containing an item and a price. The linguistic goals are to inform the grocery shopper of factual information of what was purchase. Aural and gestural modes of communication are absent. Visually, a receipt is just black text overlaid on a narrow white strip of thin paper. It relies heavily on the linguistic mode to serve the purpose of its existence. Spatially, it is not designed for the shopper to marvel at it’s beauty but rather to save paper thus the tightly spaced lines. In contrast, the romantic comedy movie serves an entirely different rhetorical situation and thus differs in audience, situation, and purpose. The romantic comedy, or rom-com, comes through the visual format to tell a story about two people who are somehow emotionally attached. Within the film, the blocking of the characters composes the spatial element of that format. The audience reacts to certain scenes and shots based on the characters gestures among other elements. The script, the words spoken by actors, comprises the linguistic mode of communication. Aural and gestural modes are conveyed through the acting, which attempts to mimic realism. Therefore, the two texts are different in nearly every characteristic of their existence.
Vintage Cotton Candy Sign and the Modern Fanta Billboard Advertisement
Date thought of: Sept. 23, 2017
After watching a tv show (American Horror Story; Freak Show), I noticed the font of a vintage circus sign and found myself comparing it to a modern billboard sign. Both texts had similar rhetorical situations: an image of a product with visually appealing colors and design with the purpose of attracting and maybe informing customers of that food/beverage product. Both offer visually and spatially pleasing information to look at; the colors, the arrangement of the imagery relative to the framing. The visual mode is the appropriate approach when trying to sell a product to consumers and these signs attempt to entice customers through attractive imagery lacking the linguistic mode. Both images are not filled with information, they are meant to be simple to look at with a hope of planting the thought of that product in the consumer’s mind.
Date realized: Sept. 24th, 2017
I was able to find one example of a ‘text’ that use all five modes of communication (linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, gestural). The TED, as it was called in its first appearance in 1984, began as an event where the two founders could demo items such as the compact disc and 3D graphics for an audience. The brand lost money and failed to excite audiences until they began to use other members to share their stories. Attracting speakers that were scientists, philosophers, musicians, business leaders, and more became an effective way to capture the attention of curious, open-minded audiences. The company officially became a non-profit organization in 2001 designing the brand that we see today in 2017: seeking the most interesting people on Earth and letting them communicate their passion.
Over the last fifteen years, what had transformed into TED Talks had accumulated interest and had become an established platform for interesting people to share ideas worth spreading. If you were a psychologist with something that needed to be publicly known, your goal was to become a TED speaker. Even today, it’s easy to get swept away with the over 1400 existing TED talks one can find on the internet. But what makes their videos so effective in capturing audiences and delivering important messages?
The purpose of TED Talks are to share ideas worth spreading, yet when looking closer at the structure of their presentations, they utilize each of the communication modes to entertain their audience as much as possible. Aside from the speakers use relatable topics such as happiness, knowledge, ethics, food, or psychology, they tap into the best qualities of every form of communication to deliver the most enjoyable experience possible.
The first mode of communication utilized is the visual mode. By pairing the speakers words with visual depictions of the content, they are strengthening their argument and drawing focus to something interesting outside of their own voice. Rather than just say Mickey Mantle was the best Yankees baseball player, they will show a picture in tandem to give a face to the name. There is small gray area where visual information adds value to a presentation rather than distracting, confusing, or even irritating the audience. The the slide decks are clean and empty of any words that would require the viewer to deter their attention from the speaker. Yet the pictures also effectively complement the speaker’s words to enhance the viewer’s experience. The successful TED speaker maximizes the benefits of visual storytelling to improve their own presentation.
The speakers also employ aural channels of communication to create an interesting dialogue that maintains the audience’s curiosity throughout the talk. Captivating speakers employ verbal patterns, strategies and rhetoric that are intended to be effective. By fluctuating their voice tone, volume and pitch, their incorporating variety into their presentation that is far more enjoyable than monotonous fact reporting. They put emphasis on certain words that attune the audience to the message they are communicating. We can infer the speakers are not reading off scripts or memorizing their lines from their conversational approach..
Even the titles of their presentation impact whether viewers will choose to listen. Personally, I would sooner click on a video titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (Simon Sinek) over a presentation titled “Learning from Leadership’s Missing Manual” (Fields Wicker-Miurin). The linguistic techniques used by speakers matter immensely. Word choices is all too important in these videos as they tend to be the first impression on a viewer in those first ten seconds. The successful speakers are forward with their content, making short but intriguing claims such as “On a given day, studies show that you may be lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times” (How to Spot a Liar, Pamela Meyer) before diving into an explanation. At a TED Conference, the speaker has only eighteen minutes to share their story. Therefore, any moment they spend validating a claim is wasted time and will bore the audience. Linguistic choices made by speakers have the power to enrapture an audience or lull it to sleep.
The reason viewers watch TED Talks rather than just read about the findings of a study or theory online is because of the public speaking element. Each of the speakers convey a stage presence that’s noticeably charismatic. They use their hands in a way that opens the audience to trusting them. And it is the use of these nonverbal communication techniques that drive the success of TED Talks. Unlike your high school public speaking class, nobody is pacing or making untimely, awkward gestures. TED speakers speak to everyone in the audience with eye contact that sweeps the entire audience. Often, they smile to communicate confidence and intelligence. Their gestures are warm, displaying approachability, and openness. Never has there been a successful, motivational speaker that has had poor posture or arms folded at the chest. They utilize specific to gestures that assist in their ethos and pathos. And we as the audience subconsciously open up to a speaker that gestures to their openness.
TED talks also utilize the spatial mode of communicating in a unique way that written texts cannot compare. Through video editing, TED manipulates the way audiences view the speakers and their presentations. In any given TED Talk on the internet, the viewer will notice that it’s not just one long take of someone speaking. The video interchanges between various camera angles, jumping from the speaker to a shot of their powerpoint. Dramatic points are further enhanced through close up shots of their face. Moments of explanation are sometimes paired with a shot that pans over the audience. The constant variety of how we view the TED Talk is an example of how their utilizing spatial modes of communicating their presentations.
Because of the way TED has been able to engage their audiences in every available form of communication, they have risen to the pinnacle of public speaking, idea sharing, and unique storytelling.