What are Multimodal Projects?

In chapter 1 of “Writer/Designer,” the authors introduce the concept of multimodal projects. They describe the five basic modes that can makeup such projects: visual, aural, linguistic, spatial, and gestural. Anytime more than one of these modes is used for some form of expression, that piece of communication is multimodal. In keeping an eye out for multimodality, I have been surprised as to how much of what we encounter is multimodal. When somebody speaks, they usually combine the aural, linguistic, and gestural modes in their communication. Articles, advertisements, street signs, and logos are all multimodal. Videos and commercial advertisements often combine all five modes to communicate. We encounter multimodality constantly. Over the last couple of days, a few multimodal projects have stood out to me, each in different ways.

This Paper and Packaging commercial uses all five modes to illustrate why their product is important. Click the YouTube link to watch, but be prepared to feel feelings by the end.


I found this commercial to be emotionally appealing, but also very successful in displaying the value of their product. The visual mode is what the viewer sees on screen – the little kid, the letters, the next door neighbor, the pictures of the boy and his father, and the paper and crayons. The aural mode consists of the piano and the soothing singing voice in the background. Linguistically, the narrator tells a story throughout the commercial. There is also the content of the letters that the viewer can briefly see, and the quick advertisement at the end, showing the company’s name and slogan. Spatially, each scene is shot with a purpose. I love the image in the last scene, pictured above, where the boy is full of wonder and elation at his dad’s return letters. The gestural mode is used mostly with the boy’s facial expressions, but also with the expressions of the father, neighbor, and mother. Their expressions communicate concern and loneliness, but then eventually elation and wonder. I’ve watched several commercials just over the past couple of days that use all five modes, but this one was my favorite.



I came across this electronic Dodgers billboard online, and noticed that it uses three modes of communication. It uses the visual mode by including the appealing logo and coloring it with different shades of Dodger blue. The spatial mode is critical in this billboard. There is a large countdown clock that takes up most of the space. There is not much going on besides this, making the countdown really pop. The billboard also displays the linguistic mode with the context for the countdown: “It’s time for Dodger baseball in:” Coupled with the countdown, this builds excitement for the upcoming Dodger game.


The above VICE Sports article discusses some of the injustices involved in the production of the Olympic games. The author uses the visual mode to aid his argument with pictures of the Olympic rings, the IOC hotel, and the Olympic committee. Spatially, the webpage is laid out with the text, the pictures, and the advertisements off to the side (which are their own multimodal presentations). Most obviously, the article uses the linguistic mode to communicate its point. The author uses logic, emotional appeals, and sensory details in the midst of his article.

All three of the texts are for quite different purposes. The Dodger billboard is attempting to build excitement about opening day for a baseball team, the Paper and Packaging commercial is advertising for their more simple product, and the article is attempting to convey a point to an audience. Yet despite their differences, they all use modern technology (video, TV, HD photography, etc.) to combine different modes in an attempt to most effectively communicate to the consumer of the texts.

To me, the article and the billboard are the most different from each other. The article is a sophisticated, complex form of argument that mostly uses the linguistic mode. Meanwhile, the billboard’s most important mode is the spatial mode. It is also fundamentally simple, using the premise of time as a medium for building anticipation. The article, on the other hand, uses logic as a means for articulating an argument. What’s interesting is that the article and the billboard both use the same three modes (visual, spatial, and linguistic), yet I see them as the most different. The commercial lies somewhere in between. It uses words to communicate a story and a pitch for its product, but it is also visually appealing and extremely reliant on the video clips.

Ultimately, all three multimodal projects are united by the purpose of communication to a modern audience. In each of the three examples, there are elements of presentation that we will also have to utilize in the creation of our ePortfolios.



Planning Project 1

In “My Body, My Weapon, My Shame,” Elwood Reid reflects on his football career, commenting on several aspects of the twisted culture that football surrounded him with throughout high school and college. Although he doesn’t reveal it in his piece, most of the story takes place at the University of Michigan, where he donned the pads as an offensive lineman for the Wolverines. Reid comes to discover that playing football at Michigan is more than a big time commitment and a physical grind – there is a truckload of extra baggage that being a Division 1 athlete comes with. There is the constant pressure to please coaches and teammates – to become what they want. Reid discusses this in his story, opening up about the drudgery that he put himself through to fit their image. Specifically, how he destroyed his body for it, and how he put aside his individuality for the sake of becoming a “fella.”

Image result for elwood reid
Elwood Reid, author of “My Body, My Weapon, My Shame”

Reid’s story is so powerful because it is revealing and honest. His depiction of the locker rooms he participated in, the parties he attended, and the practices he suffered through is shocking and painful to read. The sensory details in his writing allows the reader to feel each practice, and see each event in his story: “My arms dangle from my shoulders, bloodless and weak, forcing me to deliver the blows with my head and helmet. The coaches scream when I am slow to rise after the whistle. And when the pills wear off, the numbness is replaced by a hot poker of pain, and a dull, crunching sound in my neck.” As a reader, I was suddenly aware of my own joints and muscles as I sympathized with his frustrating physical toil. His tone is also matter-of-fact, letting the stark reality of his experience speak for itself.

In telling his own story, Reid also manages to shed light on several bigger issues: celebrity sports culture, mob mentality, gender norms in sports, and objectification of the body. Reid uses similes to illustrate how he felt about some of these issues, and about how he felt as a middle-of-the-road Big Ten football player, functioning as a mere cog in a larger than life operation. He recalls his recruiting experience when “college scouts…eyed me coming out of the shower as if I were a horse they might someday bid for at an auction.” Later, he describes the way his college coaches would “stand there looking at us the way a mechanic eyes his socket-wrenches, as tools to be picked up, used, and thrown aside.” Over time, Reid begins to objectify himself, referring to his own body as “it.” The similes here effectively depict the objectification of athletes by some of Reid’s coaches – they aren’t people, they are tools used for attaining victory, like pieces in a game of chess.

Reid’s story (linked below) resonated with me on many personal levels, but the feelings he portrayed and the struggles he painted are applicable to many different situations. The story is also eye-opening, casting a revealing light on something that is so idolized in our society. For my re-purposing project, I plan to reflect on my experience as a student manager and eventual walk-on player for the Varsity Basketball Team here at U-M. But in addition to telling my own story, I mostly want to comment on the sports culture at this school, which often troubles me. There are many parallels between my story and Elwood Reid’s. I hope that, using Reid as an example, I am able to relate to my audience, tell an interesting story, communicate something worthy of my reader’s time, and provoke some thought.

My Body, My Weapon, My Shame

Response to How Writing Leads to Thinking

For the entirety of my short writing career, I relied on a rigid, formulaic process designed to complete any writing assignment thrown at me. It went like this: read the assignment, think about what I want to say, write a detailed outline, and then carefully write a couple paragraphs per day until my first draft (which was often my final draft) was complete. I mastered this methodology, and it usually produced success both in terms of grades and in terms of my satisfaction as a writer. But after attending a few classes in the Minor in Writing program and after reading “How Writing Leads to Thinking,” I have come to a couple realizations. I now understand that the type of writing that I will be doing in this class is unlike any other kind of writing that I have done before. This will call for a new creative process (probably one that allows more flexibility, and probably one that is actually, well, creative). My prior writing process worked for the classic essay assignments that I have always been asked to do, but it won’t produce any satisfying piece of art in this class. Also, by reading about the art of writing, I understand that writing is so much more than what it can appear to be. Writing is about communication, and struggling over how to do so most effectively. Writing is a painstaking, frustrating, and worthy struggle that is owed more than just one outline and one draft; it is owed a deeper, and more creative process. Writing is about discovery of thought and about self-discovery. It is my hope that if I really engage in the curriculum for the Minor in Writing, I can discover new ideas, unlock my more creative side, and say something important to my readers along the way. I am intimidated by the blank screens that will have to turn into my ePortfolio, but I am also excited and willing to really get started.