What are Multimodal Projects?

The biggest takeaway for me from the first chapter of “Writer/Designer” by Kristin L. Arola, Jennifer Sheppard and Cheryl E. Ball was that pretty much everything we take in, from advertisements to articles to essays to bad memes, is multimodal. What does multimodal mean, though? According to the authors, “multimodal describes how we combine multiple different ways of communicating in everyday life” (Arola et al. 1). There are five modes: visual, linguistic, aural, spatial and gestural. In reading how different works incorporate different modes, it is clear that they play off of each other to create an engaging and effective piece of medium for the viewer, reader, and/or listener.

In preparing for this assignment, I thought back to a movie trailer I recently watched. The movie is called A Dog’s Purpose, and though it sounds sappy and cliche (which it is), this does not deter me from seeing the movie upon it’s release. Why? Well, anyone who loves, owns, or merely tolerates dogs can see how this trailer uses all five modes to appeal to the desired audience. The trailer obviously uses the visual mode to give the viewer a small taste of what they can watch if they go to the theaters to see the movie. It showcases different dogs, which appeals to the viewer if they prefer a certain breed or dislike another. I personally rejoiced when I saw that the movie has multiple scenes of a corgi, as my family owns one. In my eyes, the visual mode was indeed effective. The linguistic mode is used throughout the trailer to give the movie it’s tagline: “The ones we rescue… Rescue us,” a thought that will stick with the viewer in a relatable way, because many people watching the trailer have probably owned a dog, perhaps even rescued it from a shelter. This tagline resonates with the viewer on an emotional and personal level, proving to be an effective use of the linguistic mode. The movie trailer also uses aural mode to convey feeling through music and narration. It uses an upbeat song to keep the viewer in a happy place even when a scene is just plain sad. Through aural mode, it is revealed that the dog is the narrator…yes, a talking dog movie. However, they picked a voice actor that didn’t go cartoonish with the voice, and so the dog comes across as an easygoing and funny character, how I’m sure all dog owners imagine their dogs must be. Spatial mode is used to organize the scenes into a chronological series of events, yet it also uses a video montage to capture scenes that don’t need narration behind them. Finally, gestural mode is used because we see the interactions between humans and their dogs, a key part of this movie and of drawing the viewer in through relatable scenarios, such as playing fetch or cuddling with a dog.

A second example of a multimodal text I found is this article from Timeline about the idea of hobbies in American society today and how they are turned into a “side hustle” or way to make money on the side of also having a full-time job. The article uses several modes to argue it’s point, that in current times we focus too much on how to capitalize on the things we love, while in the past, a hobby was used as an outlet for creativity, passion, and simply to get away from the daily grind. The article uses linguistic mode to portray most of it’s argument, as it is the most pertinent form of communication for this type of argument, in which the author explains her opinions with clear support and examples through anecdotes and statistics. The article also uses visual mode to show the reader pictures from an older time, when hobbies were not so shrouded in an ulterior motive, but purely done for enjoyment’s sake. The spatial mode is also used by the author to arrange her images in such a way that they help the piece flow. She doesn’t put all of the pictures at the top of the post, because it’s unlikely that the reader will scroll up and back down over and over during the reading process. She smartly intersperses them between large blocks of text, to give the reader a break from reading and also to give supplemental support of her argument.

These texts are surely different from each other, but both effectively use different modes to convey their messages. Movie trailers almost always utilize each of the five modes, because movie editors want to incorporate into the trailer all the ways that a movie can be experienced. In contrast with that, an argumentative article needn’t use every mode if it diminishes the effect that the article can have on the reader. Less is sometimes more.

I look forward to using different modes in this class to draw in my audience and help them see and understand what I passionately create and argue.

What are Multimodal Projects?

When I first heard the word “multimodal,” I thought it was going to refer to a very specific style of writing.  I was expecting guidelines. I was surprised to find out that multimodal projects exist everywhere.  I see them when I am browsing Facebook, when I am researching for a paper, when an ad comes on Pandora – literally everywhere.  A multimodal project is what it sounds like: a piece of work that has multiple modes.  In this piece, I learned that there are five specific modes of communication in multimodal projects: linguistic, visual, aural, gestural, and spatial.  Today I will be exploring a few of my favorite multimodal projects – some new and some old.  I am excited to reverse engineer each project as each has resonated differently with me.

LA Times

The first multimodal project I want to draw your attention to is a piece written by the LA Times last month.  I could spend the entire blog post writing about this piece – as there is so much to say and reverse engineer – but I will refrain from getting into too much detail here for the sake of variety.  You can find the entire story here.   In short, the piece is a 6-Part Mystery about a PTA mom who was framed.  The online article is interactive and has actual 911 calls, videos, pictures, and testimonials from the case.

Actual 911 call that plays when scrolling down the article. The text is highlighted when it is spoken. Click the box to hear and watch the call take place.

 

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this piece is that not only was it super interesting to read, but it had an overlap of every mode of communication: spatial, visual, linguistic, aural, and gestural.  When they referenced the 911 call in the writing, I was about to Google it to see if I could find it online to hear it.  Then the audio started playing as I scrolled further to read the transcripts.  It was effortless and yet so effective. Without the addition of the audio from the 911 call, the transcripts highlighting as they are read aloud, the videos of actual testimonies at trial, and the various other forms of incorporated media – I do not think that this story would be as powerful or as interesting as it has now become. I highly recommend that everyone go check it out.

 

youtube-logo-full_color

The second multimodal project that I want to draw attention to is Youtube.  I do not know how many of you are active Youtube viewers, but I watch my subscriptions every day and it has become part of my daily routine.  I actually go home looking forward to curling up in bed with No Thai and watching Youtube videos for hours.  The Youtube community has taken off in the past 5 years with many Youtubers now able to make their living solely off of the ads on the videos.  I am not entirely sure on what all factors into how much a Youtube makes, but I do know that views on videos plays an important role.  This being said, many Youtubers have been accused of using ‘clickbait’ to gain viewers.  For example, titling their video “ARE WE BREAKING UP?” when the video is not at all about their relationship actually ending.  Viewers have grown more and more annoyed of this craze, especially after finding out how much Youtubers make from views.  Trisha Paytas, a Youtube who I have watched for years, is famous for doing this – so much so that her audience has learned to take nothing seriously.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-4-50-28-pm
The photos above are the thumbnails of the videos before you click to watch them.  Sometimes a thumbnail may not even be from the video at all.  Rather, Youtubers will create a thumbnail to draw more attention.  These are multimodal projects because they combine linguistic (the title of the video) with spatial and visual (how the thumbnail is organized).  One could also examine the aural aspect of Youtube videos as well as the gestural.  The gestures being made in the above thumbnails are very distinct from each other and suggest different things.  For example, Trish uses emojis to edit her thumbnails.  If she would have used a laughing face rather than a scared face for her “WE WERE ALMOST MURDERED!” thumbnail, we would know that something funny happened in the video (or perhaps not because clickbait, but you know what I mean). We are able to read the texts with different emotions even if the titles/thumbnails are clickbait.

Lastly, I would like look at a multimodal project that has taken comedy to a new level.  GIFs have taken over the internet and I am not complaining.  One of my favorite things to do is tweet something and then use a GIF as my reaction.  For those who don’t know what a GIF is – let me change your life.  Imagine adding your favorite line from a TV show or movie to explain how you feel – but rather than just playing the scene aloud, you can watch it happen over and over again without the need of audio.  Often times, a GIF will use subtitles if they are needed.  Twitter’s multimodal project of  incorporating GIFs has changed the Twitter platform for good.  They have even made it easy to insert a GIF by creating a dropdown menu sorted by reactions for all your GIF needs.

The dropdown box on Twitter that allows you to choose a gif to add to your tweet.
The dropdown box on Twitter that allows you to choose a gif to add to your tweet.

 

I love the use of linguistic, visual, and gestural modes here. GIFs give users the ability to make “moving” images that play in an infinite loop.  Rather than a static image, the gestures have movement and thus are easier to interpret.  What is interesting about GIFs is that the same GIF could be applied to thousands of words.  For example, the GIF below is associated with 2016 as a whole but I could also use it to explain how my weekend went. There is so much hidden meaning in using GIFs and the comedic aspect has made them popular among internet users.

200w_d

Before reading “What Are Multimodal Projects?” I was unaware of all the texts that I use in every day life.  I never thought of audio recordings or Youtube videos or GIFs as anything more than forms of media in their truest form: audio or visual.  There is so much more that factors into how we perceive certain texts and so much more that goes into crafting those perceptions.  It is fascinating just how many different modes of communication can be found in one multimodal project.

 

 

Planning Project 1

When I first read the article, “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” by Lori Gottlieb from the Atlantic for a class in high school, I knew I wanted to become a psychologist. It was a profession I had thought about before since I like helping people and have always noticed the behaviors of people around me, however Gottlieb’s account of her psychology practice drew me in even more. The article was written so well– even though I was in my teens, did not know what being a parent was like, and did not know how psychologists did what they did, I was able to follow the article and stay engaged.

The article leads the reader through a mystery– why young adults struggle to feel happy and satisfied despite them having what seemed to be a fulfilling childhood and parents that were “…nothing to complain about” (Gottlieb, 2011). This article allowed me to see how complex and unpredictable human psychology is, and I remembered it ever since the first time I read it.

The article begins by introducing the writer, who adds a personal aspect to the reading by using the first person. She continues to include a personal account of her journey to find the hidden reason behind a problem that many of her patients had in common, which causes the reader to feel like they are embarking on the journey with her, gathering evidence and knowledge that will eventually lead to some explanation.

The author poses questions to the reader, which contributes to establishing a connection between writer and reader, something that I hope to achieve in my project. After going through the accounts her patients gave of their comfortable childhoods, Gottlieb questions, “Was it possible these parents had done too much?” (Gottlieb, 2011). She then goes on to explain why she came up with this question, keeping her readers informed and involved. Gottlieb almost involves the reader in her process of exploration, keeping them on their toes to be prepared to make hypotheses based on the gathered evidence with her.

Gottlieb intertwines work from other writers and mental health doctors who have researched the connection between what aspects of life leads to happiness. In doing this, Gottlieb creates a personal narrative that goes even farther and teaches her reader helpful background information that contributes to her story.

Even though her article includes a lot of research about the subject she investigates with psychology, the personal element is still emphasized to her readers. She connects the research back to her own life. This is especially evident in the last paragraph of her article when she says recounts a therapy session with a patient and how she “…nodded like a therapist, and then…answered like a parent” (Gottlieb). This causes the reader to see her as not only a professional in the psychology field, but also a human who has vulnerability just like her patients.

This article represents a piece of writing that I think is both excellently written, and one that I wish to emulate in some ways for Project 1. I wish to emulate its sense of exploration, personal connection with the reader, and honesty that comes through in Gottlieb’s account of her psychology practice and experience as a parent. I want my readers to learn about my story not in an upfront, immediate way. I would like to explore my own story throughout my writing piece just as my readers do. I would like to connect the underlying message of my piece my life as a whole so that my readers can do the same.

 

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.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-2-10-10-pm

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.

LA DODGERS BILLBOARD:

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-1-10-41-pm

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.

https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/the-rio-games-were-an-unjustifiable-human-disaster-and-so-are-the-olympics

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.

 

 

What Are Multimodal Projects?

The first chapter of Writer/Designer by Kristin Arola, Jennifer Sheppard and Cheryl Ball introduces the concept of “multimodality,” a technique for communicating, that does indeed require one to be a writer and designer. A multimodal text is one which combines multiple forms of communication in order to get a message across. Without the combination of all these elements, the audience would not understand the message in the same way.

For example, think of the commercial about animal cruelty with Sarah McLachlan. This commercial sends an incredibly strong, emotional message– one that makes some television viewers immediately want to change the channel (including me). How does the 2-minute commercial do it? By combining different modes. The song in the background, the images of the suffering dogs, and the content of the narrator’s spoken words about the animal cruelty that is happening all trigger sadness and make your heart ache. This commercial reaches a wide array of viewers through its use of the aural, visual, and linguistic modes.

There are five modes of communication:

  1. The linguistic mode has to do with the language and words used in a text.
  2. The visual mode has to do with what is available for the audience to see, or not see, in a text.
  3. The aural mode involves what the audience can hear in a text.
  4. The spatial mode regards the way a text is laid out.
  5. The gestural mode has to do with the way movements and gestures convey meaning in a text.

(Arola, Kristin L., Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl Ball E. “What Are Multimodal Projects?” Writer/designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 1-19. Print.)


I have collected some multimodal texts that I’ve come across in the past couple days.

  • Spoon University Article (http://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/14-college-food-fails/)

On my Facebook newsfeed, I saw a link for a Spoon University article. It was titled “14 College Food Fails via Twitter.” The article’s word choice is geared toward an audience of college students who are reading the article casually, for fun and to see if they can relate. The word choice reflects this, because it is straightforward and includes generational words like, “YOLO.” Each picture of a food-fail tweet includes a caption beneath it, which is organized into short sentences that humorously summarize where the college “cook” went wrong. This represents the linguistic mode of the article.

The article also involves the visual mode. There are some images of disgusting meals, or screenshots of the tweets about these disgusting meals. The pictures of the moldy bread, bugs in ice cream, and pizza for breakfast entertain the reader and add a sense of shock.

The spatial mode is evident as well. The article shows the tweets and images in a list format, with each food no-no numbered on the side.

 

  • Video found on Facebook newsfeed (https://www.facebook.com/thisisinsiderdesign/videos/343207226020913/)

This video is another example of a multimodal text. First, the linguistic mode shows the concise captions that run throughout the video of the intricate puzzles. They are short and sweet and give the viewer just the right amount of information.

The video is visual, and shows close-up views of the carefully designed puzzle pieces and a hand putting them into place. This perspective allows the audience to be even more entranced by how each puzzle piece fits so perfectly.

The video is aural, and uses a monotonous soundtrack that provides a steady rhythm so the viewer can concentrate on what is being portrayed in the visuals.

The video also employs the gestural mode through the hand movement that is required to put each puzzle piece into place. The hand is calm, steady, and careful, which contributes to the tone of the “soothing” video.

  • Meme on Instagram
meme from @memes on Instagram
meme from @memes on Instagram

This meme combines the linguistic, visual, and spatial modes. The caption is carefully chosen to summarize the situation that the image represents. Its word choice reflects the effort to cause the meme to be as “relatable” as possible.

The meme is visual in the way that it portrays a single image. This image represents the “not knowing what someone means even after they try to tell you multiple times” situation, and the feelings that come with that situation.

The meme is spatially designed so that the caption and image are completely separate, instead of placing the text on the image itself.


All of these texts come from the current time of technology and social media. I accessed all of them on either Facebook or Instagram. None of these instances of multimodal texts include ALL five modes of communication, however those super-multimodal texts are definitely out there.

The texts that I have included in this post are similar in the sense that they all attempt to make the audience feel at ease. The Spoon University article is there to comfort college kids and give them alternatives to the nasty food they often find themselves eating. The puzzle-making video is captioned as “soothing” on Facebook. And the meme is to simply make people chuckle a little during their day.

These texts are similar but also different. The Spoon University article and the meme are most different from each other I would say. The article is written to spread valuable information that will last, while the meme provides some quick humor. The modes in the article are put together so that they can spread the information in an entertaining yet informative way, while the modes in the meme are geared merely towards entertaining.

Now I can’t help but continue to notice all the modes in the texts around me. Multimodality is effective and everywhere.

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

Planning Project 1

I was in sixth grade when my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. These are words I have typed before and I will continue typing for the rest of my life.  I will never type the words, “My mom was cured” and coming to accept that has been a challenge on its own.  Having gone back and forth between deciding if I wanted to make my ePortfolio professional or personal – I realized that I will get so much more out of this course if I follow my heart and write honestly.  I recently read a piece written by Maya Wileke, a MS warrior, that addressed the disease head-on.  Needless to say, it was my jam.  This open letter is something that I want to emulate. I also find it to be excellently written and crafted in such a powerfully artistic way. You can find her piece here.

Multiple Sclerosis.

You’re here. 

Why did you choose me when there were so many other people you could have picked?

Wileke opens with the million dollar question that I have been asking for 8 years. Why my mom?  What did she do to deserve this? The spatial arrangement of her words adds so much to the way I read the piece.  I take a pause after each line and there is a purpose behind every word.  There is something so powerful about having You’re here stand alone. Multiple Sclerosis takes over your life.  It is never invited.  MS is the pessimistic, mean, and life-sucking uncle that no one wants to come to Thanksgiving dinner.  But he shows up every year. And every year he brings a worse side dish.  You’re here.

I enjoy this piece because it reminds me of my mom.  Here’s the truth about MS but here is also her truth: she is not MS.  Wileke transitions from roasting MS to sticking up for herself and declaring her victory.

You don’t own me MS, you don’t get praise for having me. No matter how bad you treat me in the future, I will own you instead.

You’re you and I’m me. One thing I will never lose is the knowledge that I conquered you. Perhaps not physically, but mentally I am stronger than you.

You’re here to stay, but I won.

I won yesterday.

I win today.

And I will win tomorrow also.

Personalizing MS makes venting a little easier.  Again, Wileke’s spatial arrangement has transformed her words into triumphs.  She speaks to the past, the present, and the future.  We cannot dwell on the fact that MS has no cure, we must instead continue fighting and continue living. That day in sixth grade was hard.  Sixth grade was also when “ur mom” jokes were popular.  Let’s just say it was poor timing for a fad.  But you know what?  MS has not destroyed me – it has given me a mother who continuously inspires me to live unapologetically and fearlessly.  I won. I have her.

I can hear my mom when I read this piece and I think that’s what I admire so much about it.  I plan to read more open letters addressing MS as I plan my first project.  However, I do not want to write anything that has been written before.  I want to spread awareness of this awful disease, but I also want to create a place where children of other MS warriors can come and feel understood.  Let’s see what I can do.

My mom and I at this year's MS Walk in Lansing.
My mom and I at this year’s MS Walk in Lansing.

 

What Are Multimedia Projects Post

My mom believes that anything can be cured with the right mixture of herbs. Passion Flower, Kava Kava, English Lavender, Kola Nut. I’ve never actually seen these plants- for all I know, they could be spikey, gray, and oozing- but everyday I swallow a cellulose capsule filled with them to treat something my family calls “a severe lack of chill.” And while I should be more concerned about this vegetarian potion, I cannot help but ignore the  details of common sense when I pick up the bright yellow bottle.

The Happy Camper lays on a pale blue cloud, swallowed in by canary yellow as though all the words on the label were so revolutionary to someone that they highlighted it entirely. He’s a kid from a simpler time of boater hats and giant brown boots who reminds me that life isn’t so complicated, and I need not turn the bottle around to read the supplement facts.  The centered text creates the order and stability sought after by anxious individuals, calming each of their fears with the terms “Natural Balance”, “Happy Camper”, and “The feel good herbal formula”. First assuring over-thinkers that this product is natural- although I’m not sure what that even means these days- the text then uses the term “camper” to denote activity, as people commonly fear drowsiness when taking supplements. The label finally brings the consumer to its bottom line, literally and figuratively: this product will simply make you feel good.

Comparing this bottle’s multimodal connotation to that of the CAPS website shows a great difference in opinions about mental health. Spatially, the site overwhelms my system with multiple social media options, stock photos for various articles, and long drop down menus. The theme colors, our own maize and blue, create a contiguous vibe between this entity and every other on campus to display in mental health the same rigor and importance of our academics. The pale red for emergency situations flirts with the viewers attention but does not grab it altogether. The initial consultation video shows a male student with a deep and slow voice, taking long steps and rarely using his hand gestures as he makes his first appointment at CAPS. His methodical disposition assures the viewer that the journey to mental health should not be rushed. This video, coupled with the CAPS website’s many options and lack of focus, encourages viewers in their process towards mental healthiness, contrasting the multimodal simplicity of the Happy Camper’s single step program.

Image result for happy camper pillshttps://caps.umich.edu/

What are Multimodal Projects?

Multimodality is the idea that we can communicate in many different ways. Writer/Designer highlights 5 modes of communication: linguistic, or communication through written word; aural, or communication through sound; visual, communication through pictures; spatial, communication through how things are arranged in space; and gestural, communication through bodily gestures. I’ve selected a few pieces of multimodal text I encountered in my day-to-day Internet surfing that clearly show the connections of the different modes of communication, and my goal is to make clear to you, the reader, the prevalence, sophistication, and interconnectedness of textual modes and how they form a web of multimodality.

 

The first multimodal text I’d like to analyze is a Buzzfeed article entitled “Behind the Stunning Art and Animation of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings.’” When I first clicked on the link on my computer, I was immediately hit with a visual mode of communication in that there is a beautiful, illustrated gif of what I was soon to find out was from characters from the stop-motion animated film and, in the center, what I can only assume is the director. This interaction between the rest of the article and this non-captioned centerpiece shows the power of multimodality in communication, especially since that man could be anyway yet I’m able to pick up that it’s the director.

The linguistic communication consists of the written article, including the background to the director, the description of the movie, and the interview with the director. It is also used in labeling the rest of the pictures throughout, again showing interplay between linguistic and visual. There are many snapshots of what I assume will be scenes in the movie (highlighting the way movies create a separate, identifiable genre in terms of multimodal communication), and the clear facial expressions signify gestural communication. Also, the spatial arrangement of text being the least wide compared to the movie snapshots that take up the whole width of the screen highlights the importance of the pictures.

The final form of communication, aural, is found in the embedded movie trailer, though the trailer uses all 5 forms of multimodal communication. Specifically, it comes from the spoken word and the background music throughout the trailer, of which is so prevalent in the movie industry that it’s impossible to imagine a trailer without music. Words show us the director and studio, the animation visually communicates the setting as Asian, the empty landscapes give spatial communication as to the place’s vastness, and the facial expressions- through the use of move tropes- clearly denote the villains as the masked people.

My next text is a video of U-M’s Men’s Glee Club performing a recently commissioned piece, 7 Last Words of the Unarmed. I will go through the video chronologically. The visual is immediately present at 0:00: just seeing the Michigan M, that brand, it communicates who the Glee Club is affiliated with. Next, the aural is evident at 0:08 when the conductor begins speaking (although (a) I cheated because I used to be in the Glee Club and thus recognize his voice, and (b) there’s aural communication everywhere because it’s a video about a piece of music). At 0:23, the linguistic mode tells us who is speaking, in this case the composer of the piece.

Time 0:37 is interesting for its spatial arrangement. It’s not immediately obvious what it’s communicating by itself, however with the visual of the bland light, the aural of the sad music and the sung text, and the facial expression of the far singer at 0:48, it’s clear that the spatial arrangement is meant to provoke negative feelings. Also, the sung text combines aural and linguistic, and the spatial mode would have lost its power if the light were, say, bright and warm, again showing how the multimodal modes interact in a conscious, sophisticated, and highly prevalent way.

The entire video contains clear examples of multimodal communication: 1:07 combines aural, gestural, and linguistic to communicate happiness, and 1:29 uses those to communicate fear; 2:04 is the clearest example I can think of in terms of gestural communication, the professor conducting; and around 3:00, it combines the visual and gestural mode of clasped hands, the spatial of a monolith of unity, and the linguistic and aural mode of the rap pleading for unity, which all communicate the message that they’re promoting unity. Without the rap the others wouldn’t be totally clear, and with just the rap it wouldn’t be as powerful. Thus, the multimodality is totally necessary to best communicate the message.

 

Finally, this assignment asked me to find examples from my daily life. In lieu of having a Tumblr myself (because I’m 100% sure if I got one I’d forget to eat, pass a class, or sleep, or some combination thereof), I get my Tumblr fix through a Facebook page called “Tumblr is gay but I won’t accept it.” You can (and should) go through it if you want, however for convenience I’ve taken a screenshot of a few pieces of text that I want to analyze, focusing specifically on humor because it is sinful to study Tumblr without studying humor, in this case how the humor is conveyed.

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First, I will examine these pictures. I chose these because they do not have pictures, yet their humor comes from the sensory representation. For this exercise, these are only linguistic communication; however, they cross into visual, and aural and visual territory, respectively, blurring the lines between the five, stark multimodal categories.

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Next, I’ll examine these 2 cats. The first one is clearly linguistic and gestural; the cat is funny because of its facial gesturing. The next one is different. This is humorous (in a different way) because the text’s author took a picture and pieced together a human identity for the cat. Using common tropes of the name Margaret, and then character traits for that name (including that she’d wear pink and would be small, unintimidating, and gentle-looking, like the cat) the author made the humor by making the cat a human.

This example serves as the beginning point for a controversial critique I’d like to levy: Writer/Designer missed a category when describing multimodality. I’d like to preface this by saying I’m not denying the usefulness of their framework, or even that I have a better one; rather, I found something that I think complements it. I’ll call this category Cultural Reference, because as you saw, without taking into account the cultural tropes of the name Margaret, that example would not have made any sense. Part of the trope/humor exists in just in the linguistic mode; however, the crucial cornerstone that held it all together was the combination of the trope of the picture with the trope of the name.

I have many more examples, which I’ll first analyze using the original framework, and then add Cultural Reference to show how, without knowing about the tropes, the humor, and thus communication, would not work.

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In the first example, the first comment is enough to be funny. The picture is visual humor, and the comment adds linguistic communication to heighten its humor. However, the next comment adds humor because it references the Legend of Zelda games, in which the character on the ground (Link) smashes pots to get rupees, or in-game currency. The third comment is a play on words to add more humor to the picture; however, without knowing that it’s a reference to the song Familiar Faces, it doesn’t make any sense. The cornerstone to the humor is that it references a song that in and of itself holds humor as being used sarcastically, thus adding to its humorous capital. The reference in this picture only adds to its humorous capital. One final piece of reference that makes this funnier and thus better communicates the image is that the vase the boy is holding (the boy is Villager, from Animal Crossing) is an attack in Super Smash Bros that is difficult to control but deadly when it hits, which couples nicely with the final comment. All of this description is to show that without Cultural Reference, multimodality does not capture all of the communication in this piece of text.

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Another, clearer example is this picture, which explicitly mentions the “three-way crossover” of pop culture references. The visual mode is humorous because of Harry’s face. The other humor from the picture is linguistic, with the ‘HE DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE!!!1’ making it funnier that he was chosen. Of course, the real humor is that this series of pictures/words come from three separate entities: the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series, and Mean Girls. Furthermore, the 1 instead of the exclamation point at the end references some pop reference, perhaps the Ermagerd Girl or the common mocking of the Internet gaming troll (I wasn’t able to find it in my cursory search. Good thing this isn’t a research paper).

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This next example is funny (I think), but it’s hard to point out why. The multimodality framework works to an extent, as linguistic and visual modes are clearly working together. However, this becomes truly funny because the shark is representing a trope of an early teenage girl not caring about something. I imagine her texting on her phone, not looking at the speaker causing her to say “Whatever,” and just not caring about things around her. There’s no easily identifiable source of this image, it’s just become built in to our culture, making it part of the Cultural Reference category.

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The next picture is funny in its own right. The gestural mode conveys dominance in the bird and fear in the boy, and this mismatch in what we perceive should be the power dynamic makes it funny. The linguistic mode, combined with the Cultural Reference of a Pokémon battle, adds another element to the picture (though in this case I think it’s perfectly fine without the caption).

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The final picture is not funny without the Cultural Reference. There is still multimodality, however this multimodality does not communicate humor until you add the Cultural Reference. The visual mode conveys that the man really likes Sun Drop, while the linguistic mode adds to this understanding by giving background to the story. Notice that without the picture the linguistic mode holds much less…something. Credibility, perhaps? However, the boxed response adds a Cultural Reference because it conjures the trope of the early-level math problems. This adds humor, and thus contributes to the multimodal framework.

 

All of the texts hold some similarities. For example, they all use linguistic mode and visual mode. I’m sure with more analysis they all hold many if not all more, however I did come to the conclusion that all text has more than one mode. The most different are the Tumblr memes and the website. The website uses all modes, while the Tumblr memes never used them all; rather, they all used Cultural References to fully communicate the message, which the website did not.

What I’ve learned from this exercise (besides that I think something’s missing from the multimodality framework) is that multimodality is important because it’s literally everywhere. There is nothing that only communicates in only one mode; even a basic essay communicates its purpose as an essay with both linguistic mode and spatial mode in the form of being double-spaced, the heading, etc. All text is multi-modal, and thus if you pick apart genre you can find the unique multimodal qualities of each and make your text more quintessentially that genre.

How Writing Leads to Thinking

Aside from Hunt’s argument that writing is a great way to pass time on an airplane—I get motion sick on airplanes and take anti-nausea medication that puts me to sleep– she makes many claims that I completely agree with, but have not given too much thought to when I think about writing. Writing really is a magical process that allows us to engage with our own thoughts, organize our ideas, and really make decisions about what we are thinking and feeling.

Writing is unbelievably thought provoking. As a writer, I consider turning all of my thoughts into pieces of writing, and every time I come across something interesting, I imagine what it would be like to write about it. For example: Why do I think pushing the elevator button twice will make it come faster? Or, when people ask “how are you?” when they pass by me in the Diag, do they actually want to know how I am doing, or has it just become another way of saying “hello?” As a writer, I am inspired to work out my thoughts on paper.

Writing truly is the best pastime, and sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish writing from a chore, since so much of my writing has been for classes in which I am told exactly what to write about and when to write about it. In this course, I hope to write more, and to write whenever I want about whatever I want, without confusing it with an assignment. I hope to really show people what I am thinking, dive deeper into my own thoughts, and maybe I will even conclude what “how are you?” really means these days.