Multimodal Texts are Following Me (Please Send Help)

I read the first chapter of Writer/Designer on Wednesday, and I swear I have been scrutinizing everything I see and hear as a multimodal text since–Powerpoint slides during lectures, social media feeds, music videos, episodes of Scandal…the list goes on. I guess I had never thought much of the all the different ways my senses were being stimulated through linguistic, aural, visual, spatial, and gestural cues before now.

In particular, two multimodal texts have stuck in my mind throughout the weekend. Both were powerful, but in two completely devastating ways.

On Thursday, the grass on the Diag was taken over by 1,1o0 backpacks representing the 1,100 college students who die by suicide each year. In my rush to class, I was unable to stop and read any of the personal stories detailing some of these students’ stories. Impacted none the less, I spent a good amount of time in my Linguistics 111 lecture researching the display. This is what I found:

SSP Web Flyer
This flyer reads, “1,100 STUDENTS DIE BY SUICIDE EACH YEAR: WHY AREN’T WE TALKING ABOUT IT?” It gives details about the Active Minds Program that took place Thursday, September 17th from 9:00Am-5:00PM on the Central Campus Diag.


This flyer literally took my breath away. It directly forced me to  face the fact that 1,100 college students die by suicide each year. The physical arrangement of the backpacks lined up on the grass was an ingenious use of the visual mode. I think it is sometimes easier to avoid thinking about horrifying things like people you know and love wrestling with thoughts or actions of suicide. This flyer made it real for me. It brought back terrible memories of experiencing one of my best friends in high school’s battle with depression. It made me thankful for his continued presence on this planet, thankful that he is not one of the 1,100.

All of this from a simple flyer. These Active Minds people really know what they’re doing.

Okay, on to the uplifting bit.

On Friday, my friend sent me a music video of Amanda Cook’s new song, “Pieces,” via Youtube link:


Amanda is a Christian artist and this song details the truth about God’s powerful love. Being a music video, it clearly utilized the visual mode, but the linguistic and aural modes were also very important to the impact it had on me. The scene pictured before the video starts doesn’t change much. The fog moves a little bit, but otherwise there is no change except for lyrics showing up in the image as Amanda sings them. It is a powerful scene. A little Twilight-esque, the forrest is the perfect picture of how God displays His power through His creation. It is big and wild, just like how Amanda describes His love through her lyrics.

The linguistic and aural mode came into play through the combination of Amanda’s singing and the inclusion of realtime lyrics. A lot of recent music videos are more movie-like with their plots and character development (think Taylor Swift) than this one is. The textbook, Writer/Designer, lists the delivery of spoken or written text as one way the linguistic mode is used to make us understand meaning. It is one thing to hear the words the musician is singing (aural mode), but actually seeing the words allowed me to comprehend her message more clearly.

The two multimodal texts I found most impactful were both visual mode-oriented, which makes sense since I am a visual learner. However, I have noticed that it is difficult to find a text that does not draw on the visual mode heavily. I think this theme will continue to be prevalent in this New Media age as people are constantly sucked to their screens, whether on a laptop, tablet, or smart phone. After all, the two examples I included here were accessed on my laptop. Being a Communications Studies major, I am extremely interested in continuing to study this visually generous culture.


Also, speaking of Twilight, if you haven’t experienced this yet, enjoy.

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