Describing Multimodality in Everyday Texts

Over the past couple of days I’ve obviously been exposed to an endless amount of multimodal texts. In fact, now that I am sitting down to write about it, I am sure that I’ve been exposed to far more multimodal texts than I could ever keep track of.

One type of text that I felt often utilized all five modes of communication was visual advertisements that are scattered across town. I probably came across more than I can recall, but one that comes to mind as definitely having used all five modes was a banner I saw at a football tailgate. The banner was an advertisement for NFL Sunday Ticket, a streaming service that allows you to watch football games that aren’t being nationally televised. The linguistic mode of the banner was of course the text on the sign, which included the name of the product as well as what purpose it served. The aural mode was minor and may be a stretch to even consider to have existed, but I would consider the explanations following the mentioning of a student discount to count because it elicited a certain tone of voice when I read the message in my head. The gestural mode was obvious which was the last line of the banner which instructed you to go online to sign up for the product. The visual mode of the banner included not only the sheer size of the banner, but the NFL Sunday Ticket logo which was included on the left side of the banner. Lastly, the spatial mode of the banner was the difference in text font size between the name of the product and its description in addition to the fact that the banner was hung up high on the roof of the house where many people would notice it.

I would say that although I cannot recall, most of the sign advertisements I’ve come across included most if not all five modes and that is because a combination of these elements make for the most effective ads. They serve various purposes whether it be catching our general attention, or informing us about the usefulness of the product. General patterns that are included in these ads include short, concise text and bright, eye-catching color schemes.

More text that I came across and read several times was in the form of pamphlets that were handed out in the Diag and undergraduate library vicinities of central campus. Hosting a great deal of foot traffic during the day, it is sensible to expect various student organizations and clubs to advertise their functions here where they are easy to distribute to mass amounts of people. However a quick analysis of these pamphlets yielded what I consider to be a pretty simple, yet accurate observation of them which is the importance of maintaining the interest of the student. The reality is that students walking through the Diag are typically very busy, and highly uninterested in what your piece of paper has to say. If and when you get someone to take one, it is important that your pamphlet design employs modes in such a way that keeps someone reading to the bottom of the page. Otherwise, most if not all people will either stuff that flyer into their pocket or toss it into the next available trash can.

For example, of the two pamphlets I remember seeing, only one mentioned receiving free pizza. Naturally, I was far more likely to read that text to the end, learning more information about dance marathon, than I was to continue reading about another topic that introduced itself by asking me if I liked history. Both flyers were visually appealing, including a bright colored paper base and pictures to associate with each subject, however it was with its linguistic mode that the history club flyer fell short. It failed to attract the initial attention of an average student and therefore was far less of an effective means of advertising.

The two types of text I have discussed thus far have essentially been advertisements, and the final type I would like to mention and the multimodality of is nearly a total opposite. I read out of my political science textbook, which failed to elicit any of the five modes in a way similar to the advertisements. However that is not to say that the modes were not employed at all. My political science textbook is a type of text that is not meant to catch your attention and reel you in like an advertisement or the first pages of a fictional novel. Of course a textbook is something you pick up with a specific idea of exactly what you are looking for and what you expect to find. Therefore rather than aiming to be multimodal in order to catch your attention, it employs mostly linguistic and spatial modes to appear credible and pass along information pertaining to its subjects.

It is clear that not only do multimodal texts exist everywhere, but they all employ several modes, regardless of their purpose, to succeed at eliciting a point to their readers.

2 thoughts to “Describing Multimodality in Everyday Texts”

  1. Hey Nick,
    Pretty random but I work at a local restaurant and they gave me that giant NFL Sunday banner to keep. Too funny. Anyways I never ever considered the modes at work in fliers handed out in the Diag. I’ll have to tell my DMUM friends to keep it up with their “free pizza” slogans. I think you brought in Multimodality from the perspective of a college student but didn’t reference any videos which I admire (since they’re such an easy method of finding all 5 modes!). I also never considered my textbooks to be multimodal in the advertisement sense. Once I took another look however I noticed how much multimodality was included in my various textbooks and how different and less effective they would be without photos or links or bolded words.

  2. Hi Nick! Oh ads, of course! You’ve pointed out examples of multimodality that are prominent in everyday life. They are not digital and are also very relevant to us college students. I like how picked a couple simple examples and analyzed them closely. I can’t believe I forgot about them while working on this assignment! I suppose they’re so prevalent that we don’t even think of them sometimes. Finally, your comparison of ads to textbooks is interesting. Not only are the audiences for both texts different, so are the ways in which they reach them. I haven’t considered how the audience will find my writing very much. Although now I believe it will be important to do so.

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