Multimodality Across Texts—CONTENT WARNING: Street Harassment

This weekend I listened to a few episodes of the podcast This American Life. I experienced the linguistic and aural components, but anyone who ventured to their website would be introduced to visual, gestural, and spacial components as well. While listening, I focused the way that the storytellers were guiding my reactions with the help of aural components. Background sounds, stretches of music, and simple tones were very significant aspects of my experience.

The president of the environmental fraternity that I am a part of sent this email this weekend. The email is organized and easy to follow, the survey and form stick out in blue, and the tone conveys warmth. I think that this is one example of an effective email that uses visual, spacial, and linguistic components.

I read a chapter of The Social Construction of Drug Scares by Craig Reinarman. Reinarman organized each page formally so it blends into the background and the reader is able to focus on the text. As is common in formal papers, the linguistic, visual, spacial modes to organized the information.


I also went on twitter this weekend. I spent time looking at how people express themselves differently. Some give life updates, some share their political standing, but I am particularly interested in a project I talked a friend of mine into doing. Every time she experiences a sexist act in her life she tweets about it. On Saturday she was harassed by a group of men two feet behind her on the sidewalk—this is the tweet. She used linguistic, spacial, and visual components in the tweet to better convey her message. The colon and the line separation between the two clauses explains how the linguistic elements should be read and shadow her tone.

I watched A Nation of Scofflaws, a film about the prohibition era, for one of my classes this week. It is the only source that I found that used all five modes of communication.

I am surprised that only one of my sources used all five modes and that I only selected texts that were (at least partially) linguistic. These texts feel easier to capture, but also in many ways leave out the artistic and visual aspects of my life. I spent a lot of time this weekend looking at the ways that artists divide images across canvases in multi-panel paintings. Yet, until now I didn’t think to include those searches in this post.

Juxtaposed against one another, the podcast and the tweet displayed the most differences. Listening to voices through the hour-long format of the podcast was a very different experience than reading the short but powerful tweet. Both used linguistic components. Additionally, the podcast also included aural components, while the tweet was visual and spacial.

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