The Create-Your-Own-Journey Website Genre – Inside the Mind of a Website Designer

Since senior year of high school with creating an online women’s clothing business’ website, I have always found websites to be an enjoyable medium that conveys a plethora of information. Unlike a book or newspaper, a full-fledged website can contain unlimited information that is bound only by the mouse scrolling of the reader. Every single mode fluidly translates into a website, from the visual mode of animated .gif imagery, spatial mode of the placement of elements in certain places, and so on.

It was not until recently with my decision to create an interactive website did I realise the difficulty in the genre of create-your-own-journey websites. Unlike any regular website, these interactive websites must somehow combine the user’s uncorrelated input into a coagulated result. Further, it is crucial to ensure that the reader really understands the end-game result and that the reader feels his/her choices were valuable in deciding the fate of the result. This is where perspective-taking and empathising with the reader’s experience comes into play.

There are many complications associated with creating an interactive website, some technical and some more centralised on the reader interpreting the content. After analysing several examples of text, there are some positive and negative trends in how these interactive, create-your-own-journey websites operate.

  • Acknolwedge that the reader is a user. The reader is an active of a reader as he/she will ever be. The reader is trying to grapple with the content on the page through interacting with it. By using the mouse cursor and pressing on elements on the page, the reader is making decisions. Consequently, the writer must think beyond simply ‘how is the reader interpreting this information,’ but also ‘what is the reader’s experience navigating through this website?’. This is where the design of the website, particularly the spatial mode, is enormously vital for the reader to understand the meaning of your text.
  • So, hand the power to the reader. Unlike your typical BuzzFeed ‘What Dessert Are You?’ interactive website, often these create-your-own-journey websites have a reason behind their existence. To avoid sounding like you are simply educating or arguing a point across to the reader, you have to make the experience enjoyable. Simply put, an effective way to do this is by granting the user full autonomy, which is something we, as writers, are not used to doing. The reader is writing his/her own story, not the writer. You simply facilitate the reader’s imagination to inspire a narrative. Once the reader creates his/her own narrative, the reader will take ownership of that work and feel responsible for the result, allowing the reader to better empathise with the website’s purpose.
  • Then reward the reader for taking the reins. After an arduous journey traveling through the website, the reader must feel satisfied. To be satisfied does not necessarily mean a happy ending, but simply a sense of closure and that the reader’s decisions mattered. Make sure that the reader’s choices accurately match with the result that he/she received at the end. This also means that all results should be equally satisfying for the reader to experience; the choices that the reader selects should not impact his/her satisfaction, but only the characteristics of the result.

Figure 1. A happy ending is not always the best ending, especially if you are trying to convince the reader of an argument. An ‘a-ha!’ moment can make the end-game of a create-your-own-journey website very fulfilling, especially if the reader leaves the website learning something they didn’t know before. Think in the lens of the last minutes of a film, which viewers often use to rate the film’s quality: you don’t spoil the end of the film’s plot but show how everything that has happened throughout the film has built up to that moment. Source: http://jug-lviv.blogspot.com/2013/01/fridays-fun_1938.html

More generally speaking, there are also plenty of trends in the broader genre of a website, which are dissected below.

  • A website designer is fluent in all modes. Or at least they should be. A true website designer should be able to utilise all modes throughout the entire website. The code on the website grants full freedom for the writer to convey information how he/she pleases. Linguistic mode can easily be communicated like any text through words and phrases, visual mode can be seen by uploading and inserting image or video files, spatial mode can be structured with the website’s formatting and placement of HTML elements, aural mode can be heard with uploading a sound file or even implementing a music file that plays when entering the landing page, and gestural mode can be presented through visuals of people’s gestures. The writer can choose to use only specific modes on certain pages and then interlace all these pages together as a single, cohesive website.
  • The audience of a website can be specific, but it is always published globally. The potential generalisation of the audience to anyone in the world should always be on the mind of a website designer: it defines the threshold between public and private information to display on the website. However, this also means that you must understand many readers could be visiting the website without an actual interest in the website’s topic initially. For instance, readers must intentionally go to the library or store to obtain a book after considering beforehand what they were looking for. In contrast, ‘website surfing’ could mean that many website visitors appeared out of curiosity, with no incentive to stay. This means the ‘hook’ that attracts the reader on a website is significantly more important than in a book or other genres, as many visitors have no reason to continue browsing the website if they are not initially interested.
  • There is no limit to how much information you can communicate. As stated in the beginning of this post, the only restriction on the amount of information you can convey is barred only by the reader’s mouse scrolling. There is no real limitation on information. If you don’t want the reader to scroll, you can always redirect them to another website page as well. Unfortunately, having no limitation on how much information you can convey means that many website designers incorrectly overload the reader with far too much information. This is dangerous as it works against the writer. Not only does it ruin the reader’s experience, but also makes it difficult for the reader to parse the important concepts in a text to remember. The freedom of information is thus both a blessing and a curse.

Figure 2. A reader can only handle so much information. Even if you could speak for hours on the topic, the reader may have only opened up your website assuming it would be enough to entertain them for a 5-minute coffee break, not a 90-minute lecture. When the size of the scrolling bar is shorter than the width of your thumb, you know need to start cutting the amount of content on your page. Source: https://gifer.com/en/3b8

The new genre of the interactive website, and more specifically the create-your-own-journey website is a phenomenal avenue for writers to convey their text. Although website design is somewhat more complex than more traditional mediums of text, it is important for writers to keep up with new technology to engage all forms of readers. And, there is no better time to create a website than now—the number of free website builders that exist allow for full creativity in an easy-to-use platform. With these tips about the interactive website genre, why not try making your own right now?

Chloe Fishbein

Hey you!

So, you’re on the internet and more specifically, on this blog post. Did you know that the actual page you are reading right now is multimodal?? According to the “Writer/Designer Guide to Making Multimodal Projects” by Kristin L. Arola, Jennifer Sheppard, and Cheryl E. Ball, multimodal means that there are different means of communication occurring at the same time. For instance, the meme below is multimodal because the linguistic mode is used by reading the text and the visual mode is used as well because you are looking at an image.

Realizing this has made me recognize examples of multimodal communication in my everyday life, from far reaching directions. For instance, how many times a day do you check your Instagram feed? Well, Instagram posts are an example of multimodal communication. The picture you post is visual communication and the text for your caption is linguistic communication.

Here’s an example of an Instagram post on my feed from a food account I follow.

By reading the caption and seeing the picture, you are experiencing two different aspects of communication. These aspects allow you to engage in my post at a greater level than by just experiencing one mode of communication.  Multimodal communication is really interesting on Instagram because the caption can either line-up directly with the picture (like in the post I have included) or it can take you somewhere totally different. By using linguistic communication to create a caption for your picture, you allow the audience to perceive the picture however way you want them to. How amazing do these homemade chicken parmesan baked ziti tacos look???

 

 

Another example of multimodal communication I have experienced occurred last night while I was watching the American Horror Story season premier. (Great show by the way—I highly recommend it). I invited my younger brother over to my apartment to watch with me. He likes watching his shows with subtitles because that way it is easier to understand. Therefore, I used visual communication to watch the actual show, gestural communication to understand the actor’s emotions, aural communication to listen to the words, and linguistic communication to read the subtitles. These four modes of communication allowed me to experience American Horror Story in a deeper way than only using one mode would have allowed me. For example, reading the text on screen without hearing the character’s tone through aural communication would not have allowed me to grasp a full understanding of the characters dialogue. Additionally, reading the text through linguistic communication and not watching the show with visual communication and gestural communication would not have allowed me to see the character’s reactions and emotions.

This American Horror Story meme is multimodal because it involves visual communication by looking at the meme and linguistic communication by reading the text.

Writing about my experience finding multimodal communication in my everyday life will help me imagine possibilities for my experiment sequence because it makes me realize that just because a writing piece is in a certain form, doesn’t mean it cannot be changed. Furthermore, this change can allow for deeper insights and understanding of the meaning of the piece. Multimodal communication allows the audience to experience something from different perspectives. By experimenting with a piece of my writing, I can do the exact same thing. There are many different wants to look at a piece of writing, which will also allow the audience to see it in different ways too. Writing is not static—so the possibilities are unknown.

-Chloe Fishbein

P.S. My blog post is also multimodal! The linguistic mode was used to read my text, the visual mode was used to see my pictures, and the spatial mode was how I arranged my pictures and text on the page. When designing the spatial aspects of my blog post, I had to make sure that the reader could easily find their way through the text. I also decided to switch the location of my pictures and the text in some parts to keep my blog post exciting and the reader entertained!

All! Around! You!

Image result for miss teen south carolina

Communication goes far beyond words, cutting across how we see visuals, hear speech, interpret body language etc., via multimodal texts that use different means to send messages. And multimodal communication is everywhere.

For example, I have been watching a webseries, Frankenstein, MD, by Pemberley Digital Studios. It’s a modern retelling of Shelley’s Frankenstein in the form of a young scientist’s research vlogs. The webseries incorporates linguistic elements in its script, visual elements in the video graphics, aural elements from the dialogue and soundtrack, spatial arrangements of props and graphics and gestural elements through acting. Together, these modes convey the humorous apathy of Victoria Frankenstein and the situations and crises she faces.

Exhibit A: Shots from web video series Frankenstein, MD by Pemberley Digital Studios.

(Above) Here’s a Lärabar I found in my kitchen.  Part of the Lärabar’s iconic design is its red brand label with the peach-colored block letters and border, with a colored background. I consider the range of Lärabars I’ve seen in Kroger’s. The red-and-peach brand label is constant to all Lärabars. It unites the front of a wall of assorted flavors of bars from the same company. Yet it is the color on the wrapper background, outside the branding label, that always varies. Isn’t this a visual mode of communication? The blue color syncs with the “blueberry muffin” text.

See this image above. (Credits:https://craftycoin.com/favorite-food-friday-larabar/). The brand label is kept standard, communicating consistency of the brand, while the assortment of colors visually communicates the different flavors! (Yellow for lemon, brown for chocolate, green for apple). That’s just the visual. Let’s also consider, linguistically, the way they named the bars: “Cherry pie”, “pecan pie”, “cashew cookie”. Why not just “cherry”, “pecan”, “cashew”? There is no way a Lärabar resembles a pie or muffin. Perhaps the use of those extra words like “pie”, “muffin”, “cookie” is meant to create associations with desserts. Since Lärabar is marketed as a health food, this perhaps also targets health-conscious consumers’ more indulgent dietary cravings. Those extra words make us think we are eating dessert instead of a “health food bar” (quote marks because healthy skepticism of “health branding”!).

~

Just another day sitting in East Quad trying to write this assignment. I’m sitting in front of the Residential College wall calendar.

I never really appreciated the importance of spatial modes in a calendar. There are so many ways a calendar can be organized. A list? A series of weeks? This calendar’s table form represents the whole month such that it’s easy to follow because of the grid week-by-day structure. Within the calendar spaces, things get organized by date. Within each date you get various ways of sending messages, be it flyers, post-it notes. These all employ various linguistic choices (Short and sweet? Dramatic? Thought-provoking? Enticing?), or visual elements (flyer designs).

These observations of multimodal text heightened my awareness of communication modes that permeate, no, barrage my senses with information daily. It also gives me ideas for my experiment cycle. The Lärabar wrapper has me thinking about the role of moving parts interacting with a constant and how that conveys both consistency and variety at the same time. I could explore this by manipulating genre conventions in my experiments, by playing on certain tropes while adding layers of variance to each trope.

I want to end off with this image beloq. This is one of the bags my roommate and I use for groceries. It says “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy” in German and shows an adorable unicorn scarfing down a cookie. How better to convey a humorous message about food and denial than via a fluffy hungry unicorn?

 

Multiple Multimodals

Looking for multimodal projects is like looking for a straw in Starbucks…they are always there, you just have to dig around until you realize they have been in front of you the whole time. I spent a few days noting multimodal projects and it has definitely helped me brainstorm some experiments I can do for my writing assignment. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain. I’ve been tasked with picking some old pieces of writing and recreating them in a multimodal way. Multimodal means using not just words but linguistic, gestural, aural, visual, and spatial features as well. Hopefully this makes some sense, but even if it doesn’t yet we’re going to look at some examples of multimodal projects.

Example one was happened upon at the bright and early hour of 8:30am on Thursday. My statistics 250 lecture could have been a professor reading off her notes in a monotone voice, but instead my professor utilized just about every kind of mode possible. There was a PowerPoint, checking off writing as well as visual. However, this was not a boring PowerPoint but instead one that involved auditory cues, lots of linguistic tools, and because of the way she pranced around the auditorium, I’d say spatial too. Overall, she took some boring content and made it pretty easy to follow and pay attention to. Success.

Example two happened during a class later that day. I may or may not have been going through Instagram and came across a post with a story. It was a picture of a girl and her friend who had passed away, and the caption was short and simple “Two years too long without you. #suicideprevention #mentalhealth #gethelp #itgetsbetter.” This post used visual and linguistic to tell a story and to tell why it was an important story. The picture helped to bring the story closer to home.

Another multimodal text I realized was the jumbotron at the football game this weekend. It tells a story about a football game through sounds, videos, numbers, and words. Not only does it tell a story, but it tells it to 108,000 people.

Aside from these, I read poems for my Spanish class, I interpreted graphs and charts for Statistics, I read stories and articles and textbooks. The patterns I saw across almost all of these things were the use of words, but also pairing words with another element. This just shows how important it is to tell your story as uniquely as you can to make it really pop.

I now need to take a piece of my own writing and make it unique like these other pieces. Noticing these different methods has given me knew ideas. Like twisting an essay into a more fictional story or making a research piece into a fun social media post. I also want to consider a movie or documentary that manages to represent my writing. The most valuable lesson I took form this exercise is that “writing” oftentimes encompasses a lot more than just actual writing. It signals anything that explains, teaches, and tells a story is doing what writing does. I’m excited to see what my classmates and I come up with!

Maps and Flyers

Most students’ experience in english and writing courses is constrained to one form of assignment: the essay. Yet, as so eloquently put in the first chapter, “What are Multimodal Projects?” of Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects, the forms of argument and writing we encounter on a daily basis extend far past purely text. The chapter highlights the five main modes of communication – linguistic (written or spoken text), visual (images), aural (sounds), gestural (movement), and spatial (the physical arrangement), and opens the perspective of the reader into understanding how common combinations of these modes are, and the consequent effects certain combinations have on transferring meaning to an audience. We were tasked to search for examples of these multimodal texts as we went about our daily routines. In short, the task came naturally.

 

Currently all around campus clubs have posted flyers attempting to create interest and expand membership. These flyers obviously make use of the linguistic mode with the name of the club and short description often included, but it’s the visual and spatial modes which are most crucial in making a successful flyer. The spatial mode is arguably what makes students walking by actually stop and give the flyer a genuine read. If it is arranged in an appealing, clear way, students are more likely to want to look at it more closely. This goes the same for the visual mode. Bright colors and interesting, relevant images lead to success. The two flyers below diverge in this area. While the Michigan Affordability & Advocacy Coalition uses no color or images creating a bland look, the Ski & Snowboard team bursts with color corresponding with the energy of the club.

Another multimodal project I came across that also relies on the linguistic, visual, and spatial modes is the map of the United States on the wall of my apartment. The linguistic mode is crucial in defining the detail of any project, and that is evident in this map, as it includes hundreds of cities and regions which would be left blank without text. Without the linguistic mode, it would just be a geographic region hopefully the audience is familiar with. The visual mode helps separate the states from each other and the surrounding countries, making it clear the map is about the United States. It also makes the map easier to read. The spatial mode, the way the map is arranged, is the main determinant of what the audience should focus on. Students see hundreds of maps during the school year so they begin to identify certain arrangement characteristics with certain types of maps. It’s interesting that despite presenting completely different topics, flyers and maps both depend on the linguistic, visual, and spatial modes, perhaps, because those modes, when combined, are most effective at presenting information to an audience.

The last multimodal project I came across that was worthy of further dissection was a powerpoint presentation in my earth science class. This powerpoint included all five modes of communication. The linguistic mode was probably the most important in presenting students new, detailed information about a difficult subject matter. The visual mode, which included fun images, made the powerpoint more appealing to an audience who may think the subject matter is boring. Also in the visual mode were graphs and charts which put the information into a real world context. The aural mode was captured in a video that played to start the presentation, along with the tone of voice of the teacher reading each slide. The gestural mode was seen in the way the professor moved around the classroom, using hand gestures to build ideas. Finally, the spatial mode was seen in the arrangement of the presentation, again, highlighting the idea that the way the presentation looked affected the way the students received the information. A powerpoint may be the most common multimodal project students come across. I think the fact that the most common method of teaching includes all five modes of communication demonstrates the power and possibilities that come with communicating in a variety of ways.

 

https://umich.instructure.com/courses/234150/files/folder/Lecture%20slides?preview=8350093

(Link to Powerpoint)

 

The multimodal projects noted above were things I encountered throughout my daily routine but previously never had stopped to examine the many modes in which they present an idea. These examples were not the only I came across (magazines, youtube videos, newspapers, pictures, textbooks) but I think they adequately serve in pushing the narrative that we experience all five modes of communication everyday and through mediums we often overlook. Recognizing the combinations of these modes and what certain combinations accomplish is a formative step in learning to employ them to our own benefit as writers. It’s clear now that successful writers use more than just words to write.

Mamma Mia Multimodal Madness

Over the years, tagging my friends in memes on Facebook has become one of my favorite past times -they leave me laughing out loud almost every single time. After reading Guide to Multimodal Projects, this phenomenon made a little more sense to me. This article describes multimodal texts, or texts that use many modes of communication to get their message across, and why that is important in examining different texts.

 

This summer, I saw Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! In theaters. Twice. Mamma Mia was the first musical I ever saw live, and I have been jamming to the soundtrack (along with other ABBA hits) ever since. So, when my friend tagged me in the below meme on Thursday afternoon saying “I feel like you have already been tagged in this,” I found it extremely fitting:

When thinking about multimodal aspects, the first two modes that come to mind are the linguistic mode, which considers the use of language, and the visual mode, the use of pictures. Looking at the linguistic mode alone sets the scene for what is to come. “When my friends pass me the aux cord” on its own does not mean much — it is only completed by the visual mode of the clearly non-photoshopped picture of the Pope holding up the Mamma Mia soundtrack. Thinking about it a little more, spatial mode, the physical arrangement of the text, really helps deliver the hilarity of the meme as well. If the Pope were just holding the CD next to him, the text would not be as funny as it is with him holding it in the air, like a truly praised item (which, in my mind, the genius work of ABBA is).

 

After being tagged in this meme, I was on a HUGE Mamma Mia kick. Listening to it on my way to class, at the gym, and getting ready in the morning…it feels like there is an ABBA song for any and every mood! So, on Friday, I decided to watch some of my favorite clips from the two films. I have always been a fan of musicals, but it wasn’t until Saturday night when I realized how multimodal they truly are. For the purpose of this blog post, I will refer to a scene that made me audibly sob in theaters, where the protagonist from the first Mamma Mia, Donna (Meryl Streep) appears for the first time in the film, but it’s not really her, it’s (SPOILER ALERT!!) her ghost (?) singing with her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), at her child’s baby naming. It is a beautiful moment between the two. Here is a link of a video someone recorded of the movie screen (Is this legal?).

 

The first two modes that stood out to me here are the linguistic and the aural, which focuses on sound. The two women are singing ABBA’s My Love, My Life, a song about two people loving each other so much that they can see themselves in each other, unable to find the words to explain their love. The slow, light tune of the piano paired with the slow, light tune of Streep and Seyfried’s voices plus the emotional lyrics conveys a feeling of love and passion. However, the scene would not be as moving if it weren’t for the gestural mode, which refers to movement and body language, as well as spatial mode. Streep spends the first half of the song slowly walking towards Seyfried, and then about a minute with the two of them in each other’s arms, and the rest is Streep slowly walking away into the “light” – a use of visual mode. All of these together show how much these two care for and love each other, that they do not want to let go. This, combined with the audial and linguistic make for a deeply emotional story, even if you don’t entirely know the background information. See the emotional turmoil below. 

Musicals have always been such a large part of my life. I have always felt connected to them more than I do with TV or movies. Maybe it’s because of their superior usage of different types of modes. Or maybe it’s just because I just like to belt out the songs in the shower.

Multimodal Texts Over a Weekend

Over the weekend, I jotted down a few of the multimodal texts I came across and a brief description of each of them. In this blog post, I expanded upon the descriptions to include commentary on the similarities and differences between the various texts.

 

  • Trevor Noah YouTube video – Trump 8-Ball skit: https://youtu.be/qdn50yqOVFY

 

This is a YouTube video in which Trevor Noah’s team creates a short clip mimicking a TV commercial. The clip advertises the “Trump Magic 8-Ball”, an 8-Ball that when shaken, plays a short clip of Donald Trump speaking vaguely, such as “We will see.” The entire video combines all modes – visual, linguistic, aural, spatial, and gestural.

In regards to the visual mode, the skit presented in the video includes a clearly diverse cast of children, which is one of the many elements set up to contrast Trump and what he generally stands for. An element of linguistic mode is in the form of the dialogue between the children, and from Noah himself as he introduces the video with current events and the general context. Aural and spatial modes come into play with the cheery music added to the background of the mock advertisement and with how the children are placed in a semi-circle for full viewing and the 8-Ball passed around them being a focal point. The children hug each other and don’t have qualms about sitting close to each other; gesturally speaking, they represent what – again – the opposite of what Trump stands for.

 

  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

 

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite reads from this past year, and although I didn’t read it recently, I was in the library and I saw it so I picked it up and flipped through. I had nearly forgotten its beautiful illustrations, and how it adds to the written story.

Formally, this book combines linguistic with visual modes. The linguistic mode is simply the written story, and the visual mode is the illustrated component. What’s most interesting about Neverwhere’s text and illustration duo is that Neverwhere is very much from the fantasy genre, and so the illustrations would supposedly give some idea as to what the magical creatures and fictional environments would look like. However, this is not the case; the illustrations are at most pointers in the right direction – some of the illustrations are of the back of character’s heads. Ultimately, the illustrations somehow simultaneously add another layer of mystery and a layer of clarity to the story; they give visual evidence that this fantasy world exists, but the reader still cannot see it perfectly because they don’t live in that world.

 

  • Facebook invite to BYX event 

 

One of my friends is in BYX, a Christian fraternity on campus, and he often invites me to their (dry) parties. I really enjoy their Facebook invites, because like the above, they typically combine linguistic and visual modes: a photo to represent the theme of the party (last Friday’s was a USA themed party so the picture had red, blue, and white hues stamped over an image of a rager) and a text describing the event. One of my favorite parts of the linguistic mode is that they frequently refer to the beverages offered at their parties as ‘Jesus Juice’; zesty and non-alcoholic. It adds to the appeal of the event; it’s a fun, brief description coupled with an image that conveys the vibe of the party without being too flashy or too simplistic.

This multimodal piece is most different from the Trevor Noah video. Although the two texts have overlapping modes used, the ways in which they use the modes are very different. Noah’s visuals are within a video, and feature subjects (the kids and the 8-Ball), while the Facebook invite has a single still image that does not feature any one thing in particular but rather depicts colors and a vague picture. Noah’s linguistic mode comes through in the spoken dialogue between the children and his own comments; the invite has an ambiguously authored paragraph that reaches a wide audience.

Interestingly enough, they are similar in where they come from – both pieces are digitally distributed and published within the same month.

 

  • Poster in the Duderstadt to join a club

 

In the Duderstadt, there’s a long cork board just inside the entrance that’s just for student organizations, programs, and events to put up flyers. The other day, I saw a poster for a new college class that would combine engineering with music. The gist was that people interested in computer programming and music theory would enjoy the class, and not that much more information was provided. In regards to spatial mode, the name of the course was the largest and boldest font and it was placed in the center of the poster. Underneath and in second largest font was a question surveying interest: “Do you love coding? Do you love music?” Something like that.

This is very similar to the Facebook invitation; not necessarily because they use the exact same modes, but the overlapping modes are used in a very specific way. Both use linguistic modes for brief, succinct descriptions and use visuals simply to complement the text rather than take attention away. Their place of origin is not necessarily the same – the Facebook invite is digital and can reach specific individuals and the poster is in a physical location that is available for passerby to glance over. This, coupled with the origins of the Trevor Noah video and the Facebook invite leads to the conclusion that similarity between multimodal texts must not strictly depend on when and where two pieces are published.

 

A New Multimodal Look on the World

As I sat in a coffee shop reading Writer/Designer’s “What are Multimodal Projects?”, I looked around and noticed numerous multimodal texts. From the menu plastered on the wall, to the front page news spread on the table next to me, to various advertisements posted on the cork board wall, my awareness of these multimodal projects led me to notice new methods of communication in my every day life. The five modes of communication mentioned in the reading, visual, aural, gestural, spatial, and linguistic, work together in various texts to convey a specific purpose. When I looked around over the past few days at different multimodal projects with an analytical eye, I discovered how these different modes are strategically used.

The first multimodal text I noticed after reading about the topic was our assigned reading itself. This chapter from a book utilized the linguistic mode, particularly a writing style geared towards college students, to best relay the information about multimodal projects. Additionally, there are various different types of text in this piece so the concepts can be best described, including bolding or italicizing important words and phrases, boxing off examples to give the reader context, and placing descriptive captions with the images. These images also add a visual mode to the text. Physical examples for the reader to engage in helps enhance understanding of the material. Additionally, the layout of the titles, body text, images, and boxed off examples show the spacial mode used in this reading. The reader can easily flow through this text and the examples are included in specific locations to compliment the information on the same page.

Another text, one that actually used all five modes is an advertisement for Brita Stream that popped up on my Instagram feed. The linguistic mode of communication is perhaps the most obvious in this advertisement, as it is a video with a written title, caption, speech, and subtitles. The words spoken by the actors in the video all contribute to the videos purpose, convincing the viewer to feel that a Brita Stream would improve his or her life. Additionally, the title and caption of the video ensures that the viewer knows explicitly what the message of the video is. Aural elements such as background music and sound effects are incorporated into the video to add the drama necessary to make the ad effective.  The blue color of the words gives the ad continuity by matching with the Brita brand, demonstrating the visual mode. Additionally, the large size of the text above the video reading “Bottled Water Can Ruin Your Life” catches the viewers attention while scrolling through an Instagram feed. The gestural is also important in the video because the way the characters interacted with each other was crucial to delivering the persuasive purpose behind the ad. And finally, spatial mode is relevant, as there is a tab below the video where the viewer can conveniently click to get more information and buy the product.

Another text I noticed in my life that included all five modes is a powerpoint presentation for a meeting I went to earlier today, a workshop for an audience of 70+ women who are preparing to work with the freshman going through the sorority recruitment process. The powerpoint included text, the linguistic mode, and specifically, a lack of excessive text proved to serve the purpose of the presentation best, which was to relay a significant amount of logistical information. Just a few phrases per slide allowed the presenter to speak out loud, bringing in the aural mode. By speaking out loud in addition to showing text on the screen, the presenter was able to emphasize certain parts with her volume and tone, along with engaging the audience with questions. This also touches on the gestural mode, as the presenters maintained a friendly and informal tone with the audience. This made them relatable, and therefore trustworthy deliverers of the information. Spacial mode was prevalent in the presentation, as well, because the presenters organized the powerpoint in a specific way to allow for break activities after giving a lot of information to optimize the audience’s attention. Finally, a video at the end of the presentation tied in visual elements.

These texts are just three of the many multimodal texts I’ve encountered over the past couple of days. They are all different because they serve different purposes and have different main formats, but they are all similar because they utilize multiple modes of communication to convey their message. Additionally, I noticed a pattern in all of the texts that two or more modes could be intertwined, and work together to convey an idea. Now, I better understand the strengths and weaknesses of these different modes and the variety of choices I have as a writer when formatting a text.

Unexpected Avenues of Multimodality

“What Are Multimodal Projects” inspired me to discover new and surprising forms of multimodality in my everyday life. This week, I took the term “text” loosely when defining a multimodal project and challenged myself to find the most unexpected multimodal texts possible. In my search, I emphasized texts that combined all five modes of communication: linguistic, visual, aural, spatial, and gestural.

A lecture in my Astronomy class served as the first multimodal text. Alone, the lecture slides provide visual, linguistic, and spatial information about assorted astronomers and their contributions to the study of the stars. Photos help to visually represent formulas and historical events, while words further clarify information. However, with some slides only communicating visually, and others having sparse or vague language, it is difficult to piece together a complete picture of the topic.

Above, slides from Mateusz Ruszkowski’s “Newtonian Gravity” lecture, 9/13/2018

However, experiencing the lecture in person fills this gap by adding the gestural and aural modes provided by the professor. He elaborates on the subject through speech and physically demonstrates the size and relative distance of astronomical objects through gesture. This struck me as an excellent example of multimodality, and a reminder never to skip this particular class.

The next multimodal text I discovered appeared in the form of a silly situation: conspiracy theory party prep. My house threw a party centered around the Avril Lavigne clone conspiracy theory and put up some decorations in the process.

Above, an Avril Lavigne-themed party decoration (photo by me)

I would argue that even party decorations can be considered multimodal. This display employs linguistic, visual, and spatial modes of communication to mimic a classic conspiracy trope (a cluttered bulletin board full of newspaper clippings, yarn, and photographs). Spatial information is especially important here: the chaotic appearance of the images adds a manic energy to the piece, and the yarn and tape lead the eye to make connections between photos. This multimodal project also included an aural aspect: the party’s playlist was punctuated by Avril Lavigne songs to really hammer the theme home.

I found it difficult to escape multimodal texts, even when I was trying my hardest not to think about schoolwork. In a failed attempt to procrastinate, I headed to Tumblr, where I discovered the following post:

Above, an image posted to Tumblr by @pics-that-make-you-go-hmm and a comment by @toddhowardfunkopop.

Aside from being filled with cursed energy, this image also struck me as being part of a multimodal text. Using linguistic, spatial, and visual modes, the post expresses the disturbing nature of the photo using language consistent with Gen Z comedy. The comment helps to expose the multimodality of the picture itself: the linguistic information of the timestamp seems to contradict the poor image quality and odd content of the visual. Just like this post, multimodality haunts my every waking thought.

In my investigation, the dominance of the visual mode stuck out as a link between the three examples. Linguistic and spatial information also contributed to their multimodality; however, images seemed to carry the most important information in all three instances. I discovered aural and gestural modes in some unexpected places (my professor dropping various objects on the ground to demonstrate gravity, assorted Avril Lavigne songs). Overall, this experiment showed me the versatility and effectiveness of multimodal projects in communicating diverse sets of information. I’m not sure I’ll ever get them, or “Sk8r Boi,” out of my head.

 

Multimodal Life

After reading Writer/Designer’s “What are Multimodal Projects?” I have come to realize how multimodal projects are constantly around us. Whether we are reading online, browsing social media on a phone, watching street signs, or even ordering

at a restaurant, multimodal projects are texts that help communicate news, rules, options, or connections–everyday life, really– in many different ways, appealing to sight, sound, gestures, written texts, and spatial modes. I have come across many examples this week, however, these are four of how I have experienced these multimodal projects in my everyday life.

I will begin by first stating how I am looking for newviolin students, here in Ann Arbor. While word of mouth may be helpful, I have decided to create my own business cards. They arrived from shipment just the other day, and when I picked them up from the post office, I was so proud! Using Vistaprint, I was able to design and choose the visual and written content of the card, purely from scratch! I designed them in a way, whereon one side of the card, my contact information is clear, professional, and visually appealing. Written is my name, addresses, email address, and phone number. On the other side of the card, “Violin” is written in big letters, in the very center. Below, is a small job description! For example, I had written “Private Lessons, Practice Mentoring, Funerals and Weddings, Church Services,” etc. I write about these because Ibelieve they include: the linguistic mode, in providing information of who I am, how I can be contacted, and my services; the visual mode, in choosing the printed pattern and color coordination behind the words, and size of the card; and the spatial mode, when deciding where to place certain information on the card. To me, it is quite amazing how a card, so simple in purpose (to hand out), requires so many different aspects to create, to hopefully grab one’s attention. In a way, this is a form of advertisement of me, and my musical abilities!

The second text I will choose, is the book I have been reading in my spare time: Jonas Jonasson’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. The mode of this comedic and entertaining novel is quite obvious: linguistic. The title basically describes the very beginning of the novel, and as the story unfolds, the audience experiences the adventures of this one hundred year old man, Allan. As the audience grows comfortable with Allan, and his oddities, we begin to learn more of Allan’s earlier years in some chapters. While I am currently only halfway through the novel, this seems to be a trend: a shift back and forth, between Allan’s past, and his current escape. Jonasson does a great job in keeping the audience actively engaged in the fulfillment of Allan’s life, and even humor, through Jonasson’s ability of utilizing the spatial mode.

Instagram and Snapchat are another obvious text that I, and many other students, use. While most have quite similar purposes, they certainly have some unique modes that set them apart. For example, Snapchat’s grew in fame, based on the concept of a picture, sent to someone that disappears ‘forever.’ This form of communication exhibits the visual mode: the picture being sent, the linguistic mode: the comment sender writes in correlation to picture, and the spatial mode: the disappearance of the creation, ten seconds after the receiver has opened the ‘snap.’ Yes, Snapchat has evolved over the years, to include the video recording feature, which allows sound (aural mode). As for Instagram, I saw a post just the other day, by @female, which I thought was a humorous comment on linguistic modes. The post was a picture of a plain white background, and the black lettering “When your ex posts a selfie and you’re like damn why’d I ever break up with them and then you see the caption and you’re like lol oh yeah” (@female). @female captioned this picture “so truee (laughing emoji).” It is mind puzzling, yet fascinating, how this post demonstrates the linguistic mode, of the worded picture, @female’s caption,  and the caption mentioned in the picture. Further, the plain picture, as well as the selfie mentioned in the picture, appeal to the visual modes. This post recieved over five thousand likes, and one hundred comments–both modes worked together to create a relatable moment.

The last one I am going to share, may be up for debate: The University of Michigan’s Football game, against SMU (45-20). As I stood in Section 31, Row B, I began to absorb and reflect how football/game cultures appeal to all five textual modes, each contributing to the University of Michigan Football game experience. The visual mode of us as Wolverines in our Stadium is simple, yet so loud: the maize and blue we wear! We scream, and shout, and cheer, and sing–all of which may be seen as an aural mode. The scoreboard has linguistic texts that tell audiences who is winning, where the plays are, what quarter it is, the time, etc. Gesturally, we clap, shake our hands and fingers in hope for a win, dance, waving our arms singing that the other team “sucks.” And we are found everywhere, throughout the stadium, (spatial mode). While all of these are seen throughout a four hour period, these five modes play a role in our main purpose as students in the Stadium: to not only intimidate the rival team, but to exude school spirit, celebrating and growing closer as Michigan Wolverines!

These were just several, among many other encounters of multimodal projects throughout my everyday life, and they all look so different! Between business cards and a football game, they differ in purpose and modal types. They are in the same time period, yet different location and publication. However, I have learned that our abilities to recognize the differences and strengthen each mode is imperative; and to later use to the best of our ability, in any aspect of life, may be something to consider.