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Composition for Multimodal Technology

Exploring the expanding craft of communcation

Ashley O'Brien, Author

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Multimodal Literacy

Multimodality or visual art?

George Lucas

George Lucas wants to teach children modes of communication beyond words. 

In this video, Lucas argues English classes for young children should evolve into communication classes. Lucas feels words dominate the educational system when concepts such as graphics and music play in increasingly important role in multimodal communication. Lucas sees art as a practical tool, vital to communication, and underutilized in conventional classrooms. 

Gunther Kress

Communication: semiotic meanings from images to writing, and gestures to speech.

In this video, Gunther Kress discusses modes of communication as developments of meaning. Kress neatly explains principles of semiotics and how communication is not confined to language. Language is one mode of communication: it is socially produced, regularly used and recognizably in a material sense. But it is only one mode. Multimodal technology uses several different modes, which can be discovered if you ask yourself, "Is meaning being made? Is this content significant?"

Modes are a cultural means of making meaning, and in some ways language is not the best mode to make a meaning. Decisions for multimodal media should consider available semiotic resources and the affordances of the technology.


In this video, an art teacher discusses multimodality as a field of research.

This artist mentions Gunther Kress and his research on multimodality. She argues that while academics see his work as intelligent, she only sees basic artistic principles, designers and artists have been employing for years. 

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Discussion of "Multimodal Literacy"

Multimodal Literacy

Multimodal Literacy is the ease in which a person can understand and employ the appropriate mode for a given composition.

Syntax beyond grammar

Communication is no longer confined to language and grammar can be understood as a more general term when it comes to composing multimodal communications. Children have access to multimodal technologies such as cinema, advertisements, and the internet, why not teach them to be literate in those media?

George Lucas argues for art

George Lucas argues that elements of art are no longer esoteric abstracts, but practical tools. Lucas argues children need communication classes instead of English classes and perspective, graphics, sound, color and other traditionally artistic skills are just as important for communication as words. 

Gunther Kress asks, "Is this content significant?"

Gunther Kress has a similar viewpoint to George Lucas. Kress sees communication meanings and modes. Kress explains the economy of modality and its ability to take us away from using language for every communication need. Kress explains modes as semiotic resources, explaining how to identify a mode by asking the question, "Is meaning being made? Is this content significant?" Kress sees multimodality as contributors to meaning, asking the which is most important out of image, gesture, writing and speech.

Strategy or plain ol' artistic sense?

Artists believe multimodal composition is something designers, poets and artists have been creating for years. A blogger sees meaning and feelings that come from color, images and sound to be common sense for artists.

It's not taught in grade school

Multimodal Literacy is not a subject in grade school, but it's likely most young people are self-taught in this area. Multimodal technologies have the potential to deliver messages in ways far more efficient and effective than text or lecture. The next page in your journey will show you several examples that prove multimodal literacy is a fascinating topic.

Wearable technology requires a proficient level of multimodal literacy. Users without practice using different communication modes simultaneously or in progression may avoid or misuse devices such as these. Composing content, design and functionality should anticipate the multimodal literacy of the intended audience. Even if Geroge Lucas and Gunther Kress convince educational institutions to replace English with Communication, multimodal literacy will vary among users.

Posted on 12 May 2015, 5:33 pm by Ashley O'Brien  |  Permalink

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