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Composition for Multimodal Technology

Exploring the expanding craft of communcation

Ashley O'Brien, Author

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Wearable Technology


Visual, auditory and sensual features of multimodal technology can combine or align in combinations of ways--producing a wide variety of different scenarios. Since users will engage with their wearable devices in unique contexts, it's likely no two user experiences will be exactly the same. Multimodal technology has the opportunity to function flexibly, as minimal or expansive as the user's willingness to engage. Writers and developers for multimodal technology design for a marketable usefulness for certain tasks, but the unique path (or the mode) within each use is an exchange between the user and the device. 

A reader is confined to conventional contexts for print media, but wearable technologies are designed for intermittent, instantaneous engagement in potentially endless contexts. It is unlikely a surgeon holds a book between his face and an incision because print is designated to certain environments where watches and wristbands, even vibrating smart rings, can thrive. Engagement relates concentration and distractions will always be an element for multimodal technologies. 


Wearable technologies represent a new realm of affordances. Google glass offers augmentation, sharing visual roles with our eyes, changing what we are seeing through a seemingly-natural view or via dual screens. Other wearables's design offer physical advantages sharing with us physiological details about our greatest asset, our bodies. Both groups of wearable technologies offer the affordance of continuity. Continuity of use in various contexts in which we wear them.


Wearable technology will differ from conventional comic book interactive design. A composer for multimodal technology should write content and design functionality to incorporate opportunity for user's to make their user experience their own. Wearable technology can interact with a user beyond the affordances of print in the rhetorical contexts of use. For example, Google Glass interacts with the user using features such as maps, search engines, photography, social media management and voice commands. 


Wearable technology, such as Google Glass, is intended to fill the role of other devices. Developers, designers, and writers are constantly competing with the content, functionality and structure from existing technologies. Composers for multimodal channels should avoid using dialogue and other obvious modes to convey content. Even visual movement or framing can be upgraded from generic to original, considering the audience's desire to see something they haven't seen before.While generic content is simple and guaranteed to reach an audience, an equal or less amount of content can deliver that same message in a better way.

Multimodal Literacy

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.


Wearable technology represents this powerful pathos potential. Taking technology out of our hands, and putting it on to our bodies enables an all-time closeness. Feeling attached to a multimodal device extends pathos potential when we physically attach the device to our body. A fitness monitor wrist band knows our physiological data more than we do. Google Glass remembers things we forget. It matters what these devices share with us because we trust them. And what they tell us can change the way we feel.

Physical contact with wearables is a mode in itself. Multimodal composers should consider how this level of physical closeness will effect the powers of pathos appeals. Maybe sharing contact with our devices will effect our desires to feel or communicate without them. Evolution for multimodal composition is as unavoidable and unpredictable as human pathos itself. 

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