Everything is Multimodal
The term multimodal can be pretty deceptive depending on who you’re talking to. For instance, you’re sitting in class that requires certain technology and digital accommodations. It’s in this class where your teacher requires some form of digital multimodality. Within the context of the instructions, you assume that it’s purely digital. Therefore, you focus primarily on the digital aspect as opposed to the writing, construction, layout, etc. of the assignment. However, that’s not multimodality. According to Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, “all writing is multimodal” (Concept 2.4). Which means, the choices you make in drafting digital documents (linguistic style, visual choices, layout choices) are modes and decisions that help make your writing multimodal. Further, “Multimodal composing tasks are not dependent on digital media” (Pamela Takayoshi & Cynthia Selfe 10). Therefore, to consider your work multimodal, you don’t have to be a part time graphic designer; you just have to use different communicative techniques in your work.
Revisiting Writer-Audience Relationship
In the same text mentioned above, the concept that “words are such thin and frail communicators, writers must work hard to make them do the best they can do” seems farfetched (Concept 2.2). As we know, are used to communicate our ideas. As writers, our word choices are what make our messages clear or muddled. Therefore, words aren’t thin or frail unless we lack the ability to use appropriate language and terminology to discuss and communicate our knowledge effectively. In other words, if you are having difficulty articulating what you’re trying to say, there may be something much deeper than words causing the issue.
For students, and teachers, if this comes up, take a step back from the actual assignment or document. It’s important to focus on the message and how it fits in the context to continue the conversations happening. Take few deep breathes and jot down what you’re thinking or research the topic a little more to get familiar with the terminology you can use to really drive home your point. You can also use the dictionary and thesaurus to find words that do a better job communicate your thoughts and feelings towards the topic.
Further, it’s important to note that when writing, you must think of your audience at some point. Therefore, keeping in mind the purpose and the people you’re writing for and to, you should be able to navigate effectively. There should be a connection between the terminology chosen and the conversations already happening that way the audience stays connected to the ideas being discussed.
How Will This Work in the Classroom?
As a teachers, we must be vigilant to keep up with the change in technological uses and devices while also connecting it back to make the lessons valuable to students to use in their future endeavors. Placing the importance and showing how the lessons and the technology are useful for one another helps keep students engaged or at least allows students to see that both the composition lesson and the digital devices being used is going to benefit them in their future.
In addition, emphasizing how digitizing writing and other documents further expands our audience and how it’s important to attempt to think of all possible visitors so that we are inviting new audience members/readers and that we are still including the initial audience base. Therefore, researching the audience and knowing them, according to Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford, helps us learn how to connect with the material and audience collectively. Thus, creating more intentional analysis and “detailed examination” of the text an “the signals provided by the writer for his audience” (155).
As a student transitioning to teacher, I see the importance of writing for an audience and using appropriate word to strengthen my point; however, it would be in bad taste for me to blame my inability to communicate on words when I, as a writer, am the reason the words I’m choosing are not conveying my ideas properly. Therefore, when entering into the classroom, I want students to be comfortable with the digital tools they have at their hands while also sharing with them that all writing is digital in nature. Takayoshi and Selfe state something very valuable in their chapter “Thinking about Multimodality” as a teacher it is my job “to teach students effective, rhetorically based strategies for taking advantage of all available means of communicating effectively and productively, to multiple audiences, for different purposes, and using a range of genres.” Therefore, allowing a variety of ideas to connect and use what works for them in conveying their thoughts and ideas about materials explored in my class.
Adler – Kassner, Linda. Wardle, Elizabeth. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. E-book, Kindle, 2015.
Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 35, no. 2, 1984, p. 155., doi:10.2307/358093.
Takayoshi, Pamela. Selfe, Cynthia L. “Chapter 1 Thinking about Multimodalty” Multimodal Composition Resources for Teachers, edited by Cynthia L. Selfe. Hampton Press, Inc., p. 1 – 12.