Lecture 4: Multimodal Semiosis

Modality and Realism

  • Modality: The reality status claimed or according to a sign, text, genre
  • Modality Judgement: Making sense of the text we see. We make a modality judgement of the text we are looking at (Ex. That seems real, that I donโ€™t believe). We perceive some things as being more realistic than others
  • Things do not exist independently of the sign systems which we use. Reality is created by the media seem simple to represent it. All media texts are REPRESENTED (Ex. Someone takes a news story, writes about it, and presents it in the news. This is how reality is perceived to us).
  • Therefore, texts represented in the media are edited, and then presented to the viewer. Invisible editing also exists in media representations, presenting new realities (Ex. Invisible editing in film, television. Certain productions in media become NATURALIZED, and represented to us)
  • The content is accepted by viewer as realistic representations
  • Reality: All media texts claimed to be realistic are representations rather than simply recordings or reproductions of reality
  • Nothing is raw material, as everything is edited, transformed and constructed, which is later presented to us. We buy into these certain codes of invisible editing and transformations. Representations of reality in media are constructed

Social Semiotics

  • The truth is a CONSTRUCT of Semiosis (signs, texts, symbols), and such the truth are of particular social group, arising from values and beliefs of that group
  • In our day-to-day actions, we regularly act on the basis that some representations of reality are more reliable than others. And we do so in part with reference to cue. These cues are known as Modality markers. Thus, some things are constructed, appearing more real to us
  • Therefore, not everything is ABSOLUTELY right or true
  • Modality Markers: Cues that indicate and help us perceive some representations of reality as real
  • Multimodality: The mix of different modes (Ex. Text, audio, visual) in combination with the media to create an object with meaning
  • How we assess multimodality includes viewing both formal (Ex. 3D vs. Flat, detailed vs. abstract, colour vs. monochrome) and content features (Ex. Possible vs. impossible, plausible vs. implausible, familiar vs. unfamiliar)

Multimodal Digital Semiotics

  • Semiotically, when considering a multimodal digital image as opposed to a still image, there are two differences. First, you will / can usually look at a still image longer, so we remember more details and you will use fewer semiotics to analyze it. Second, in a multimodal digital audio / visual image, we will use a number a of semiotic concepts to make meaning. Semiotically speaking, multimodal digital images offer us a lot to thing about
  • Heteroglossia: The blending of worldviews using two or more voices within a text to create a complex unity through language
  • Intersexuality: You understand a text you are displayed because you have prior knowledge of a previous text, which is required to understand the current text you are looking at. You apply previous knowledge to another text. You are seeing something in new form, but are relying on previous media you have seen
  • Open Reading: Many interpretations of a text
  • Closed reading: One interpretation of a text


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