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Multimodal Texts

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Multimodal Texts

Imagine you are going through a website online. What kind of things do you see on the page? Is it just text or is there more?

Websites often contain many different modes of communication such as text, images, videos, sound, and more. This is therefore an example of multimodal text.

Multimodal Text Definition

A multimodal text is a text that creates meaning by combining two or more modes of communication, such as print, the spoken word, sound, and images. Multimodal texts can be digital (websites, blogs) or print-based (graphic novels, newspapers, magazines). Multimodal texts can even be live performances.

Importance of Multimodal Texts

These days, communication is shaped by a range of different, and overlapping, technologies. It is essential that we are able to understand multimodal texts so that we can take advantage of this.

Furthermore, combining different modes of communication to create meaning is an essential skill. Understanding them helps us develop a critical perspective of the media we consume.

Modes of Multimodal Text

There are five modes:

  • Linguistic
  • Visual
  • Gestural
  • Spatial
  • Aural

These modes can be combined to create multimodal texts.

Linguistic

The linguistic mode refers to any sort of written or spoken text.

The linguistic mode is the most common mode because it can be used in a variety of ways. Think of all the places where you find written or spoken texts!

Visual

This refers to images and characters, such as marks, signs, and symbols. The visual mode involves the use of color, layout, style, size, and perspective.

Think of road signs, for example. They seem purely visual because they don't use any language or sound. Signs rely on the visual mode to get their message across. However, they also use the spatial mode. That's why we can say that signs are multimodal texts.

Gestural

The gestural mode is about movement and how we interpret it. Examples of gestural modes include facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, and interactions between people.

The gestural mode is important in face-to-face conversations, in the theater, concerts, and other live performances, as well as in YouTube videos and other platforms. This mode is usually combined with the other modes.

Spatial

The spatial mode refers to the organisation of elements in a space. It also deals with the physical closeness between people and objects.

Here are two examples of the spatial mode:

A traditional theatre.

Multimodal Text Traditional Modes Theatre Stage StudySmarterTheatre stages are examples of a spatial mode (Pixabay)

The stage is on a platform and the audience sits in chairs below, facing it. Here, the power is in the hands of the performers. This spatial order allows the audience to forget about their surroundings and to focus on what is happening on stage.

A theatre-in-the-round.

The audience sits in a circle that surrounds the stage. The performers and the audience are on the same level. This spatial order allows each audience member to get a unique view of what is happening on stage. Additionally, sitting in-the-round makes the viewers aware of each other, and enables their participation.

Both of these uses of the spatial mode create different experiences for the audience.

Aural

The aural or audio mode focuses on sound. This includes music, sound effects, ambient noises, silence, the tone of a person's voice, the volume of a sound, emphasis, and accent.

Some examples of the aural mode are radio programs, podcasts, and audio plays.

Examples of Multimodal Text

Let's look at the different types of multimodal text along with examples.

Types of multimodal text

There are four types of multimodal text:

  • Print-based
  • Digital
  • Live
  • Transmedia

Print-based multimodal text

This is a printed text that combines different modes.

Comic books, graphic novels, picture storybooks, posters, leaflets, magazines, and newspapers are all examples of print-based multimodal text. They combine the linguistic mode and the visual mode.

Digital multimodal text

This is a virtual text that combines different modes.

Digital texts can be internet-based, such as social media content, blog posts, vlogs, and online games. They can also be found offline. Some examples are films, animations, e-books, video games, and presentation slides.

Digital multimodal texts can combine different modes. For instance, films and video games normally combine the linguistic, visual, gestural, and aural modes, whilst blog posts and e-books usually only use linguistic and visual modes.

Live multimodal text

This is a text that is performed live.

Live multimodal texts include theater, opera performances, and concerts. Book premieres, poetry readings, and lectures are also examples of live multimodal texts. These usually combine four of the five modes: linguistic, gestural, spatial, and aural. Sometimes they can combine all five modes.

Transmedia multimodal text

This is a text that tells a story or sends a message through a combination of media platforms (each of which uses various modes.) A transmedia text is a multimodal text within a multimodal text.

Each added platform in a transmedia multimodal text further develops the story or idea and enhances the user experience.

Some games can be effective transmedia multimodal texts:

Have you ever played a board game that required the use of an app? The physical game and the app are two different platforms. Additionally, the board game itself combines different modes: linguistic, visual, gestural, and spatial. Perhaps the app uses the remaining aural mode, whilst also incorporating other modes, such as the visual and the linguistic.

Maybe you have played a mobile game that required you to engage in physical activity outside of the digital world. Think of Pokémon GO, for instance.

Both of these are examples of a transmedia multimodal text.

Transmedia texts are also known as transmedia storytelling. American researcher Henry Jenkins was the first to define this kind of text back in 2003.

Multimodal Text Analysis

To analyse a multimodal text, you should first recognise its different modes and be aware of the context they appear in. Then, you can proceed by pointing out those modes and using them as evidence to make an argument. You should also describe the modes in detail.

Multimodal text analysis example

Here is an example analysis of a multimodal text. In this case a street sign:

Multimodal Text Street Sign Study SmarterA stop sign is an example of a multimodal text (Pixabay)

The use of the linguistic mode –the written word 'stop'– reveals the message of the street sign. The drivers who see the sign need to stop driving. The visual mode supports the linguistic mode: the layout of the sign is white letters on a red background which is framed in white. This simple but effective layout draws attention and the use of red enhances the importance of what is written (that it is important to stop).

The spatial mode positions the sign on a road in what seems to be the countryside, where it is visible and not obstructed by other signs or buildings. This tells us that the drivers can immediately notice the sign and do as it says: to stop. This is important to do in the space where the sign is situated and will prevent accidents.

Multimodal Text - Key Takeaways

  • A multimodal text is a text that creates meaning by combining two or more modes of communication, such as print, spoken word, audio, or image.
  • Understanding multimodal texts and the ability to create multimodal texts are important skills.
  • There are five modes used in multimodal texts: linguistic, visual, gestural, spatial, and aural.
  • There are four types of multimodal text: print-based, digital, live, and transmedia.
  • The analysis of a multimodal text includes recognising its different modes and using those modes as evidence to make an argument.

Frequently Asked Questions about Multimodal Texts

A multimodal text is a text that creates meaning by combining two or more modes of communication, such as print, spoken word, audio, and images. 


Examples of multimodal texts include newspapers, websites, and magazines.

The four types of multimodal text are print-based multimodal text, digital multimodal text, live multimodal text, and transmedia multimodal text.


There are also five modes that are used in multimodal texts. These are the linguistic mode, the visual mode, the gestural mode, the spatial mode, and the aural mode.


To analyse multimodal texts, you should recognise the different modes that are used in it while being aware of the context they appear in. You can make an argument by pointing out the modes and using them as evidence. You should also describe the modes in specific detail.

Multimodal texts are important because by combining different modes of communication that complement each other, they create more meanings. 


The ability to read and create multimodal texts is an important skill that can help us find new ways of expression and gain cross-disciplinary literacy.


Final Multimodal Texts Quiz

Question

Which of the five modes of multimodal text appear in a picture storybook?




Show answer

Answer

A. Linguistic

Show question

Question

What type of multimodal text is the game Pokémon GO?

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Answer

Transmedia

Show question

Question

Which of the five modes of multimodal text appear in a film?


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Answer

A. Visual 


Show question

Question

What type of multimodal text is a magazine article? 


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Answer

Print-based

Show question

Question

Which of these is a part of the aural mode?

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Answer

Accent

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Question

Which of these does NOT refer to the linguistic mode?


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Answer

Layout

Show question

Question

Which of the five modes of multimodal text appear in a musical theater show?






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Answer

A. Spatial


Show question

Question

What type of multimodal text is a live Bon Jovi concert?


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Answer

Live

Show question

Question

Which of these refer to the spatial mode?


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Answer

Physical closeness between people and objects

Show question

Question

What type of multimodal text is a board game that requires the use of an app?

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Answer

Transmedia

Show question

Question

Which of these refers to the gestural mode?


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Answer

Facial expression

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Question

What type of multimodal text is a YouTube video?


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Answer

Digital

Show question

Question

Which of these does NOT refer to the visual mode?


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Answer

Sound effects

Show question

Question

What type of multimodal text is an Instagram post?

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Answer

Digital

Show question

Question

Which of these multimodal texts uses the aural mode?


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Answer

Vlog

Show question

Question

Which of the following are good examples of multimodal texts?

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Answer

Newspapers

Show question

Question

A multimodal text is a text that creates meaning by combining two or more modes of communication. True or false?

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Answer

True

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Question

Each technology and method of communication is unique. There is no overlap. True or false?

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Answer

False

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Question

How many MODES of multimodal text are there?

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Answer

5

Show question

Question

Road signs use which modes of communication?

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Answer

Visual

Show question

Question

The gestural mode is about ________ and how we interpret it. Fill in the blanks.

Show answer

Answer

Movement

Show question

Question

In which places would we find the spatial mode?

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Answer

A traditional theatre

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Question

The aural mode focuses on _______. Fill in the blanks.

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Answer

Sound

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Question

How many TYPES of multimodal text are there?

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Answer

4

Show question

Question

How do we analyse a multimodal text? Put the following steps in order.

  • Use the modes as evidence to make an argument
  • Go into further detail about the modes
  • Recognise the different modes and their context

Show answer

Answer

1/ Recognise the different modes and their context

2/ Use the modes as evidence to make an argument

3/ Go into further detail about the modes

Show question

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