Multimodal Analysis/ Takeno

Post by Eriko Takeno

Multimodal Analysis

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Image by John Hilliard

For me Multimodality is like Process Art. In Process Art, as with Multimodal theory there is an emphasis on particular materials used in the process determined by the artist carrying the overall message. The work above is done by John Hilliard, and for me it illustrates how looking at the rich variations of modes, can be used as a way to interpret something.

As a group, we  broke down into smaller groups and each chose a different mode to transcribe in relation to documenting the ground floor of the RCA White City campus. After which we came together and compared our transcriptions of the different modes to each other. It showed how our perceptions of a quality of space can change interestingly depending on the focus of each modes. For example, a map focused on the mode of texture illustrated that the space seems to be too simplistic and flat. On the other hand, a transcription focused on the modes of colour and shape shows there is a lot of variety in the space. From this experience, I would like discuss three points about multimodality:

  1.  subjectivity
  2. flatness
  3. its process driven character

I will use these three characteristics to show how multimodal methods can be a very practical and philosophical method.

In the above workshop, when I looked at my transcription of modes in comparison to others I realised the method was subjective.  We cannot realise fully what we are missing with our subjectivity until we see others’ ideas for analysing modes. This makes it easier to understand your own postionality and how you build your own systems and rules for modal transcription and analysis. As a result of developing new/ different means of transcribing modes the process of comparing these as a group makes visible new  perspectives.

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The multimodal research process takes away three dimensionality and multi-sensory aspects from what we actually experience when we observe the environment and as a result we are left with data which seems to be flatter. However, I also think that taking a multimodal approach to research also generates ‘cut-out pieces’ from the actual three-dimensional world and thus enables us to analyse piece by piece deeply. Therefore I see the results of multimodal research as better for generating understandings about how we perceive rather than how the contents themselves are. In other words, it has more meanings in terms of epistemology than ontology. It is not about if that exists, but whether someone of us recognise it as it exists and how.

Lastly, two elements above brings ‘process driven’ as a function of multimodal analysis method. Since it analyses modes piece by piece, a multimodal approach (such as the one above) helps generate information for next steps in IED work based around specific research questions. For example, you set a first question, then try to answer it through exploration of one mode only. In doing so you will find out what information is missing and allows you to think about how this might be explored through looking closely at other modes in the next step and so on.

In conclusion, I believe that taking a multimodal approach to IED projects could provide deep insight on research topics and thus rich data to be included in the physical outcomes from the projects. It also seems that it can also be used philosophically as it shows the beauty of diversity in the world, and opens you up to new perspectives. In this sense I find a multimodal approach to be full of inspiration. One story can be coloured in so many ways depends on the research and the environment they are studying, the modes they are considering and the methods they use to do so. Additionally, because it is not only based on speech and writing there is the possibility to share the research across boundaries and  cultures and used like lingua-franca.

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