Semiotics in Education: Signs, Meanings, and Multimodality SIG 110

A Vision for Semiotics, Multimodality, and Media

The social and digital landscape of how we communicate and make meaning has shifted towards being ever-more open, instantaneous, and connected while also tending towards “texts” which are more visual and embodied. If we are to study meaning-making in an age where internet memes, GIFs, videos, and face-to-face communication are common texts in our communicative practices, social semiotics becomes an essential theoretical stance for researchers.

Social semiotics is defined by Gunther Kress as a “theory that deals with meaning in all its appearances, in all social occasions, and in all cultural sites.” In this theoretical orientation, the perspective of multimodality considers different resources drawn upon for meaning-making purposes, modes used for communicative purposes, as well as the interest and agency of those making and interpreting meaningful signs. Thinking of communication multimodally means giving weight to modes beyond those of the linguistic (i.e. speech, written word), including but not limited to: gesture, gaze, proxemics, body posture, sound, music, spatial layout, architecture, color, object-handling, and more.

A social semiotics and multimodal approach to towards media is one that considers:

  1. The affordances and constraints of modes used for communicative purposes;
  2. The social and cultural implications of how digital technologies have changed the way people communicate;
  3. The necessary skills that people need for navigating, interpreting, and contributing their own texts within such a multimodal landscape;
  4. How multimodal communication is related to power relations, and how modes can be leverages to persuade, dissuade, and impact the narrative of events that occurring