In class on Monday, August 30th we discussed multimodality and how it applies to technical writing. The class discussion made me think about how we communicate (either rhetorically, or not) in multiple modes on a daily basis. It isn’t something I would typically think about. Talking to our friends is multimodal: through words, gestures, and body language. Going to a musical concert can be seen as multimodal communication: stage performers dress a certain way, play their music a certain way, and engage with their audience members in a certain way.
We also spoke about the correlation between rhetoric and technical writing. Rhetoric = technical writing = multimodality. All three ideas are interconnected. Rhetoric is traditionally seen as speaking or writing to influence/persuade an audience. However, since rhetoric (and technical writing) are multimodal, an effective communicator doesn’t necessarily have to speak or write to influence/persuade an audience — I believe visual and aural modes can achieve the same effect.
Mixed media art can even be an example of multimodal communication, or rhetoric — if used effectively, it can elicit an emotional or intellectual response from the audience, which in turn, can persuade the audience to take action. As an amateur artist, I mixed media work to communicate my academic interests and believes. After class discussion I also think some of my artwork can qualify as multimodal communication.
An example is this mixed media canvas using acrylic paint, oil pastels, and pages from a book. The elements of the painting are representations of viruses that scientists have developed vaccines for. The background of each virus element are pages taken from Dr. Paul Offit’s Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. I wanted to correlate the danger of each individual virus by using selections that exemplified how dangerous they can be in real life.
Another example is this painting of HIV/AIDS (on a structural level). It functions as a diagram and labels and differentiates the different parts of the virion. Theoretically, someone could use this as a diagram alongside written notes to help visualize what they read, as they read it. Using the painting in that way makes learning about the human immunodeficiency virus structure more accessible to visual learners. Thus, it represents a component of technical communication.