Multimodality: A Modern Way of Storytelling.

6 min readJan 17, 2021

For many decades now, digital media is our way of life. We wake up, check our phones for the latest updates, use our phones for weather updates, directions, check our phones before bed! Is there anything digital media cannot do for us? So how do we check all of these daily necessities, through social media platforms! I will be analysing my own experience with practicing multimodality and how I believe it is crucial for our society today.

A multimodal text combines different modes to create one single commodity. ‘It has been developed over the past decade to systematically address much debated questions about changes in society, for instance in relation to new media and technologies’. Cheryl E.Ball and Colin Charlton draw from The New London Group ‘[a]ny combination of modes makes a multimodal text, and all text — every piece of communication a human composes — use more than one mode. Thus, all writing is multimodal’. This is in simple terms what multimodal means! Multimodal texts allow for a more visual and enticing way of perceiving online media, incorporating the creative side of journalism as well as the factual in the linguistic sector.

Woman using a smartphone

Five modes of communication:

There are five modes of communication that we can consider when publishing something with a multimodal platform. According to Melanie Gagich, in the article ‘An Introduction to and Strategies for Multimodal Composing’, there are five modes of communication:

  1. ‘Visual mode refers to what an audience can see, such as moving and still images, colours, and alphabetical text and style.’
  2. The Linguistic mode to spoken word or alphabetical text. It is all about the language of the text and how these verbally or written words are used. ‘A traditional five paragraph essay relies on the linguistic mode.’
  3. The Spatial mode is how a text approaches to space. How we organize our posts in contrast to what texts we decide to use.
  4. The Gestural mode is how we deliver the information. ‘This mode is often apparent in delivery of speeches’, how speakers move their hands and their facial features are shown in videos, movies and tv programs.
  5. The aural mode refers to what an audience member can or cannot hear’. The most common aural mode is through the use of music but silence is also a characteristic of the aural mode.

When creating a text/post, we have to decide what the genre of the post is which constitutes the audience expectations, including functions such as hyperlinks which throughout my experience with social media platforms I have used throughout, especially on my medium blog posts. This is another example of how I have used multimodality in practice, by incorporating more than one mode to create a final medium.

Where is Multimodality commonly shown and how have I used it?

My own experience and interest in multimodality came from interacting with the social media platform- Instagram. When researching how multimodality can be conveyed in social media platforms, in Integrating Text and Image: Determining Multimodal Document Intent in Instagram’, it states, ‘Multimodal social platforms such as Instagram let content creators combine visual and textual modalities’ explaining how Instagram uses multimodality to increase the depth of a story or post, including more than one modality to enhance the posts conducted on Instagram. Although practicing my skills in multimodality on other platforms, Instagram has developed my skills. In the society we live in today, almost everyone is familiar with what is Instagram is and how to use it. Since 2010 when it was first launched it gained over two million users in two months and has continued to keep up its popularity through the last decade.

When posting on Instagram, using features such as the story feature, I created multimodal posts incorporating written text with either photo, videos, or even GIF’s. As well as creating my own modes of multimodal media, I also was able to repost others' posts on my stories and create my personal stance to publish to my followers. This created a multimodal text as it incorporates more than one mode of communication. When reposting other news stories, such as BBC, The Independent only to name a few, it allowed me to put forward my own opinion of current news updates, allowing a more of a personal reaction/relationship with my followers as they can have their own say after understanding my view. Here is an example of my practicing multimodality on my Instagram page, with an example of a story I created. To create these stories I used an app called Canva, which I used to create various types of designs on my posts and my stories, allowing for a personal touch. Below is an example of my own Instagram story, where I used a variety of media (Canva), to create a vibrant story to create a sense of enticement for the audience and incorporate multimodality.

An example from my own Instagram story

When creating my journalism Instagram posts, focusing on the photo above, due to the content describing the new Moderna Covid Vaccine, I wanted to create a positive aesthetic using bright colours and symbols. I decided to use a white background, with light red, blue, and green colours surrounding in order to make the relevant Covid symbols enhanced, as well as making the text stand out so it is easy to read. When creating Instagram posts, it is important to use the text mode in a simplistic form, when language is used online, it is there for a simple insight for the audience to understand, for a quick and easy read. Instead of using an image in this post, I decided to use symbols that represent the content of the post as I wanted to keep the post as simple as possible but still keep the aesthetic that I have used throughout my accounts posts.

In addition to reposting stories and creating my own, Instagram has features that allow for a large amount of audience interaction which is polls. Throughout my experience with Instagram, I conducted multiple polls in order to gain the opinions of followers and evaluate how they differ from mine. When conducting polls, I always made sure what I was asking my followers was simple enough to understand, aesthetically pleasing so that followers are immediately intrigued, and also relevant to the news being updated at that current time. This was interesting as not only did I learn how to use features I haven’t practiced before, I gained a large insight into other people’s ways of thinking, helping me to understand other points of view and compare it to my own.

Using features such as polls to interact with my audience, helped me to use more than one modality, using the poll feature and the story feature, along with text and images. An article, on Rebrandly, describes polls as ‘a relatively new feature on Instagram. They are a fun way to engage your followers.’ Incorporating this modality into my Instagram posts and stories, it allows for a large engagement of the audience and also for a differing way to learn information. Below is an example of a poll I conducted, incorporating text, symbols, and a poll that helped my journalistic research as I gained an insight into other people's views on the Covid 19 vaccine.

An example of a poll conducted on my Instagram

I used a black background so the audience can focus solely on the question being asked on the poll and used some relevant symbols, such as a face mask and a small image of washing hands. Using a black background allows for focus completely on the content of the post and helps the audience comprehend what is being informed instead of focusing on the design but still keeping the post artistic and uncomplicated. This shows my differing aesthetics when conducting my social media stories and posts and allows me to portray my use of varying modes in my posts and shows my practice with multimodality!

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Instagram- @Olivianewswrites

Twitter- @Livnewswrites

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A 20 year old English Degree Student. Blogger, fiction lover, music enthusiast and active shopper!