Chapter Extensions: Part III


Discussion Questions

1. Kress argues that the multimodal social semiotic approach is discourse analysis. In this section, sign-makers include a Kindergarten boy in a classroom, an aggregation of Education Management Organizations, and a family in a Science Museum interacting with a display and with each other. In doing discourse analysis, how have these three authors described the respective agency of the sign-makers being studied, as well as the various resources (the communicational modes) available to them (the sign-makers, that is)?

2. In the transposition of her data from the Internet to the pages of this book (what Kress might term transduction), what kinds of decisions did Pini make with respect to representation? Can you “picture” the websites she discusses?

3. Kress asserts that “design is the servant of rhetoric.” How have the designs of these chapters—the theory cited, data (re)presented, analyses shared—served to persuade you of the claims made by their authors?

4. And what about context? Returning to Gee’s questions about framing, how much social, cultural, and historical context (how much “thick description”) is sufficient when doing multimodal discourse analysis, which requires contending with tremendous amounts and sorts of semiotic material? How have the authors in this section reckoned with “the frame problem?” 

5. In viewing all texts and Discourses as “signs of learning,” how can teachers design assessment practices that will value all signs as well as steer students toward pedagogical goals that may be extrinsic to the student? Might Positive Discourse Analysis help with such design? If so, how?

6. The Internet can and does make available to people many more modes for meaning making—aural, visual, pictorial, etc. Such an expansion of modes might suggest a flowering of polyphonic semiosis. On the other hand, the sign-makers Pini discusses are using the resources of web design to insist monologically on what they hope construct as an open-and-shut case for the privatization of education. Can you think of other examples in popular or political culture where multimodal expression is used to hammer down (rather than open up) meaning? 

7. How might Fairclough’s concepts of genre, discourse, and style fit with Kress’s concept of text-maker as designer? Can all communicational modes—gaze, touch, proximity, visual design, aural design, linguistic design, etc.—be analyzed in terms of ways of interacting, ways of representing, and ways of being? Try it out with the data presented by Wohlwend.


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