Reading Response: Kress Chapters 1-5

The first five chapters of Kress’ Multimodality were, what I imagine to be, the most difficult to process. At one point, early on, Kress worries about sounding “pedantic” and rightfully so. The first three chapters were so heavy with theoretic jargon, that I will probably have to reread them, post finishing the rest of the book, in order to truly get anything out of them. I found any examples he gave that involved images to be much easier to digest. But, I didn’t feel I was really getting into the information until I read chapters four and five.

In Multimodality, Kress is attempting to invent a unifying theory of semiotics that is suitable for modern technologies that are changing which modes are prevalent for communication in the present. According to Kress, all of our theories about semiotic communication need to be reworked and modernized. We have gone through a major change in modality recently, which theorists are not keeping up with. There is a huge generational divide in cultural conventionality that needs to be addressed.

“The semiotic effects are recognizable in many domains and at various levels: at the level of media and the dissemination of messages – most markedly in the shift from the book and the page to the screen; at the level of semiotic production in the shift from the older technologies of print to digital, electronic means; and, in representation, in the shift from the dominance of the mode of writing to the mode of image, as well as others” (6).

The “shifts” that Kress speaks of are of important to us, as new media students, because the shift from older forms of media to new media is what drew us to this program in the first place. It is in our best interest to understand the changes occurring around us and the semiotic theory behind said changes in order to communicate more effectively.

What interested me mostly was the idea that we can use multimodality in digital media in order to best convey our message to a specific audience. Figure 4.3, in which the elementary age child both wrote and drew his or her trip to a museum, really stood out to me. The difference in story between the written text and the drawing was immense. Together, they told so much more about the museum trip. When communicating through digital media, we have the option to use so many different modes to get a message across. I hope that after reading this book, probably twice, I will have a better understanding of which modes are the most effective tools of communication for different situations.

Does Kress tie into Chicago being a typography town? I believe it does. For my photo assignment, I took both shots of typography around my neighborhood and typography from Renegade Craft Fair. Professor Moore had made a point in class about the CTA using Helvetica, and how boring that was for a town as rich and diverse in culture as Chicago. A lot of the more “official” Chicago type examples I came across were very nondescript sans serifs. This is in sharp contrast to the unique and varied typography at Renegade. I feel that widely available and affordable technology has given some power to individuals. Small businesses and individual designers are using technology and multimodality to do some really interesting work.

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