Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 13:33:32 -0600 From: Élisabeth Le Subject: Discourse & Technology: Multimodal Discourse Analysis
EDITOR: LeVine, Philip; Scollon, Ron TITLE: Discourse & Technology SUBTITLE: Multimodal Discourse Analysis SERIES: Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press YEAR: 2004
Élisabeth Le, University of Alberta
In their introduction to 16 selected papers from the Georgetown University Round Table 2002 (GURT 2002), the editors of this volume, Ron Scollon and Philip LeVine, present ''Multimodal Discourse Analysis as the Confluence of Discourse and Technology''. The papers treat different themes, of which the main ones are: why should we study discourse and technology and multimodal discourse analysis; the role of the web in discourse analysis; multimodal discourse analysis in studies of social actions and interactions; multimodal discourse analysis in educational social interactions; the use of multimodal discourse analysis in doing our analyses in workplaces.
The selection starts with Theo van Leeuwen's ''Ten Reasons Why Linguists Should Pay Attention to Visual Communication''. He underlines the multimodality of communicative events, and calls for a cooperation between linguists and students of visual communications.
Rodney H. Jones talks about ''The Problems of Context in Computer-Mediated Communication''. Her discussion is based on a participatory ethnographic study of the use of CMC by university students in Hong Kong. Models that have been developed for written and face-to-face communication are inadequate to deal with the question of context in CMC, because CMC users simultaneously manage multiple ways of being present and multiple levels of presence within multiple fields of interaction by moving objects, spaces and barriers in and out of interactional prominence, and by moving in and out of ''synch'' with different interlocutors.
In ''Multimodality in Novices' Use and Perceptions of Interactive Written Discourse (IWD)'', Angela Goddard reports on approximately 30,000 words of IWD data produced by students as part of their online course, and collected in the form of chatlogs. A Mediated Discourse Theory approach to her data revealed the complexities of the nature of participants' simultaneity in their deployment of IWD, and of the creative polyvocality in evidence in participants' textual output as they explore the ''enunciative positionalities'' of this tool.
Boyd Davis and Peyton Mason examine the ''[Use] of Questions to Establish Authority, Identity, and Recipient Design in Electronic Discourse'' with the use of an online asynchronous conference intended to extend class discussions for students and professors in an undergraduate honors program seminar. In their use of questions to manage their frequent disagreements, students exploited a style that is an interactional norm for formal oral debate, if not for ordinary conversation. It seems that this style was thought a professionalizing register as its use conferred authority upon its speakers with its characteristics of evaluation and appraisal, and enabled dialogism with the alternation of presentation of both sides of an issue.
Hsi-Yao Su is interested in ''The Interaction between Technology, Linguistic Practice, and Language Ideologies''. The paper focuses on a specific linguistic practice, the ''Mock Taiwanese-Accented Mandarin'' (MTM) used in Internet exchanges. While members of the Internet Community in Taiwan belong generally to the younger educated generations, Taiwanese-Accented Mandarin is associated with rurality and older age, but also with friendliness, congeniality and local color. MTM appears to play different roles: it is a language play with aesthetic value; it represents a practice of ''crossing''; and it participates in the emergence of a Taiwanese identity. However, the transformation from spoken to written contexts reinforces the distance between the standard variety and the stigmatized accent.
Ingrid de Saint-Georges looks at ''The Influence of Space and Layout in Making Meaning'' on the basis of ethnographic data that she collected in a Belgian vocational training center. She shows how spatial configurations facilitate or obstruct certain configurations of interactions. Space is transformed under the actions of participants, and discourse precedes, steers, follows or accompanies these actions. In the construction of space, discourse appears related to three major functions: instruction, evaluation, and social relationships. Thus, the spatial configuration is not only a space of action but also a space for identity claims and construction.
Laurent Filliettaz works on ''The Multimodal Negotiation of Service Encounters'', more specifically on the impact of nonverbal behavior. He argues that a multimodal approach to social interactions should pay attention to the way agents ''handle things'' while interacting. Nonverbal actions are deeply interwoven with communicative processes.
Sigrid Norris introduces a conceptual framework for Multimodal Discourse Analysis that would allow for the explication of the multiplicity of (inter)actions that a social actor engages in simultaneously. These social interactions take place at different levels. Higher-level actions are constructed with numerous lower-level actions, drawing on several communication modes. For example, the action of selecting a CD in a music store comprises many lower-level actions such as utterances, specific manual gestures, eye gaze in a certain direction, posture, etc. Furthermore, actors may be engaged in several higher-level actions at the same time (e.g. talking with a particular child, supervising other children, talking with adults), and change the one they are foregrounding at a specific moment. This multiplicitly of communicative actions requires that interactions be investigated in a more holistic manner than is usually done.
Alexandra Johnson draws our attention to ''Mediational Means and Identity Negotiation in Immigration Interview''. In her examples, she focuses on an employment-based green-card interview by an immigration officer. Using Mediated Discourse Analysis, she shows how an unexpected similarity on a practice level between the applicant and the interviewer (use of the same type of word-processing program, document layout, body behavior such as gaze) results in a negative evaluation of the person in the position of lower power.
Elisa Everts examines ''Modalities of Turn-Taking in Blind/Sighted Interaction'' in two-hours of videotaped interaction between a blind woman (particularly well integrated into her sighted community) and seven of her sighted friends and family members. Through her analysis, Everts shows the importance of visual cues for gaining full participation in interaction, and thus undermines the assumption that speech and hearing are sufficient for ensuring an equal access to participation in interaction with sighted interlocutors.
Elaine K. Yakura raises question about '''Informed Consent' and Other Ethical conundrums in Videotaping Interactions''. She underlines the need for an increased sensitivity and awareness on the part of researchers who choose to videotape naturalistic interactions, and suggests them to exceed the basic legal requirements in order to allow an increased access and involvement of their subjects.
Lilie Chouliaraki discusses ''The Moral Spectator: Distant Suffering in Live Footage of September 11, 2001''. In particular, she analyses the way Danish television mediates the events by articulating different space-times, the ''here-there'' and the ''before-after'' dimensions. Her analysis takes place in the dual perspective of televisual mediation as visual and verbal meaning-making, and of television as an agent of moral responsibility. She shows that the spectator is put in a position of witnessing the suffering that is not in the ''real time-real space'' perspective, and this activates empathy with the sufferer because the spectator cannot act in this scene of suffering.
Joel C. Kuipers uses videotaped ethnographic data to investigate '''Voices' as Multimodal Constructions in Some Contexts of Religious and Clinical Authority''. In Sumbanese ritual settings, he observes that visual media have become more important. In the traditional performances, voices of absent third parties, ancestral voices, are progressively foregrounded verbally over the course of the ceremony while visual cues of these voices diminish in importance. In the more recently developed performances for elementary school children, each voice has a single visual focus, oriented towards the central gaze of the spectator. In U.S. clinical settings, the appearance of multiple voices in a patient's discourse brings in the patient's lifeworld and allows the construction of a lively dialogue with the clinician.
Carey Jewitt asserts that research on new communication technologies tends to foreground the affordances of medium at the cost of neglecting the affordances of representational modes. In his opinion, the meaning of a text is realized by people's engagement with the medium of dissemination and the representational affordances of the modes that are used. Thus, in order to understand the practices of people engaged with technologies, the way technologies shape the learner and the learning environment, first we need to understand the semiotic affordances of medium and mode.
With his ''Brief Intellectual and Technological History of the Emergence of Multimodal Discourse Analysis'', Frederick Erickson underlines the desirability to consider both verbal and non-verbal behavior in the study of oral discourse, and he shows how technology has increasingly allowed for that. This also means that a wider variety of forms of transcripts needs to be explored. Indeed, we need, for example, to give more attention to the real-time location of verbal and non-verbal microevents within the stream of communicative activity, and to identify patterns of communicative activity which obtain across multiple successive events.
In the last paper, Marilyn Whalen and Jack Whalen from the Palo Alto Research Center tell us about their 15-year long work of ''Studying Workscapes'', i.e. in defining ''distinct configurations of people, their practices (the communal methods they use to organize and accomplish their work); the habitats or environments where this works gets done; and the tools, artifacts, and devices that populate these environments and are involved in the work's achievements'' (p.210). Indeed, a good design of a workplace means an appropriate fit between technological capacities, techniques, and the natural organization of human habitats and practices.
While presenting a large diversity in terms of object of study, theoretical framework and methodology, these papers underline the importance for Discourse Analysis to become (more) multimodal. This call is increasingly heard in various conferences related to Discourse Analysis, and will undoubtedly be repeated. For those unfamiliar with this ''new'' direction in the field, this book provides a general idea of what is being done by scholars in different parts of the world. However, the field evolves, and at least one more mode (music), not mentioned here, is now brought to the attention of discourse analysts (Theo van Leeuwen, First Conference on Critical Discourse Analysis, Valencia, May 2004).
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Élisabeth Le is Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta (Canada). She works in the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis on the representation of international relations in French, American, and Russian media discourse.