February 22, 2006

IIID Gunther Kress: Reading Images: Multimodality, Representation and New Media

IIID Gunther Kress: Reading Images: Multimodality, Representation and New Media
In a different context (the relevance of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory of learning to EFL/ESL using drama methods), I came across the writings of Gunther Kress, who is head of the School of Culture, Language and Communication, in the Institute of Education, University of London. One of his research interests is multimodality.

I came across the reference to Kress in an email by John Haught. Haught was replying to a question from a reader:
Q: How does multimodal learning introduce an element of alterity in classroom discourse?
A: The traditional IRE classroom Initiation-Response-Evaluation) fails to tap into the varied learning styles of your diverse classroom. Whether you call it ‘multiple intelligences’or something else, multi-modal learning permits not only the appeal to different learning styles, but results in recursive learning as the student encounters the material from different perspectives. Drama is a powerful way to integrate a number of different learning modalities. Multi-modal learning has been addressed in depth by Gunther Kress & others of late. Very timely with the advent of the "new literacies" surrounding changing technologies.
A quick Google search brought up this article by Kress, in which he compares reading a book and reading a web page. A double-page spread from a book of pure text has just one entry point - the top left-hand corner, whereas a web-page can have any number of entry points; he uses as example the home page of the Institute of Education in which he counts 13 entry points. He adds:
The [double-] page [spread] ... has one entry point, at the top left of the page; it had long become naturalized and therefore was no longer visible. Nor was the reading path: it asked the reader to follow the lines, in the order in which the culture had determined. The page/screen ... has, by contrast, about 13 entry points. The reader interest determines where he or she wishes to enter the page. The same applies to the ‘reading path’ which the reader (now usually called a ‘visitor’) wishes to construct: it too is determined by the reader’s interest.

For design this is a crucial factor, and a profound change. The designer of such ‘pages’ / sites is no longer the ‘author’ of an authoritative text, but is a provider of material arranged in relation to the assumed characteristics of the imagined audience. The power of the designer is to assemble materials which can become ‘information’ for the visitor, in arrangements which might correspond to the interests of the visitor. For the visitor however “Information is material which is selected by individuals to be transformed by them into knowledge to solve a problem in their life world” (Boeck, 2002)...
Writing can appear on the screen; but when it does it is subordinated to the logic of the image... The logic image will more and more shape the appearance and the uses of writing, a process which is already apparent in many instances of public communication. (my emphasis)

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