Abstracts for Adventures in Multimodality Seminar: Three student presentations.

Jake Gibbons (BA student Department of English, Florida State University)Title: “The Materiality of Modality and the Material Mode

The digital age leaves unanswered questions of what constitutes modality and what qualifies as a “mode.” In a time when physical texts are being rapidly digitized and discarded, it is crucial to look at the physicality of text and ask what it can convey that its digitized phantom cannot. By uniting Kress’ social-semiotic theory of multimodality and McKenzie’s sociology of texts, I will argue that physical materiality in itself is a semiotic mode. The physical features of a text constitute a mode whose material “stuff” is stuff, and whose work done in social life is that of McKenzie’s sociology of texts, with its own semiotic logic and set of potentials and limitations. This research is the beginning of my funded summer research project, “Textual Revolution and Multimodality”.

Alice Teodorescu (Research MA student Media Studies, UvA)

Title: “A journey in multimodality: transforming identities in the animated works of Miyazaki and Disney.”

Animation is a medium both praised and often ignored in the academia. Yet, when it comes to the concept of embodied cognition, it presents itself as a productive medium, especially in the context of Conceptual Metaphor Theory and image schemas (Forceville & Jeulink 2011).

Taking as starting point the Source-Path-Goal (SPG) schema which relates to the conceptual metaphor LIFE IS A JOURNEY, I am interested in how this connects to constructing identity in the animations of Miyazaki and Disney on a multimodal level. If life is a journey, than finding one’s (true) identity is a journey. Furthermore, the animations in my corpus have as common feature the fact that the protagonists embark on a journey, as a result of a “misfortune” (or not?) – losing their identity through physical transformation (an old lady, a llama or a frog). Therefore, the loss of identity becomes the reason for the journey, while regaining their identity becomes their quest, though in the end it is an altered/”transformed” identity which they recover. My research interest, then, becomes whether one can argue for the LOSS OF IDENTITY IS LOSS OF BODY, with the subsequent as FINDING ONE’S IDENTITY IS RECUPERATING THE BODY and how these embodied concepts are rendered through multimodality. Also, as I have suggested that this search for identity is triggered by transformation, an open question remains whether one can construct, even more, on the conceptual metaphor ground on the idea that physical transformation implies emotional transformation.

Xiaoquan Bai (Research MA student Media Studies, UvA)

Title: “Is it good to construct the “China Image” through a few Chinese representatives? A case study of meaning construction in China’s National Publicity Film.”

I still remember the two questions that came to my mind the first time I watched The People part of China’s National Publicity Film, which was first broadcast in New York City’s Time Square in 2011. Firstly, as a Chinese native speaker, do I agree with the representing form that those labeled “outstanding” Chinese people can stand for the whole Chinese, even for my country? Secondly, what is the meaning of the “China Image” that the producer wants to communicate to the non-Chinese audience? Is it successfully constructed in one minute and will it be accepted by the non-Chinese audience? According to this film, on one hand, the “China Image” is seemingly explicitly exposed to each audience’s eyes once they are in front of the screen. However, on the other hand, I think the real meaning of the “China Image” constructed in this commercial is implicitly hinted at behind those visual images, which in fact need to be interpreted under not only what the audience sees on screen, but also what the audience already knows off-screen.

In the final thesis of my AIM tutorial, I will focus on analyzing the image presented and the meaning constructed in China’s National Publicity Film. Since there are also some unofficial publicity films about China, I will compare these with the 2011 official one and analyze their common threads and differences. From a Chinese perspective, although I am not the intended audience for the 2011 China state commercial, I try to show how, both as an insider and as an outsider, I interpret the visual, audial and verbal elements constructed in this official film aiming to convey a new national concept of China. Through my research, I hope to come up with a structure of meaning construction and narrative logic marked with Chinese characteristic in this China state commercial. In my presentation I will show you some examples of how I interpret scenes in the film that contribute to meaning construction work. I have collected a few video resources about national publicity (see below). I will mainly focus on the first four. I suggest you to look at The People and 10 Minutes and You Know about China in advance.


China’s National Publicity Film—The People
China’s National Publicity Film—The Perspective
10 Minutes and You Know about China
One China
Welcome to China (national tourism film)
China All You Can Imagine
Chinese in Foreigners’ Eyes
Russia’s National Publicity Film
This Russia (Non-Official one)
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