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Multimodal Polyphony- A Higher Form of Manipulation?

While I was reading this, it struck me as a little odd how Fagerjord treated the combination of modes as a fairly new idea. He attributed its widespread use to modern technology, i.e. computer screens. Is this really the case? Can it not be argued that combining sound with images and languages is an age old technique? What about the days when bards would play music while a narrator would read a story aloud. That example is not exactly the same, but I think it’s safe to say that this is not an entirely new idea.

Obviously the modes have advanced over time. Fagerjord observes that using still images with effects like “panning” and “cutting” add even more meaning to an image- the way they move, the points they focus on, and the shifting of the frame all define the emphasis of the photo, and thus its meaning. While video may present more image in the same amount of time, still image transition actually gives deeper meaning to individual images.

Methods for “moving” a still image include examining (where you are directed to take in the entire photo), revealing, when, while the image moves, you discover a new element of the photo, pointing/zooming, when your attention is directed to focus on a single element of a photo and finally contextualizing  the opposite of zooming, is basically starting with a narrow view and zooming out for the reader to recognize the context of the image. I had never in my life considered the consumption of still photos to be something I could control. In my mind I’ve always thought that a still image was meant to be taken as a whole, the way it is presented.

Now that I consider, in retrospect, the flash documentaries I have seen, I can picture how my attention was directed a certain way. It’s definitely a sort of manipulation. But how is that manipulation any different from shot video? Or from the framing of an image in the first place? In my opinion, multimodal media is just a more specific, higher form of manipulating the consumption of the reader. Each mode is designed to focus the attention of the reader in a certain way. Combined, the modes may give more or less meaning to certain aspects, but the end goal is still the same- arrange the forms in such a way that the reader takes away what you want them to.


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