Making good use of Multimodality

We seldom read something that mono-modal nowadays. Images are inserted into any kind of text in no doubt, for example, textbook, newspaper, academic journal, leaflet, annual reports, storybook, and manual. Hardly can we deny that we are much rely on the image to tell out the implicit meaning of a context than before and our brain also tend to memorize images better than words too. I think many organizations have made good use of interaction between the images and text to give a good impression to the visitors.

“The Invisible Children” has made a success for the campaign KONY 2012. Their aim is to make Joseph Kony become a globally known person and hope some people who have power, like United Nations, Presidents, billionaires, can stop him from producing violence and wars. I remember the first time I know about this campaign is the shared YouTube Video on Facebook. Nearly half of the newsfeeds were about this video around that time.

Clicked into the official website  (http://invisiblechildren.com/kony/), the structure of the site is quite special; it first is like a center-margin layout, then roll down, it’s a top-down layout.

At the top, you can see that the blue bar, at the top left margin there is some links to other information of “The Invisible Children”. And the center, there is the logo of KONY 2012 which is the main focus of the page. In between the photo and the logo, there are some signs that in light grey colour. When you click one of them, you can immediately jump to the part that you want to know about. The blue bar and the signs remain the same places when you continue to scroll down, but not the same with logo. Although all the parts are on the same pages, but there is different background pictures behind each part.

Here, is the picture of which the topic is named as “MOVE”, it’s taken as the same eye level of the visitor. You seem to be one of the followers of KONT 2012, and there is a sun at the far place, I think the sun is the symbol of hope. The Picture is interacting with the viewers, like saying that “Come to join us! Be one of us! Help the children!”

And Below is a short Video about the background the “the Invisible Children”. Why did they choose video as a media to introduce themselves? Not a text? In the video you can see people from the all around the world. The producer wants to show you that we need to work hand in hand so as to achieve peace in the world.

What I mean in top-down layout is that the factual information is put at the bottom and the ideologically foregrounded information at the top. When you read this site, you can realize that they first introduce their belief, then what’s their plan and how to practice their plan, follow by then, it’s about what can we (viewer) do to support them and lastly it provides contact information for the viewer.

For a website, it follows the logic of the screen. So the text in KONY 2012 is short, it aims at assisting the understanding of the video. And the images can give an instant effect more than the text, as you need to read it and understand it, or maybe distracted from it.

Well, how about smartphone?

Here are the screenshots of the KONY 2012 app. By contrast, the app use more words to explain about the campaign. They do have videos too, but the button link to YouTube and they only link to one video. Compared with the site, it is more like page logic, more sequential. It may due to the limitation of the smartphone; it can’t include so much multimedia as the website can.

Though KONY2012 is massively supported by public, there are some people arguing that it’s a state propaganda (The Online column: http://vigilantcitizen.com/vigilantreport/kony-2012-state-propaganda-for-a-new-generation/) .I’m not going to comment on any ethic or political issue here, but their argument which is about the influence of the video is quite logical.

A online columnist criticized the video that:

“Any marketing specialist will tell you: “Facts don’t sell, emotions do”. The first part of KONY 2012 solely addresses emotions. It is about making the filmmaker likeable, showing gut-wrenching images of African kids in pain, in misery and in despair. Then, the turning point: Joseph Kony is the cause of all of this. Not centuries of exploitation and devastation by Western forces in Africa that lead to chaos, lawlessness and poverty. No, it’s Kony. That bastard. George Clooney is really mad at him right now. He even tweeted about it.”

Quoting this paragraph is not going to prove the Skepticism of U.S.. This actually provides us another way to interpret the video. Why some people are touched by the video while others are skeptical about it? It is interesting that the meaning of the images can be differ from peoples who from various background. Here is another quote from the column:

By associating Kony with Bin Laden and Hitler in this poster, KONY 2012 is promoting war.

There is the poster, How will you interpret it ?

Is Hyperlinking a Trap?

It was not until I had the class that I realized how hyperlinking has affected our routine of reading or interpretation of a text.

From the book chapter three, the author mentioned that:

“When we use links in this way they create associations, often implicitly suggesting a relationship between linked texts. If you think about it, the same thing happens when you put two sentences next to each other in print (for example. “He’s been behaving very oddly lately. He’s in love.” Here the second sentence implicitly stands in a relation that could be implied by a link. “And he gave some examples of the relationship between the hyperlink and the content.

What the author wrote here has given me a blink: How should we interpret the meaning of hypertext in different content?  During the class, there was a discussion about the following diagram of association between a few terms:

In this association cycle, I inferred that Lady Gaga was put into the prison because of taking drugs, while she might join a Rockn’ roll Wedding party in the vocation. Different stories came out from other classmates. I think this is a good example which can tells us the power of hyperlinking and the relation between the text and the external source can be inferred by the readers.

A subtle bias is often introduced by the writer through the choice of links, like the example of “Second Life Bans Gambling Following FBI Investigation”. Hypertext is not a thing we can get rid of, what we can do is learning to read critically. According to the educational theorist Nicholas Burbuls (1998), he suggested that we should always ask ourselves these questions:

What associations does the writer make?

What association does the writer not make?

What assumptions do these (non-)association reveal?

The lesson is inspiring, because I am (not only me of course) so used to read hypertext that I seldom think about how the links have shaped our mind. This lesson has reminded me of Marshell Mcluhan saying “Media is the extension of man”. While a new technology extend certain parts of us, they amputate other parts. All tools bring with them different kinds of affordances and constraints. Hyperlink ling is a cool thing that whenever we met something like “Opps, I don’t know what it is!” we can check it out immediately. That’s mean we don’t need to find every single unknowns from the dictionary, newspaper, encyclopedia, textbooks. Take Mathew’s blog as an example:

In Matthew’s blog, he claimed that hyperlink had something to do with plagiarism and he made use of the news which is about the column writer was suspected to copy the other’s work. The phrases or short sentences that are in blue colour are linked to for plagiarism / escaped from a hefty defamation lawsuit /discovered that a large chunk written by Jill Lepore/said they found no evidence he had duplicated information from a number of sources these are all linked to the websites which are relevant to the news. Readers who are not familiar with this topic can click the links for references. They can even compare the two column posts to decide whether plagiarism existed. And they can read about the review from New York Times and CNN to get more information about the writers.

In this part, Matthew pointed out that without citing the original source properly will bring out the problem of stealing ideas from the creator. To support his argument, firstly, he hyperlinked a twit: he said plagiarism. Secondly, he quoted the definition of plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined . Thirdly, he made reference to his previous blog about social media: has exploded thanks to social tools.In the later part of his post, he mentioned about the differences between the traditional media and new media, such as blogs, he also included a few links.

Despite of making use of his blog as an example for the affordances of hyperlink, his thought about the great defense provided by hyperlink is worth to be mentioned here. He wrote “David Weinberger, co-author of the seminal book The Cluetrain Manifesto and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, argued in a post about the journalistic principle of objectivity that “Objectivity is a trust mechanism you rely on when your medium can’t do links.” In other words, when you have the ability to link to the information that supports your conclusions, it’s easier to get away with being subjective, because readers are able to follow the links and decide for themselves whether you are credible.”

While Nicolas Carr argued that reading hypertext may be compromising our ability to read conventional texts and follow arguments, I partly agree with what Matthew said about the links, as the more we read, the more we know about the truth. At the same time, we should be careful of the link choice, as they may reflect the bias from the writer. We need to learn more about how digital media work and how to organize data, so that the most useful data will become information and turn into knowledge. I think it’s the same thing with hyperlinks, we can’t avoid it but we can read and think critically so as to be an objective media user.

Matthew’s blog : http://gigaom.com/2012/08/20/plagiarism-defamation-and-the-power-of-hyperlinks/