Kress outlines his multimodal theory, tracing the differences between a web page and a book. For him, these two forms are representative of a modal shift, one informed by economic, ethical, and political positions. He points to two central assumptions:
- Communication is always multimodal
- Modes provide specific limitations for communication (see: Alexander and Rhodes)
- Mode: the culturally and socially produced resources for representation
- Medium: the culturally produced means for distribution
Difference in authorship:
- Print author: knew his audience and knew his subject matter; “knew about the reader’s world and that enabled him to work on the reader’s behalf to assemble the materials that served to meet the second requirement; assembling and presenting the knowledge required for a specific need of the reader in that lifeworld”
o Here, he emphasizes the way a print book structures a reading at the page-level and at the book-level
- E author: creates multiple and different entry points based on the assumption that the life-world of potential visitors dictate a different kind of reading: one where information matters more than knowledge
He captures that here:
• Given order, order designed by author.
• Page and book with single entry point.
• Knowledge produced by author on behalf of the audience.
• Author knows the life-world of audience and its requirements.
• Reading path fixed (though “naturalized” and hence invisible).
• Author fixes reader’s “point of departure”.
• Writing dominates the organization of the page.
• Writing is the dominant mode for the presentation of material (image as illustration).
• Use of mode governed by long-established convention: canonical use of modes.
• Open order, order designed by reader.
• “Page” site with multiple entry points.
• Knowledge produced by visitor/reader in accord with the needs of their life-world.
• Page and/or message designers imagine the assumed characteristic of the life-world of
• Reading path designed by reader and/or visitor.
• Reader designs/selects her/his point of departure.
• Image dominates the organization of the “page”.
• Image and writing potentially co-equal for the presentation of material.
• Use of mode governed by “aptness”, insecurity about or absence of canonical modes.
Affordances: Speech and writing tell the world; depiction shows the world.
Describe the logic of modes. For him, the distinguishing feature between alphabetic and visual affordances are sequence and space. The printed word makes meaning through a sequence, so a reader moves across the words in order to make meaning. A digital, multimodal text utilizes spaces, so all of the information in a text is available at once. Meaning if made by looking at different focal points.
Design: looks forward, focusing on social futures, grants agency to the individual – an individual with a social history, a present social location, who understands the potentials of the resources for communication, and acts transformationally on those resources