Analysing Multimodal Documents: A Foundation for the by John Bateman

By John Bateman

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This is still largely beyond the possibilities of informal discourses of multimodal ‘analysis’. And sometimes this is not even their aim. For example, after presenting a sophisticated analysis of some particular multimodal artefacts, Kress and van Leeuwen state: “The point of this explanation is not whether we are right or not. The point is that we have used the principles of provenance and experiential metaphor to create an interpretation. We have used some arguments based on ‘where such frames have been’, on their cultural history, and some arguments based on ‘what they literally are’: separate, strongly framed off from each other, etc.

Although this is less of a problem for interpretative analysis, we want to reach a position where we can lay bare the process of interpretation itself. This requires being able to specify identification criteria for elements so as to provide a reproducible scheme for exploring interpretations and for asking which interpretations a document supports and which it does not. Second, there are many fine details of design which are not readily assimilable to a rhetorical cluster. In the Gannet page, for example, what exactly is happening in the itemised list in the lower portion of the page?

This orientation is also linked to technology because it is only quite recently that the full range of multimodal document design possibilities 30 Multimodal Documents and their Components has become available for the layperson. As a consequence we now see a much broader range of documents being produced by those untrained in document design. Discovering the decisions made in such documents presents an exciting and very new area of research that will need to draw on a range of research methodologies.

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