‘Place Eye-Catching Descriptive Here’

Leaving class on Wednesday, I shared one of my favorite quotes with Kim:

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”  – Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I’ve probably shared this quote with you all before, I know I’ve said it a time or two in other courses when I could connect it to the discussion topic, but I find that Angelou’s point is dynamic in interpretation. Dynamic in the sense that its interpretation changes with context and perspective–as with all things. But also dynamic in the sense that, even within a focused context and perspective, the quote’s meaning is ever-changing. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Let me try and explain this to those not savvy to my ADD thought processes. Actually, my ADD might help me make my point here.

Meaning is my (the) cornerstone to interpreting Angelou’s quote. Meaning, meaning of what? Meaning of words, obviously, but what meaning? Shades is important here. Shades… variants… subs… divisions… sub-divisions… layers? Deeper layers. Layers are all connected, tied to the same root. The rainbow shows us prime colors, the basics, colors from which all other colors come. Rods and Cones—β, γ, ρ—and bipolar cells allow us shades, variants, levels, layers of those cornerstone five that are but are not the same color and that’s not even counting the variants seen by those few human tetrachromats out there. How did I get to talking about the anatomy of photreception… Words, back to words, back to meaningMeaning and layers. A word has many layers, many meanings, many connotations. Each connotation leads us to a synonym of the word with a similar connotation. That synonym has many connotations of its own, and so it goes until we lead ourselves away from the meaning we chose to focus on. Our original interpretation has changed. And so Angelou’s quote is dynamic because words themselves are dynamic and how can one interpret something exactly the same way in separate spaces of time and in separate circumstances unless they themselves have not changed at all. Improbable.

Now, since I know you all have had quite enough of reading the thought process of an ADD mind, I’ll get to my point. I like to use this quote by Angelou for the fact that it illustrates the ever-malleable nature of the meanings of words, and that there must be something else in affect to make sense of it. A word is only a word, until someone gives voice to its meaning.

This dynamism is, to me, a great way to exemplify our class’ current topic of study: multimodality. Why? Well, if my ramblings make any sense to you then you might already know. Because the way we understand things, anything, is dynamic. We don’t acquire information simply by seeing words on a page, we learn and understand through another’s ability to give those words voice, to give them meaning. And we understand that meaning better, it seems, when multiple methods are used to reinforce the intended meaning. So, no, words aren’t only what is on the page, they are what you make them to be.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, here are a few examples of my own utilization of multimodality (at least, some of the more obviously multimodal).

Let me start with a blog. I had to create a Blogster account for a couple multicultural courses I took with Dr. Burton here at Chico State. These blogs were his way of keeping track of our writings for the course and were also a way for him to showcase the phenomena of Globalization and how that affects culture in different respects. Also, if you do follow the link above, notice how Burton leaves different smiley faces in the comments section for each blog. That was his grading method. Sunglasses was 4 out of 4.

Another example is this Wix site. I created it for Little League District 2 of California. I volunteer with them as both an umpire and as the District Information Officer. The website is still pretty amateur, but it works.

Then there’s my Prezi account. I’ve used it a bunch in the past for presentation in various courses, but I haven’t actually used it in a while. I haven’t had a presentation that needed such an animated platform. That and the group projects that I’ve done in recent years were all done through Google Slides, more for convenience’s sake than anything else.

There’s also my Author website. Though it is still in the works right now. I don’t really have anything to put up on it, and I haven’t really had the time to sit down and actually build it.

Must I go on? Well, maybe. Besides all of the above digital-heavy examples of my multimodal behavior, I feel I should mention some simpler things. Such as a visual index I included in an analysis paper involving mural paintings. Or a watermarked image embedded in a presentation handout. Or a digital Annotated Bibliography I made that doubled as a class handout with embedding links to different online videos and documentaries. Simple things, that serve to make the words more interactive, the meaning clearer.

  2 comments for “‘Place Eye-Catching Descriptive Here’

  1. Jazmin Gomez
    March 24, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    This. Blog. Is. Brilliant! I loved everything you said about meaning and layers. I took psych and somehow I began t think about the deeper emphasize of the how great the brain is capable of processing so many things–even if it’s simply just breathing. That has nothing to do with it, but it just made me ponder a bit.

  2. kjaxon
    March 27, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Lovely post Heather! I appreciate how you point out that even “simple” words on the page are, in fact, multimodal because we give those words voice. And your examples and sites are a great addition to this idea. Your post also reinforced for me why faculty should see student’s assignments as a kind of “taking up” of meaning: students must work so hard to interpret our idiosyncratic prompts and assignments and give meaning to them.

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