Defining this Thing Known as Multimodality

Being human in our organic selves means that we’re capable of something profound within our brains, which have more connections between their neurons and synapses than any computer, by the way. From the times of thousands of centuries before (25-40k years ago) when cavemen were scrawling their primitive doodling’s by firelight, unto some of the more advanced civilizations that followed as predecessor, such as the Mayans, whom looked to the stars for the astral signs of their gods and sacrificed others for their still-beating hearts, to even the Greeks with the Olympians and a whole canon of mythology paralleling a means to make sense of their Earth, and then the Romans whom made those same mythological stories their own and changed the Olympians in their names to that of the planets visible underneath their worldly view, these peoples and their human-selves were all connected with one attribution. Those connections in their brains, and their multimodality.

Being multimodal is nothing knew to mankind, nor ourselves. Our brains are wired in a means of learning that follows in recognizing patterns, and then being able to associate that recognition in comparison and contrast of other patterns. Much like we can read a book on kindle or in paperback, said cavemen drew what they saw of their world within the jagged and uneven canvas of their caves, or in the Mayans who may have seen a comet from the night sky as a sign of an impending apocalypse that led to their so famed human sacrifices to appease their gods. It’s all multimodal, seeing one object or situation in one particular view, and then changing said object or situation unto another platform or modem for whatever varying intent or purpose, from preservation, inquiry and explanation, accessibility and so forth. Like Chico State’s website in its array of color blocking, pictures and order of links and pages- there is a purpose and intent behind that design, and it’s multimodal, too. Many, many other things are as well.

So to me, multimodality is simply fluidity, and its state and form of presentation capable of being changed and displayed as another. Loosely, most things, from ourselves in our image, the dynamics of our social and cultural paradigms are the same. They are almost never stagnant, but changing and shifting, the same as technology and the advances that seem almost as hereditary to follow. Spark to flint. Flicker to flame. Fire to combustion. In case of Engl 431, to me multimodality is again, the change and sway of many different modems and forms of teaching, learning and production within academia. They’re all similar in a multitude of ways, in intent, purpose, or means, just… different, too. This academic modalities could be from in person lectures, to that of distance classrooms over a laptop with a link and feed to the professor and campus itself. Multimodality could be completing an essay via Google Docs, rather than in paper as a part of a midterm exam. Linguistically, multimodality could be from interpersonal speech with another student,  or by email or text; all of which have different means of formality and function, but are still widely the same. It’s the transverse and converse all of those different forms, and being to navigate, change, and exist within those dichotomies that is to me, multimodality.

Lastly, in thinking of things being multimodal, this sort of chart is what I made Monday on the subject, if you can bear my atrocious penmanship.


  1 comment for “Defining this Thing Known as Multimodality

  1. Ginamarie Wallace
    March 26, 2017 at 2:15 pm


    I really like the way you discuss the history of multimodality and how it is additionally physiological for human beings to think in such various ways. The way that you explain the multimodality of cavemen and ancient civilizations is also nicely done and a really interesting way to connect to the physiological aspects you discuss-how multimodal of you : ) I am not sure if it is just me, but I was not able to click on the chart you made that is at the end of your post and it was too blurry when I zoomed in on the thumbnail. I wish I was able to read it!


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