Multi-modality ↑, Censorship ?

There’s a lot of different directions I was thinking about going with for this blog post. I could have talked about all the different types of modes, the benefits to a multi-modal approach, my own experience in learning in an education system that doesn’t prioritize multi-modality, etc. So, I guess I sort of did all of that? I don’t know. I found this whole theme of multi-modality quite fascinating. As I was watching the videos and reading the text, I found myself going…. DUH! Of course! And it makes me wonder what separates my acceptance and intrigue in multi-modality from those who don’t think there are benefits to it (remember, I’m not an English major so I didn’t even realize these debates existed). I suppose I’ve tried to investigate that and really put my understanding of multi-modality out there.

To put it in simple terms, multi-modality is really just a multitude of ways of knowing and or learning something.

Here are some of the main lessons I learned from Kress’s videos and Baron’s text (Hey Kim, did you do that on purpose? Give us videos to watch and then a text to read that was filled with images as a connect to the multi-modal theme?):

  • Integrating multiple modes of communication can and does provide a transformation of the meaning one is trying to convey.
  • Integration of meaning-making systems (art, music, format, color, etc.) already exists, but we need to supplement that by integrating it better (also by accepting those aspects as forms of multi-modal communication) into our education system and curriculum for teachers to follow and empower students through.
  • Each mode depends on each other and influences each other. Together, they provide the ultimate understanding of meaning and opportunity for further analysis. Highest level of attainment, perhaps?
  • Whether or not people are aware of this, people practice multi-modal literacies every single day. It can either be intentional or spontaneous, happen naturally or randomly. And, because these interactions with multi-modal literacies are so inherent to everyday behavior, it should be integrated into the education system with ease.
    • My question is what is the barrier to integration?
    • Further down my blog post, I will use an example of a speech I used to show that I think multi-modality is often censored in society through social media, the news, etc. But, what I don’t understand, is why multi-modal integration is seen as non-traditional and given so much opposition? Multi-modal practices are already inherent in our education system, whether or not we choose to acknowledge them. What we should be doing is empowering students through these multi-modal approaches, which in turn is linked to expanding literacies and accessibility for everyone.
  • Why does our current education system focus on testing and writing as the only means to gauge students’ comprehension?  It’s a uni-modal system which inhibits children from interacting with and learning about other multi-modal systems that can help them in a variety of capacities, as well as encourage their success in other “non-traditional” areas.
    • #expandliteracypractices & #expandmultimodality
  • Multi-modal literacies expands the way in which we acquire information and concepts.
    • Being more of a visual learner versus a hands-on learner is one example of multi-modal learning we often use and know about… are we scared to define it as a form of multi-modal learning?
      • Using different formats & colors are forms of intentional multi-modality
        • Really, what isn’t a form of multi-modal communication? Similar to expanding our definition and what we consider a literacy, we need to accept all of the different, everyday forms of multi-modal systems so that we can better cater to all students’ learning.
        • This goes into the more “abstract” parts of literacies and comprehension
          • That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Instead, I would argue it is one of the most important aspects as people unknowingly engage in the different multi-modal systems every single day and should be encouraged to use those natural interactions in those systems inside of the classroom, which for whatever reason, is seen as the only place learning can actually occur and come to fruition.

To be fair, I think small elements of multi-modality have been integrated in the education system. Things like PowerPoint presentations, bringing in relevant images, creative art projects, using music as a form of communication (I personally learned this in my 8 years in band), etc. But, as always, there’s so much more we can do. Plus, a lot of the time, students seek out multi-modal forms of communication by joining music groups, art organizations, etc. These multi-modal approaches should be integrated into the universal curriculum every student goes through and explained as a critical aspect of communication. Then, we can move towards an education system that accepts all forms of learning that makes both education accessible to every student, as well as every type of communicative talent.



Image result for los intocables erik ravelo


My second year on CSU Chico’s Speech & Debate team, I wrote a communication analysis on the art-photography project “Los Intocables” (translated to the untouchables) by Cuban artist Erik Ravelo and Brazilian artistic director Daniel Ferreira. Its aim was to raise awareness about the various issues plaguing the most innocent members of society across the globe: our children. The photos (shown above) simulate crucifixions of children from around the world, symbolically tied to their oppressors through no fault of their own. Ravelo and Ferreira highlight global present-day atrocities including pedophilia, school shootings, sex tourism, and war, calling for the need to protect our children. By depicting children in one of the most universally vulnerable poses of all time, they attempt to be the voice for those who cannot properly articulate their pain and who get caught in the crossfire of the adult-dominated world.

This art project was met with both positive and highly negative criticisms. For one, a writer at Complex Magazine praised the project by saying it was much needed and analyzing that “the children are crucified, in a sense, to each of their representative villains, their faces blurred, indicating a loss of identity. While the aggressors in the photos are against the wall in an almost criminal way, leaving their backs to the children, indicating a kind of disregard.” To which, Ravelo responds that this project is “a human installation. It’s art, it’s communication.” It’s clear that he meant to have his project as a form of activist art in order to inspire people to not only think about the atrocities suffered by children but also preserve and defend a right to to a safe and innocent childhood.

Obviously, when creating and publicizing a piece of effective activist art to communicate a point, there should be an emotional audience response to it. However, instead of focusing on the atrocities depicted, Facebook and other social media commenters took the opportunity to “complain about the images being pornographic”, as well as petitioning to have Ravelo’s artwork removed from Facebook. Specifically, an anonymous commenter claimed “this is not art… The more I look at this, the more ridiculous it becomes.” This shows our continued dependency on subjective determinations by individuals to decide what goes seen and unseen in public displays. And, arguably, this is only furthered on social media platforms and our continued integrated use of technology. Still, Ravelo was quoted as saying that he “still doesn’t understand why some people are mad at him , but they’re not mad about the problems.” His confusion stems from viewers being “offended by the photos but not by the problems” and his intention is not to offend, but instead, to make people think about a problem.” Is this because the audience feels negative emotions (such as guilt and rage) that they do not have a means to resolve or is it because they are willing to turn their backs (much like the oppressors in the photos) on serious problems in society such as systemic violence against children? I would argue that the true villains are those who would focus their efforts on getting Ravelo’s art removed from social media platforms rather than trying to make the world a safer place for children.

You can see similarities between Ravelo’s controversial art pieces and Banksy’s art pieces. Both attempt to communicate something to society, typically in the political and social realms. (Banksy is well-known for using satire as his means of communication). Yet, both artists are met with controversy and negative criticism. Why is that? This reminded me of the conversation we had in class about censorship and the idea of “free speech” and the like. And I really just don’t get it. Are we so used to being spoon-fed difficult topics of discussion? Are we so used to the media sugarcoating real life incidents? When we are so drawn away from the real meanings behind such multi-modal projects to the point that we attempt to dismiss them, we have a problem. We even see this theme of censorship in texts like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird.


I don’t exactly know why I decided to share portions of my communication analysis with y’all, but I guess I just saw it as another form of multi-modal learning. AND, an introduction to a question I’m constantly asking myself about censorship. I think censoring these kinds of forms of communication only takes away from our ability to comprehend and analyze difficult subjects.


So… I guess that’s where I’m at right now.


As a side note, I was thinking all weekend about being brave and sharing some of my own spoken word pieces, but…. I decided against it. Sorry. Perhaps I’ll be willing to share them for my multi-modal project (but that isn’t a guarantee). Instead, I’ll share my absolute favorite spoken word piece with y’all:


P.S. – In case you didn’t notice, I was intentionally “multi-modal” in this blog post (using images, bold/italicized texts, format, a video, etc.)  :)