New directions in multimodality should encompass an investigation into “how materiality (‘expression’) serves to realize the social, cultural and historical structures, investments and circumstances of our time. Hence the special stance adopted in this paper: describing the rationale of, and students’ reactions to a 32-hour course of multimodal English aimed at illustrating the social, political and mediational aspects of 60 years of government propaganda. In their belief that the young discipline of multimodality constantly needs to question its own identity, the authors take a close look at the evolution – and ultimate “fizzling out”, in the last 44 years – of the British nation’s collective identity as instantiated and performed in the longitudinal (1945-2006) corpus of Public Information Films (henceforth Pifs) contained in the UK National Archives website (http://www. nationalarchives.gov.uk/ films/). As a genre, Pifs deal with threats to, and advice on citizens’ well-being, ranging from teaching somebody how to blow his/her nose to avoid spreading germs, or instructing children on how to cross the street, or showing newly arrived immigrants how to travel by bus, to tackling such serious social issues as bullying, crime prevention, drug misuse, and so forth. The authors start from the contention that the mediational aspects of identity performance in the corpus – with the State donning the role of the imparter and relayer of scientific knowledge in a theatrical non-technical way to a lay public – are subject to changes in the public’s perception over time and must therefore be interpreted through “retroactive recontextualization” (see supra, note 1): this is of paramount importance if one is to identify, through the lens of time, the Pifs’ hierarchical organization, within their “new Internet home”, as multimodal units which get resemiotized and acquire new functions and meanings within the corpus. Such a longitudinal, corpus-based approach to Pifs as sites for the British nation’s identity performance also enables the authors to highlight instantiations of power asymmetry (with the general public initially being treated as an undistinguished mass of ignorant individuals), racism and sexism. Closely related to this first methodological concern is the authors’ identification of a series of question-probes to get the students to explore identity performance in the texts and to build an “identity cline” in the students’ minds, helping them to decide why, rather than simply how, the Pifs are constructed in the way that they are. The series of questions on the multimodal construction of the nation’s identity serves as a basis for detailed, diachronic analyses of the texts, in particular with a view to exploring the interface between subjective and projected, as well as temporary and permanent identities. Baldry and Kantz’s contribution shows that longitudinal corpus-based approaches to multimodal genres are in urgent need of development at a time when corporate/ institutional websites are increasingly being recognized as “opinion- shaping powerhouses” in a global society which has to “analyze, and educate itself about, the rise of the corporate/institutional digital genres as a business and social phenomenon”. This study not only completes the journey from “traditional” to “technology-driven” modes of communication, but it also shows the dynamic potential of the “same” text, and of its relationships with other related texts, to be resemiotized through changing contexts of use and shifting perspectives.

New dawns and new identities for multimodality: Public information films in The National Archives.

BALDRY, Anthony Peter;
2009

Abstract

New directions in multimodality should encompass an investigation into “how materiality (‘expression’) serves to realize the social, cultural and historical structures, investments and circumstances of our time. Hence the special stance adopted in this paper: describing the rationale of, and students’ reactions to a 32-hour course of multimodal English aimed at illustrating the social, political and mediational aspects of 60 years of government propaganda. In their belief that the young discipline of multimodality constantly needs to question its own identity, the authors take a close look at the evolution – and ultimate “fizzling out”, in the last 44 years – of the British nation’s collective identity as instantiated and performed in the longitudinal (1945-2006) corpus of Public Information Films (henceforth Pifs) contained in the UK National Archives website (http://www. nationalarchives.gov.uk/ films/). As a genre, Pifs deal with threats to, and advice on citizens’ well-being, ranging from teaching somebody how to blow his/her nose to avoid spreading germs, or instructing children on how to cross the street, or showing newly arrived immigrants how to travel by bus, to tackling such serious social issues as bullying, crime prevention, drug misuse, and so forth. The authors start from the contention that the mediational aspects of identity performance in the corpus – with the State donning the role of the imparter and relayer of scientific knowledge in a theatrical non-technical way to a lay public – are subject to changes in the public’s perception over time and must therefore be interpreted through “retroactive recontextualization” (see supra, note 1): this is of paramount importance if one is to identify, through the lens of time, the Pifs’ hierarchical organization, within their “new Internet home”, as multimodal units which get resemiotized and acquire new functions and meanings within the corpus. Such a longitudinal, corpus-based approach to Pifs as sites for the British nation’s identity performance also enables the authors to highlight instantiations of power asymmetry (with the general public initially being treated as an undistinguished mass of ignorant individuals), racism and sexism. Closely related to this first methodological concern is the authors’ identification of a series of question-probes to get the students to explore identity performance in the texts and to build an “identity cline” in the students’ minds, helping them to decide why, rather than simply how, the Pifs are constructed in the way that they are. The series of questions on the multimodal construction of the nation’s identity serves as a basis for detailed, diachronic analyses of the texts, in particular with a view to exploring the interface between subjective and projected, as well as temporary and permanent identities. Baldry and Kantz’s contribution shows that longitudinal corpus-based approaches to multimodal genres are in urgent need of development at a time when corporate/ institutional websites are increasingly being recognized as “opinion- shaping powerhouses” in a global society which has to “analyze, and educate itself about, the rise of the corporate/institutional digital genres as a business and social phenomenon”. This study not only completes the journey from “traditional” to “technology-driven” modes of communication, but it also shows the dynamic potential of the “same” text, and of its relationships with other related texts, to be resemiotized through changing contexts of use and shifting perspectives.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11570/8578
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