In this paper, I look at what might be gained and what might be lost as we move from representation primarily through writing to representation primarily though image. In so doing, I also consider issues related to learning, knowledge, and human agency.
This response to Kress agrees that it is vital to identify gains and losses afforded by changing media but questions his reliance on binaries and periodization. It suggests a return to James Gibson's affordances; more precise analysis of semiotic objects; and sociohistoric theories that link semiotic artifacts, individual development, and social practice.
Kress encourages us to understand writing as “transformative engagement in the world,” and his emphasis on the materiality of modes draws our attention to the multiple possibilities offered by different materials and sensory channels. Writing involves the transformation of all aspects of the resources for meaning; thus writing is always an ethical act, and the worlds that different cultures and communities bring forth through their semiotic work offer different possibilities of being.
The focus of this article is Gunther Kress’ opening and closing comments: how he chose to introduce the intellectual landscape of social semiotics to a new audience and the challenges with which he left people. Connections with Kress’ past publications are also made. Most importantly, the article attempts to engage with the political nature of Kress’ work by linking his ideas to disturbing events in contemporary Australian politics and their implications for the creation of a new generation of young people attuned to the truth. As Kress emphasises at the outset, it makes no sense to examine representation and communication alone: Exploration of the changing relationship between the word and the image must be seen in the wider framework of economic, political, social, cultural and technological changes. This important understanding is intrinsic to the ideas explored in the article.
Research and teaching continue to treat word and image separately and even see image succeeding word in a culture increasingly immersed in digital documents. However, concepts such as Kress’ “semiotics of synaesthesia” stress the relationship between word and image, a critical relationship in teaching students to develop genuinely multimodal texts.
Constraints in our use of communication materials are often socially and historically produced; to ask after the constraints as we teach or compose can help us understand how material choices in producing communications articulate to social practices we may not otherwise wish to reproduce. In this writing, I consider the constraints Gunther Kress often applied to “word” and “image,” questioning their temporal and spatial structures.
Gunther Kress’ call to include graphics in our conception of literacy is valuable, given the print-bias of English departments and writing programs generally. If we answer Kress’ call, however, we will further marginalize the oral and face-to-face aspects of our curriculum: listening, speaking, and class discussion.
This essay explores the (im)possibilities of new environments for engaging with literature for children. It examines an online festival organized by school librarians, which we designate by the term libr@ry. The @ (French: arobase) indicates that technological mediation has a history, an established set of social practices, and a political economy.
Though generally in agreement with Gunther Kress and his views favoring the multimodal workings of contemporary communication, the authors take issue with his construction of a binary opposition between words and images. This paper argues against the notion that images are inherently specific and full of meaning. Symbolic imagery and mood board examples are used to counter this view of visual communication workings.
Kress’ multimodality and design approaches are applied in a rhetorical play on the online mediation of the recent space mission to Saturn. Activity theory provides an educational framing for Kress’ multimodal semiosis. Links are made to mythical texts on Saturn and to blogs. Social network software is now seen as central to performative, multilogical web discourse.
Keeping with the currency of the print-based journal, Print to Screen focuses on the themes found in the recent issues of Computers and Composition, and includes multimodal commentaries that explore and remediate relationships between print and screen.
Section Editor — Elizabeth Monske