General Introduction to Multimodality

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This general introduction presents a historical overview of the areas of thought as they arose in Europe, the UK, North America, and Austral-Asia beginning from the 1930s which developed into what today is called Multimodality. Then, the chapter offers a historical account of the evolving primary strands of Multimodality, explicating two particular paradigm shifts that occurred in the late 1990s due to these developments.

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This article develops a new methodological tool, called scales of action, which allows the empirical investigation of ubiquitous actions such as driving on the one hand, and the highly complex relationships between (for example) drives and other actions in everyday life on the other hand. Through empirical analysis of ethnographic data of drives performed by a German artist and an American IT specialist, the article illustrates how talk and driving are embedded differently in different cultural contexts. Examining the actions of the two drivers before, during, and after a drive further demonstrates that chronologically performed actions are not necessarily sequential in nature. Using a mediated discourse theoretical approach and building upon multimodal (inter)action analysis, the article provides analysts with a tool that captures the inherent complexities of everyday actions. Through the notion of scales of action and their composition, this article sheds new light upon the complexity and cultural differences of drives and car talk in middle class Germany and North America.
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