Multimodality or how we are subconsciously multitasking

Reading the headline sparked interest, otherwise you would not have clicked on the article. This is on the one hand due to the so called “Headlines First!” approach of having an attention grabbing headline to garner readers interest. This is a method which is being used in the news industry since the 1880s already (Harris, Stevenson & Joyner, 2015). On the other hand, while you were reading something else was happening – different senses were activated through which you were able to know how to get further information about what this article may be about. The process that was happening to you is being called multimodality.

To put it simply, it is the usage of multiple modes within one product (Jewitt, 2008). You read the headline and gained interest in the topic, which prompted you to want to read this article. At the same time you are aware of the fact that you are on a web blog and that this goes along with certain user interface elements. In order to read the full article, you have to click on it again for it to fully expand. For this you need an understanding of written language, internet specific language and web specific symbols. The combination of all these lets you instinctively know how to interact with an article on this weblog. Researchers call this the combination of multiple modes for making meaning. The term used for that is multimodality (Kress, 2011).

This short introductory text is part of a bigger project consisting of different blog posts on various weblogs as well as a podcast, which you can listen to here, tying all of this together. If you want to get a more in depth introduction of what the concept of multimodality is about, which not only should answer the most common questions but also give examples of its use, you can find this text here. If you are interested in the concepts history and evolvement throughout technical advancements over time an interesting text is waiting for you to be read here. Multimodality is a concept with a lot of different use cases, this is why it is so exciting and multifaceted. Therefore there are several case studies discussing interesting ways of using and interacting with the concept. These case studies range from examples within an art project in Liège, which you can find here, to its use within the popular Social Media application Reels, which is available here, to the usage of multimodality in the educational sector. For this we have articles about the usage in teaching, academic research and within university websites.

There is no real order you have to follow. You can start wherever you want and read only the articles you are most interested in. Our only goal is that you take away a deeper understanding of how subconsciously we all use and consume nowadays.

But without further ado, let’s get to know more about this concept!



Harris, G. K., Stevenson, C. & Joyner H. (2015). Taking an Attention-Grabbing “Headlines First!” Approach to Engage Students in a Lecture Setting. Journal of Food Science Education, 14(4), 136-141.

Jewitt, C. (2008). Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms. Review of Research in Education, 32(1), 241-267.

Kress, G. (2011). ‘Partnerships in research’: multimodality and ethnography. Qualitative research, 11(3), 239-260.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *