Chapter 7: Multimodality and Non-Traditional Texts

7.3 Multimodal Texts and Rhetorical Situations

Melanie Gagich

At this point, we have discussed the importance of rhetoric in academia and in the everyday world. In Chapter 6, there is a discussion related to a text’s “rhetorical situation.” While the section about rhetorical situations asks you to begin to locate an existing text’s rhetorical situation, when creating a multimodal text, it is important to begin by outlining your own rhetorical situation.

Students might believe that creating a multimodal text such as a website or podcast is simply a “fun” assignment that allows them to be creative. While this is most likely true, creating a multimodal text (digital or otherwise) is also an important and serious rhetorical endeavor. Think about the last time you posted a TikTok video – what kind of work went into your video before you created and then posted it? Did you think about what you wanted to achieve and who you wanted to view it? Perhaps you also considered the best lighting, outfit, etc. before actually making the video. These are rhetorical considerations and ones that are especially important when composing a multimodal text.

I suggest beginning by answering the following questions below to help you determine your rhetorical situation:

Who are you targeting?

Remember, knowing your audience will affect not only the language and images your choose to use but also the type of text you create (e.g., a video, podcast, website, infographic, poster, etc.) and where you eventually share that work (e.g., TikTok, Youtube, Spotify, etc.). So be sure to consider who you want to interact with your text.

What is your purpose and/or message?

Knowing what you want your audience to do or think is a very important step when composing a multimodal text. Further, you might have more than one purpose. For example, you might want to share your researched opinion online while also hoping for a lot of shares, likes, and/or DMs.

What genre will help you achieve your goal and reach your audience?

Genre essentially means “type of text” (for more information about genre, please read Kerry Dirk’s article, “Navigating Genres” in Writing Spaces vol. 1). It is important to choose an appropriate text for your audience rather than picking a type of text for other reasons (e.g., it seems cool or easier). For example, it might make more rhetorical sense to create a podcast if you are interested in sharing your research and opinions about why true crime is so popular in the US. On the other hand, if your purpose is to inform an audience about crime rates in the US using statistics, then an infographic is more appropriate.

Where should your text be shared?

In addition to the type of text you create, be sure to consider where you want to share it so it is most likely to reach your audience. While some multimodal assignments may not require you to share your work with real audiences (those outside the teacher and your classmates), others will. Therefore, it is important to think about where the best place to share your work is so that it reaches your ideal audience.


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