Multimodality and Reflection
Multimodal compositions offer much to students with the prospective digital practices they can use in critical rhetorical reflection. Multimodal discourse helps to provide a strong catalyst for reconsidering texts and contexts, and with the reconsideration comes the rhetorical analysis and reflection of such texts and contexts. Since the analysis is readily found in the many works which discuss the "analysis of the visual" or the "reading of images," then it seems prudent to discuss the idea of reflection of such communicative events, and particularly the use of multimodality as a means of reflection of simple rhetorical events, including but not limited to written texts.
I am not merely advocating the use of rhetorical analysis to understand the structural and rhetorical nuances of multimodal discourse, but I am also advocating the understanding of the social and phenomenological manifestations of these discourses. We can begin to ask questions: Why is such an object important, significant, and appropriate to the life of the audience, be it student, class, user, or group? We can take a step beyond the question of "Can we compose?" And, we can also take a step towards more rhetorical questions that take into account kinds of appeals, such as logos, ethos, and pathos; but also questions of a situational nature such as "Why did we compose? For what purpose?" In addition to understanding "For whom," "For/in what contexts," and "With what constraints did we compose?" In reflection, we confront the unintended consequences and those tasks which Heidegger refers to as the "standing reserve" or what Marx refers to as the "surplus" of the function of our discourse by reflecting.
Looking at current research into cognition provides strong support for the idea that teaching multimodal composition might be even more beneficial to students' learning process than our teaching only the more traditional mode of writing. Cognitive psychologist, Richard Mayer, has conducted extensive research into the differences between unisensory learning as compared to multisensory learning. Not surprisingly, people who have been given information through multiple senses understand and retain information far better than those given information through one sense. It stands to reason that when students are given the opportunity to engage multisensory learning in composition, such as with the construction and comprehension of multimodal texts, they are going to learn more, and retain what they learn much longer.