Walking with media: a multimodal approach

Nikos Bubaris

Punctum, 3(1): 27-44, 2017
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2017.0004

Abstract

This paper explores the semantic space that emerges when walking and mobile media come together to create meaningful and multisensorial experiences. Drawing on social semiotics and media theory, it focuses on how walking serves an inter-modal function by binding modes (in that walking sets the common ground for different modes to be related), as well as by generating modalities (in that walking affects and shapes the ways resources are processed for making meaning). Initially, a conceptual framework for a multimodal analysis of media walking is developed, drawing on the three interrelated meta-functions of a communicative event (ideational, interactional and compositional). These functions are then extended beyond their linguistic origin and their predominantly visual references, by revisiting and introducing an array of embodied semiotic resources such as region, tempo, orientation and range. These embodied semiotic resources form how walking as a kinaesthetic practice may unfold an extended field of relations (between people, media, socio-cultural reality and the environment) that organizes the information perceived and enables the assignment of meanings in a coherent way. Subsequently, the multimodal conceptual framework is applied to two media walk projects recently presented in Athens: the multimedia walk Soundscapes/Landscapes developed by Medea Electronique and the acoustic walk Breath created by composer Dimitris Kamarotos. Emphasis is placed on how an assembly of visual, textual and aural modes unfolds sequentially and forms a ‘pathway to experience’ by regulating the relations between the movement, perception, response, emotions and knowledge of the walkers. It is argued that such a multimodal ‘pathway to experience’ constitutes a dynamic process of subjectification, as it blends body movement with ideal types of walking in our cultural imagination.

KEYWORDS: Mobile media, Media walking, Multimodality
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