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Building Bridges for Multimodal Research

International Perspectives on Theories and Practices of Multimodal Analysis

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Edited By Janina Wildfeuer

While multimodality is one of the most influential semiotic theories for analysing media artefacts, the concepts of this theory are heterogeneous and widespread. The book takes the differences between approaches in Germany and those in international contexts as a starting point, offering new insights into the analysis of multimodal documents. It features contributions by researchers from more than 15 nations and various disciplines, including theoretical reflections on multimodality, thoughts about methodological, empirical, and experimental approaches as well as analyses of various multimodal artefacts.
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On the Use of Different Modalities in Political Communication: Evidence from German Election Manifestos

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1 Introduction

Political communication is largely multimodal in character. The media that citizens use most widely to inform themselves about political matters – television, media-owned websites, even print newspapers – use a combination of text and images or of text, moving images, spoken language, and sound. The same applies to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter which feature some political information often in the form of (short) written texts plus images or links to (multimodal) websites. Similarly, the communication that emanates from political actors directly combines different modalities – think about party or candidate websites and social media feeds, printed materials such as leaflets and posters or televised public appearances and speeches, particularly on the campaign trail.

In this contribution, we focus on one such material, namely election manifestos that political parties produce to connect with potential voters before an election. Election manifestos are typically posted online and distributed as booklets in face-to-face encounters with voters. As we will see below, not all such manifestos contain images in addition to the written text; in fact, only roughly a third of them do. But what determines the use of images in these important political documents, and what types of images are chosen by political parties from different ideological camps to complement their textual position-taking? What role, therefore, do images play in parties’ attempts to get in touch with citizens through their election manifestos? Interestingly, this question has never been raised before in the political science literature...

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