Multimodality, ethnography and education in south america

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This panel presents three ethnographic-oriented research studies in the field of multimodality and education in South America. The purpose is twofold. Firstly, we would like to share some topics, orientations and challenges common to South American research in this field to engage in dialogue with research from other contexts. On the other hand, we aim to discuss theoretical and methodological implications of adopting an ethnographic approach to multimodality in educational settings. Local issues of power, representation and access to (valued) semiotic resources cut across all three presentations. Manghi analyzes the design of a graduating ceremony in Chilean public technical education to show how multimodal resources are orchestrated to legitimate both the school and the graduating students and also to position these students in particular ways before other students and before the board of professors. Baeza Duffy explores how the enactment of a national law of inclusion in Chilean education makes particular meanings in two different schools and classrooms. Appropriation of the law leads to conflicting meanings of “inclusion”. The multimodal analysis of school and classroom practices shows how these conflicting meanings can be foregrounded or backgrounded by each school community, impacting the way social actors make sense of the law. Finally, Canale analyzes the inclusion of new technology in Uruguayan education and its consequences on the way in which the school subject English as a Foreign Language is constructed. Classroom interaction and work with the laptop impacts how the teacher and the students conceive learning, defying traditional ideologies which associate learning with print literacy and which construct the foreign language as the only legitimate mode to demonstrate learning in the language classroom. The panel hopes to contribute to theoretical and methodological discussions on the need for a close partnership between multimodal studies and ethnography to better understand the situated nature of meaning-making processes (Kress, 2011, 2015), with a focus on educational settings and contexts.


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

Kress, G. (2015). Designing Meaning. Social Semiotic Multimodality Seen in Relation to Ethnographic Research (pp. 213-233). In: Bollig, S., Honig, M.S., Neumann, S. & Seele, C. (Eds.) MultiPluriTrans in Educational Ethnography. Approaching the Multimodality, Plurality and Translocality of Educational Realities. Verlag, Transcript.


Germán Canale

Universidad de la República, Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación, Instituto de Lingüística,

Traditional ideologies of learning foreground print literacy and promote verbal language as the only legitimated resource to communicate and demonstrate learning in the classroom. Within a socio-semiotic approach to learning, the concept of recognition hopes to expand what is legitimized as learning (Kress & Selander, 2012; Bezemer & Kress, 2016). This requires social actors to recognize that learning can be demonstrated through various semiotic modes and that literacy is a multisemiotic and multimodal phenomenon. This poses a big challenge to mainstream practices in language teaching, which tend to foreground language, background other modes and assess communication and learning as verbal phenomena exclusively. This presentation reports findings of an ethnographic study that explored the introduction of new technology in an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classroom in Uruguay and its impact on how students and teacher oriented to learning. The analysis focuses on how students interacted with laptops throughout the academic year to expand their meaning-making resources and to design highly multimodal texts/signs, and on how these impacted the ideologies of learning in the classroom. To negotiate an alternative ideology of learning, the teacher and the students needed to: 1) redistribute semiotic labor between the (printed) EFL textbook and the laptop in the classroom, 2) redistribute expertise (EFL was not enough to complete classroom tasks successfully since students needed to learn how to use the software at hand), 3) design new tasks for assessing students’ work in order to recognize their multimodal doing. As a result, they negotiated the meanings of “EFL” so that learning the foreign language did not background learning as a multimodal business. Findings contribute to a better understanding of how recognition - as a socio-semiotic principle of learning - could be adopted in language teaching to better account for learning demands of the 21st century.

Keywords: Technology, language learning, ideologies of learning, recognition


Bezemer, J. & Kress, G. (2016). Multimodality, Learning and Communication. A social semiotic framework. London / New York, Routledge.

Kress, G. & Selander, S. (2012). Multimodal design, learning and cultures of recognition. Internet and Higher Education, 15, 265-268.


Patricia Baeza Duffy

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Center for Research in Inclusive Education

In 2016 the Chilean Government enacted the Inclusion Law, which eliminated for-profit education and established free and non-selective access to schools. Inclusive education is a social movement, whose challenge is positioning itself as a cultural, political project for the formation of knowledge and for the fight against educational exclusion (Slee & Allan, 2001). However, since the law does not solve the problems that affect the possibilities of moving towards an inclusive quality education, many debates have been generated in Chilean society related to the contents of the law and its enactment in the different Chilean schools. This study is framed in a larger project on School and classroom practices for inclusion (PIA CONICYT CIE 160009). The objective of this presentation is to explore the multimodal critical discursive construction of the meanings of inclusion in community practices in two Chilean schools with a high degree of vulnerability. The qualitative methodology incorporates analytical tools of the Appraisal Theory and Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis from Social Semiotics. Data collection is done from an ethnographic perspective. The corpus is comprised of field notes, videos and photos corresponding to two classes and two special events within each of the two communities. In this context we analyze the construction of different practices that favor or hinder inclusion from a multimodal approach, to denaturalize the semiotic resources - verbal and visual - through which the meaning of inclusion is constructed. Preliminary findings show the tensions that arise from the different interpretations and enactments of the law. The meanings constructed in each classroom practice and school point to different conceptions of inclusion for each social actor and for each community. Consequently, it is possible to find paradigmatic contradictions that maintain exclusion through practices made invisible by the communities themselves.

Keywords: Inclusive education, multimodal critical discourse analysis, appraisal theory, public policy, educational practices, exclusion


Bezemer, J. & Kress, G. (2016). Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame. London, Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2010). Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. London / New York, Routledge.

Foucault, M. (2002). Vigilar y castigar: nacimiento de la prisión. Buenos Aires, Siglo XXI.

Oteíza, T.; Pinuer, C. (2016). Des/legitimación de las memorias históricas: Valoración en discursos pedagógicos intermodales de enseñanza básica chilena. Revista Signos, 49, 92, 377-402.

Slee, R. & Allan, J. (2001). Excluding the included: A reconsideration of inclusive education. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 11, 2,173-191.


Dominique Manghi

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Research Center for Inclusive Education

Public education in Chile is still a segregated place that competes with paid private education. Technical professional education, which is attended by 40% of young people nationwide, is undervalued despite the policies on inclusive education and equity currently discussed. This study is part of a larger project on School and classroom practices for inclusion (PIA CONICYT CIE 160009). In this presentation we analyze from a social semiotic and multimodal perspective a graduation ceremony of a professional technical school, which decides to celebrate three generations of graduating students who have not formally graduated previously. The objective is to identify the semiotic options of design and production with which this community celebrates the value of finishing school, and of graduating from professional public technical training. From an ethnographic perspective, we construct a multimodal corpus of field notes, photographs and videos of the preparation and implementation of a graduation ceremony. The preliminary results show how the school changes for this occasion and different semiotic ensembles work for legitimating both the technical school and their graduating students. Color in chairs, flowers, dresses, on one hand, and spatial disposition and distance from the stage, on the other, are some of the resources that work to make interpersonal meanings, sometimes distancing the graduates to stand out as different from the rest, other times bringing them closer to the board of professors of the school to validate them as peers.

Keywords: Multimodal discourse analysis, social semiotics, inclusive education, interpersonal meanings


Bezemer, J. & Kress, G. (2016). Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame. London, Routledge.

Graham, L.J., Slee, R. (2008). An Illusory Interiority: Interrogating the discourse/s of inclusion, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40,2, 277–292.

Kress, G. (2014). Design: the rhetorical work of shaping the semiotic world. In: A. Archer & D. Newflield. Multimodal Approaches to Research and Pedagogy: Recognition, Resources, and Access. London, Routledge.

Understanding Young Readers' use of Semiotic Resources to Construct Meanings with Picturebooks

Dr. Frank Serafini, Dr. Lindsey Moses, Dani Kachorsky

Multimodal texts, in particular contemporary picturebooks, are used extensively in many literacy instructional frameworks, conveying meanings through the use of multiple sign systems, written language, design elements, and visual images. However, the primary focus in elementary reading education has been on the strategies and skills necessary for understanding written language. This lack of attention to visual images and visual systems of meaning presents serious challenges at a time when image has begun to dominate the lives of their students.

In this panel presentation, three literacy researchers discuss how design features, including typographic elements, speech bubbles, illustrations, and peritextual elements, serve as semiotic resources used by young readers to construct meanings in transactions with contemporary picturebooks. Drawing on a variety of theoretical frameworks, including miscue analysis, multimodal analysis, and interactional analysis, the presenters in this symposium analyze how young readers interacted with the visual, textual, and design elements of Mo Willems’ picturebook We are in a Book! (Willems, 2010). The purpose of this panel presentation is to utilize a variety of analytical frameworks to understand how young readers draw on the semiotic resources available for constructing meaning with contemporary picturebooks.

One researcher focuses on the challenges associated with using traditional oral reading assessments, in particular miscue analysis, and the lack of attention these assessments give to visual images and design elements in the reading process. Two researchers focus on the array of semiotic resources students drew upon when constructing meaning with picturebooks. Using eight students of varying language abilities as a bounded case, the researchers found that young readers utilize a broad range of semiotic resources rather than relying strictly on printed text in their readings of picturebooks.


This panel brings together multimodal scholars conducting studies at the intersection of media technologies, learning processes and knowledge representation. A considerable body of research has pointed out a need for systematic investigations into learners’ ever more pervasive engagement with new technologies and their technical competence in accessing, interpreting and authoring multimedia texts (cf. Buckingham 2003, Finch & Arrow, 2017; Marsh et al., 2017). To prepare the ground for such investigations, several complex issues concerning the relationship between media materiality and students’ learning need to be sufficiently, critically and empirically examined first: To what extent are the learners’ engagement, motivation and comprehension influenced by the design and use of multimedia learning materials? In what ways, based on what principles, can engagement with different media be effectively harnessed for teaching multimodal literacy or supporting learning in different curriculum areas?

By addressing such complex questions, our panel will highlight the urgent need to move beyond a focus on mere engagement with multimedia technologies and build a stronger understanding of how learners develop intermedial competence, which encompasses students’ and educators’ critical awareness of the affordances and functionality of multimedia connections and materials. Most importantly, the presentations of this panel will shed light on the development of intermedial principles for instructional design with potential for further empirical investigations.

(90 minutes)

Animated chemistry in elementary school classrooms

Kristina Danielsson

The transition from descriptions and explanations of science phenomena at the macroscopic level (what can be perceived by our senses) to explanations at the submicroscopic level (e.g. the particle level) has proved to be challenging for teachers and students, for instance that air expands when heated. I will present an ongoing project, "Animated chemistry – the new way of learning?", aimed at finding ways of meeting this challenge. Students in an elementary classroom (age 9/10) were engaged in activities involving a variety of semiotic modes and media to represent the science content (action, talking, writing, drawing, modeling) with the creation of stop motion-films as a final step to explain at the particle level what they had experienced with their senses. The possibilities and challenges related to such a design of a teaching and learning sequence will be discussed in relation to the concept of affordance.

Harnessing transmedia adaptations for multiliteracies education

Emilia Djonov

Contemporary early and primary school literacy curricula stress the importance of engaging young learners in exploring, creating and responding to multimodal texts in a range of different media: poetry, picture books, graphic novels, novels, film and interactive digital texts. While in preschool and the early grades the focus of literacy education is on children developing literacy- and learning-oriented language and learning how to read and write, in later years this focus expands to include learning about language and other modes. From the middle of primary school in Australia, for example, students are expected to develop criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of such multimodal texts and to use metalanguage to describe text structures and language features (

This paper examines the potential of engagement with adaptations of the same narrative in different media to raise young learners' awareness of the affordances of different media and the modes they support, and provides a springboard for teaching students about these affordances. It presents principles for developing a framework for comparative multimodal text analysis that teachers can use to examine such adaptations and evaluate their potential for promoting critical and multimodal literacy. Central to the framework is Van Leeuwen’s (2008) model for examining ‘recontextualisation’ in discourse. It also draws on principles for distinguishing and analysing the affordances and use of different modes and media presented in Kress (2010), Bateman, Wildfeuer, and Hiippala (2017), and Tseng & Bateman (in press).

The value of such a framework is illustrated through the analysis of the recontextualisation of the narrative The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from a short award-winning animated film (Joyce, 2011) to an interactive picture book app (Moonbot Studios, 2011) and finally a traditional picture book (Joyce, 2012), and the shared reading interactions with the traditional and interactive picture book versions of 16 dyads of university-educated mothers and their 4-to-5-year-old children.

Character structure, immersive function and learning effects: intermedial narrative comparison of filmic and graphic educational materials

Chiao-I Tseng

Several empirical studies have shown that understanding characters in narrative is one of the most significant elements in the meaning comprehension process because people’s overall narrative inferences are substantially mediated by characters. Characters' actions, interactions and motivations are often regarded as the driving force for attention and often constitute the cognitive basis that readers’ and viewers' empathetic emotions ride upon.

Through applying analytical methods developed recently for analysing character developments in multimodal texts (Tseng, 2017; 2018), I will systematically compare and contrast designs of character structures in filmic and graphic narrative materials for teaching and learning scientific subjects for children and for higher education as well as the educational materials with social, political themes.

I will relate the comparative results to the recent empirical research on narrative impact and critically evaluate the possible learning effects of using different constructions of character structures in teaching and learning different subjects of science and humanities. Drawing on the intermedial comparative analysis, I will conclude the presentation by suggesting that for enhancing learning effects and students’ engagements of topics being taught, one crucial mechanism lies in distinguishing different types of immersive narrative functions triggered by character structures.
What is understanding?

Theo van Leeuwen

The ideas in this paper form part of the development of a new Australian English secondary school syllabus. This syllabus seeks to make the distinctive disciplinary knowledge of English more visible by means of “textual concepts” such as intertextuality, representation, genre, narrative, connotation, character, style, and point of view, and aims to develop students’ conceptual understanding of English as a multimodal discipline. ‘Understanding’ is therefore a key word in the way the syllabus is conceived.

In this paper ‘understanding’ is seen as a subjective experience, a sudden surge of insight that yields pleasure and empowerment, a sense of seeing previously unnoticed connections and grasping how and why things are the way they are. Developing understanding, in the context of the English curriculum, is therefore developing students’ ability to make connections, to see similarities and differences (a) between the ways the same kinds of things are expressed in different semiotic modes (multimodality), (b) between the ways the same kinds of things are expressed in different kinds of texts (intertextuality), and (c) between the meaning potentials expressed in different modes and different kinds of texts and experience (meaning).

Textual concepts are eminently suitable tools for developing understanding in this way, because they can cross the boundaries between modes, between kinds of text and, ultimately, between texts and life. The paper will show how this can be achieved with the concept of ‘character’, that is, how ‘character’ can be, and is, expressed in different modes and different kinds of text, and how descriptions of character in texts may relate to experience.

Against the background of the history of the concept of character, including a consideration of the relation of the concepts of ‘role’ and ‘identity’ to the concept of ‘character’, examples will include the realization of character by avatars and movie actors and descriptions of character in journalistic and literary texts, and in psychological case studies.


Bateman, J., Wildfeuer, J., & Hiippala, T. (2017). Multimodality: Foundations, research and analysis. A problem-oriented introduction. Berlin, Germany/Boston, MA: de Gruyter Mouton.

Buckingham, D. (2003). Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture. Cambridge, UK/ Malden, MA, USA: Polity Press.
Finch, B., & Arrow, A. W. (2017). Digital technologies in the literate lives of young children. In C. J. McLachlan & A. W. Arrow (Eds.), Literacy in the Early Years: Reflections on International Research and Practice (pp. 221-238). Singapore: Springer Singapore.
Joyce, W. (Producer), & Joyce, W., & Oldenburg, B. (Directors). (2011). The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore [Motion Picture]. USA: Moonbot Studios.
Joyce, W. (2012). The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Illustrations by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm). New York: Moonbot Books.
Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. Oxon/ New York: Routledge.
Marsh, J., Hannon, P., Lewis, M., & Ritchie, L. (2017). Young children’s initiation into family literacy practices in the digital age. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 15(1), 47-60. doi:doi:10.1177/1476718X15582095
Moonbot Studios (2011). The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore (Version 1.4). [Mobile Application Software].
Tseng, C.-I. (2017). Beyond the media boundaries: Analysing how dominant genre devices shape our narrative knowledge. Discourse, Context & Media, 20, 227-238. doi:
Tseng, C.-I. (2018). Unravelling the myth of multiple endings and the narrative labyrinth in Mr. Nobody (2010). In S. Zhao, E. Djonov, A. Björkvall & M. Boeriis (Eds.), Advancing multimodal and critical discourse studies: Interdisciplinary research inspired by Theo Van Leeuwen’s social semiotics (pp. 131-145). London/New York: Routledge.
Tseng, C., & Bateman, J. A. (in press). Cohesion in comics and graphic novels: an empirical comparative approach to transmedia adaptation in City of Glass. Adaptation.
Van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Discourse and Practice: New Tools for Critical Analysis. London: Oxford University Press.


Brand Personification as Bonding: A Socio-semiotic Analysis of Three Packaging Cases

Shukun Chen, Xuan Liu

Guangdong University of Finance, Institute of Foreign Languages and Cultures

Brand personification has been well investigated in marketing literature. However, it is still rarely studied from the semiotic perspective, which offers a lens to research how semiotic resources of products could be designed to personify the brand. Under the framework of systemic-functional socio-semiotics, brand personification is theorized as a semiotic process of Bonding, referring to the shared coupling of value and character. Two primary choices of bonding strategies are proposed: appreciation/judgment and affect. The source and target of appreciation/judgment are labeled as Appraiser and Appraised while those of affect are labeled as Emoter and Trigger. It leads to further considerations of how to construe the character as Appraiser, Appraised, Emoter, and/or Trigger. Then, the paper, drawing on visual and verbal grammars founded on systemic-functional socio-semiotics, proceeds to illustrate how semiotic resources are co-deployed to realize those bonding strategies via a close analysis of three packaging cases of a company, Uni-President. This study provides theoretical backup for the brand personification in marketing and serves as a useful guideline for brand personification design, in particular, multimodal communication in packaging.

Keywords: Brand personification, socio-semiotics, appraisal semantics, bonding, packaging

Nothing to add – nothing to take away?

Silja Nikula, Doctor of Arts

Faculty of Art and Design, University of Lapland, Finland

About the process of graphic abstraction

In the field of visual communication, abstraction is often made by graphic designers. Why is that made and what are the methods for that? I settle my design case in discussion.

In my poster presentation, I concern visual material designed for a project named PROMEQ, funded by the Finnish Academy. The aim for this project is to hear the voice of “people in challenging situations” and to promote their health and welfare. Four focus groups are:

-young people (not in education, not in employment or training)

-long term unemployed

-adult immigrants (as asylum seekers)

-older multi-users of social and health care

Within the communication material, I concern static images representing people in printed material, websites and social media. Images move from realistic photographs, where individuals are recognized, towards symbols representing the idea of the human being in general. I settle the imagery on a scale from realistic to simplified. There are different degrees of abstraction, and my aim is to show what these design decisions are based on.

For us, it is economical to classify things in categories. After categorizing in our minds, our mental representations become visible in the process of graphic abstraction. It means external visual simplification. Using prototypes is often economical within communication, but our aim was to avoid stereotypes used in referring to “vulnerable people”. Raising the level of abstraction was one means for avoiding stigmatizing our focus groups. Also framing photographs, letting viewers think about the rest, was another way to do that. Further, using illustrations instead of photos, as simplified silhouettes was a good way to modify images towards conceptual ones. The identity symbol was abstracted to the highest level.

Multimodal Analysis on Japanese Written Text as a Device that has been Made Social Dividing, Merging and New values

Kaori Okuizumi, Chavalin Svetanant, Genichiro Fukawa

Nippon Sport Science University, Macquarie University

In our presentation, we will examine the social function of Japanese written text from a perspective of the historical context of language education in Japan. Kress & van Leeuwen(1996) argue the importance of a multimodal approach not only for visual texts but also for written texts, and Fairclough (2000a) has made a similar proposal focusing on written texts which are displayed on a screen. Kress & van Leeuwen mentioned that the multimodal way of each language is not transparent and universally understood, but culturally specific (Kress & Leeuwen, 1996:3). Therefore we try to show and examine Japanese written texts which were really used in a common school course from the Meiji era up to the present by using frameworks of Systemic Functional Linguistics and Critical Discourse Analysis. We hope our work will provide some ideas and concepts for the study of multimodal communication in a non-Western form of written text.

Japanese can be written in four types of characters, and they each have a different history of their own. Some of them are phonograms and the other is an ideogram. An example article which we will show contains a mixture of vertical and horizontal text. Before the Meiji Restoration, different text characters were used by the writers, depending on their social positions in Japan. After the Meiji Restoration, the restructured public educational system regulated these different writing systems into the common system which can be understood by all social classes. In the process of this regulation, some tabulated forms or tales were introduced from the West and were redesigned. Because of these historical contexts, when we read written text nowadays, we can make redesigned meaning and new values from these texts using some historical typefaces and forms of ancient Japanese as resources.

Keywords: Multimodal, members’ resources, social value, historical context


Fairclough, N. (2000a).Discourse, social theory and social research: the case of welfare reform, Journal of Sociolinguistics, 4(2).

Halliday, M. A. K. (2009). Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday (10 Volumes). London & New York: Continuum.

Jewitt, C. (Ed.). (2009). Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. London: Routledge.

Kress.G.(2003)Literacy in the New Media Age, New York: Routledge.

Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2004 [1996]). Reading Images: The Grammar of

Visual Design
(7th ed.).London: Routledge.

Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to Multimodal Analysis. London & New York: Hodder


O’Halloran, K. L. (2011). Multimodal Discourse Analysis. In K. Hyland & B. Paltridge (Eds.), Companion to Discourse Analysis. London: Continuum. pp. 120-137.

Van Leeuwen, T. (2005a). Introducing Social Semiotics, London: Routledge.

Van Leeuwen, T. (2005b). Typographic meaning, Visual Communication, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 137–143.

Van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Towards a semiotics of typography, Information Design Journal & Document Design, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 139–155.

Activity Types of Semiotic Graffiti: Official and Unofficial Negotiation

Hong Zhang

Huaqiao University, Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China

As a Special Administrative Region on the periphery of China, Macao offers special insights into Geosemiotics (Scollon and Scollon, 2003) especially in view of the multilingual and multicultural graffiti. The “participation in graffiti production may have important social, cultural and educational values” (Pennycook, 2010, p.139). The strategy of solving the paradox between graffiti as art and graffiti as vandalism by allowing permitted graffiti is adopted by the Macao government to some extent. The aim of this paper is to explore the official and unofficial negotiation by observing the interplay between languages and images, the activity types (Levinson, 1992), and the degrees of authorization of the graffiti in various places of globalized Macao, with the help of ethnographic methods such as observation and informal interviews. The commissioned colorful student graffiti in the Cotai Ecological Zones are compared with bottom-up political graffiti and we also draw evidence from other types of graffiti data such as student murals and hip-hop graffiti to confirm our speculations. The various types of graffiti correspond to certain activity types and embody corresponding interaction between language and images. It seems that the authorized graffiti are often multilingual, multimodal and colorful while the bottom-up graffiti such as the protest graffiti are less multilingual, more verbal and more lucid.

Keywords: Graffiti, multimodality, activity types, negotiation, Macao


Levinson, S. C. (1992). Activity types and language. In P. Drew and J. Heritage (Eds.), Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings (pp.66-100). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pennycook, A. (2010). Spatial narrations: Graffscapes and city souls. In A. Jaworski and C. Thurlow (Eds.), Semiotic landscapes: Language, image, space (pp.137-150). London and New York: Continuum.

Scollon, R. and S. W. Scollon (2003). Discourses in place: Language in the material world. London and New York: Routledge.

Professional identity revisited

Anne Zieba

Institute of Linguistics, Adam Mickiewicz University

Identity can be defined as a number of inherent qualities of an individual or a group that distinguish them from other individuals or groups. It has a personal, an interactive and a social dimension. It is who we are or more accurately who we want to be seen as. It is constructed and context-dependent, it can be shifted between various social or cultural situations. It can be managed. Taking into account the digital turn in communication an important part of one's identity is its online rendition – even though limited by a number of factors, still exerting a powerful effect on other users.

Since the Internet has become the ultimate arena for the display of oneself we decided to follow other scholars and examine what the social media reveal about the identity of a selected professional group, namely teachers. It was our objective to find out if the images and comments posted on Instagram, a popular online photo-sharing application and social network platform, comply with the notion of a teacher emerging from research in educational studies (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Søreide, 2006; Walkington, 2005; Beijaard et al., 2000).

In order to achieve this goal we applied a quantitative and then a qualitative analysis of the bimodal texts relevant to the subject matter. A social semiotic approach was employed with particular focus on the textual and interpersonal metafunctions of the of images and verbal messages: especially modality and composition (including information value, salience and framing) as we agree with Kress and van Leeuwen (1996) that each choice an author makes, either verbal or visual, is charged with meaning.

Hopefully, the results of the study will provoke a discussion about the teachers’ image and the changes it has undergone since the development of social media: a shift in the private/public domain and a remodelling of the master/student relationship in which the teacher seems no longer an absolute or statutory authority but a facilitator, a free spirit, a passionate professional or a person a student can or even should like.


Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge journal of education, 39(2), 175-189.

Beijaard, D., Verloop, N., & Vermunt, J. D. (2000). Teachers’ perceptions of professional identity: An exploratory study from a personal knowledge perspective. Teaching and teacher education16(7), 749-764.

Kress, G. R., & Van Leeuwen, T. (1996). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. Psychology Press.

Søreide, G. E. (2006). Narrative construction of teacher identity: Positioning and negotiation. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 12(5), 527-547.

Walkington, J. (2005). Becoming a teacher: Encouraging development of teacher identity through reflective practice. Asia-Pacific Journal of teacher education, 33(1), 53-64.

Yus, F. (2016). Online identity: A (non) propositional account. Paper delivered at EPICS VII. Pablo de Olavide University, Seville, May.

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