Corpora vs connoisseurship: challenges for the study of multimodal text

Talk by Rob Waller – abstract / bio below

Rob Waller’s career has included professional practice as an information designer and academic roles at the Open University and the University of Reading, where he was Professor of Information Design. This talk addresses the interface between those two worlds. 

At Reading, he worked with Martin Thomas and Judy Delin (then of the Centre for Translation Studies at Leeds) on a prototype multimodal corpus of everyday information documents, and he recently published a paper focusing on some of the challenges of this approach. This seminar introduces some of the arguments from that paper:  

Robert Waller (2017), Practice-based perspectives on multimodal documents: corpora vs connoisseurship, Discourse, Context and Media 20: 175-190. 

Rob argues that in order to reliably account for observed data, analysts need to distinguish between effects which represent an effort to create meaning, those which are by-products of production technology, and those which are intended as navigational support for users. Multimodal genre studies are essentially interdisciplinary, crossing boundaries between the verbal and the visual, between creation and consumption, and, Rob argues, between academic analysis and professional practices. There are significant problems of exemplification from issues of design competence, dysfunctional genres, creativity and continuous technical change.  

Rob recently retired but is still active in consultancy and teaching. He runs the annual Information Design Summer School in Bath, and is President of the International Institute for Information Design.

Rob’s talk promises to lead to a discussion of cross-disciplinary appeal.