This month we published Transmodal Communications edited by Margaret R. Hawkins. In this post the editor introduces the main concepts covered in the book.
As applied linguists, we explore how language works in the world. More recently, a number of us attend to languaging – seeing ‘language’ not a named, monolithic entity, but rather as a mobile, fluid resource leveraged in communication (in tandem with many other resources), replete with intentions, actions and effects. Central to the work of many is semiotics, or how meanings are made, which expands a focus on the act of leveraging resources to create (or assemble) messages to include the ‘arc of communication’ – or the ways in which messages are assembled, travel across time and space, and are received, interpreted and negotiated interactionally. While these aspects are always present in communication, they are perhaps especially prevalent (and generally less well attended to) in our current era of globalization, where messages move with increasing frequency and speed, through ever-changing modes and media, and across greater distances and diversities of people.
A central premise of this book is that communications matter, because they are the foundation of relations between people. And, as is perhaps obvious at the moment, relations between people (both translocal and transglobal) are rife with mistrust, misunderstanding and bias. We are all positioned by and within every communicative act – at both small and large scales – based on representations and interpretations, who interactants perceive themselves and others to be, and how these play out in situated interactions. All of these interactional components are in part shaped by our histories and trajectories, and our communicative means and modes, as well as by outside forces and ideologies that ascribe differential values to varied ways of knowing, being, believing, inter/acting, and so on. We (all contributing authors) start from a social justice stance – that communications and research across diversity must have the goal of fostering equitable and positive relations. We call this critical cosmopolitanism – we work to foster stances of openness, inquiry and care toward others both near and far.
Two additional concepts that this new book introduces (in addition to critical cosmopolitanism) are transmodalities and transpositioning. Transmodalities, at core, provides a framework for exploring and understanding communications among diverse interlocutors, including in (although not limited to) digital environments. It is comprised of five ‘complexities’, attending to the ways that human and material resources are fully entangled in communication; the above-mentioned arc of communication; and the centrality of both culture and context (including place and space) and of power and positioning in the construction of meanings. It is a conceptual structure that sees meaning-making as the totality of ever-shifting signs and symbols, fully entangled with people and things, moving across time and space, and continuously re-interpreted within and across multiple contexts. Each thing/person/sign/context is imbued with its own history and trajectory that shape what it is and means. We posit that each entity is caught up in these movements and mobilities, and is continuously positioned and re-positioned vis-à-vis one another. This is transpositioning, and its role in communications and relations is vital from a social justice perspective.
The book is comprised of multiple chapters that explore semiotics and relations through the lenses of critical cosmopolitanism and transmodalities across a range of domains, illustrating transpositioning in action and its implications. Chapter authors are part of a global research team, live in disparate geographic locations, and are connected in various ways to a project (Global Storybridges) that connects youth in sites across the globe to digitally share and discuss their lives and communities through videos and chats. While the first chapter lays the conceptual groundwork, each chapter thereafter (except the coda) utilizes different theoretical framings and ethnographically-informed exploratory approaches to consider data from the project – both site-specific and transglobal – to examine, at micro- and macro-levels, what exactly constitutes and impacts meaning-making, emerging notions of self and others, and the construction of relations among youth, among youth and adults, and among researchers. In this volume we demonstrate both how we might come to know and why it matters.
For more information about this book please see our website.
If you found this interesting, you might also like Figures of Interpretation edited by B.A.S.S. Meier-Lorente-Muth-Duchêne.