Explaining How There Came to Be Beer Stats

Part 3 – the final installment of reading response 7

After reading chapters one through four of Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, I have some additional insights to my most recent analytical reflection post on my running mode and community. The most significant is how much the social is stressed in Kress’ book on multimodality. Using previous works we’ve read, the social influence is usually acknowledged in some fashion, but not at the forefront as with Kress.

My running community formed from people who like to communicate and represent themselves with beer, running, and fun. My running community grew in a small college town, primarily of various scientists, academics, and parents. We have nearly pro-level runners sometimes and we have lots of neurotically and  competitively driven  personalities. The group started as an escape, a pick-me-up on hump day, a combination of two loves, running and beer. It is still these things but the competitive, analytical,  lovers of information that actually represented, or produced the group (and distributed…aaaalll the things), informed the communication and representation of the group.

We started keeping stats. Running stats (pretty normal, really). And beer stats. We put the serious on the silly and in turn the silly made our seriousness seem less serious.

The Second is First: reading response seven in Parts

The prompt wanted me to look at one of my multimodals with Kress and Van Leeuwen, then with Kress’ multimodal and semiotics book. So I decided to do so without reading the second, first; I wanted to keep my application from influence to see…just to see.

Part 2

Discourse, design, production, distribution

As mentioned in class, seems a natural connection to Invention, Style, Arrangement, and delivery.

The following applies these concepts to my multimodal post about my GPS watch and running community.

Leeuwen and Kress’ definition of discourse really threw me; how could discourse not be about the conversation? I really struggled to understand it and apply it. But now, perhaps because I did that work to understand it, it seems to apply quite perfectly to the running tools and community I participate in. The topic, the data, the knowledge is there without us talking about it. Running to some extent is natural, intuitive. And humans are social creatures and learn socially so it only makes sense that we would run together sometimes. And the information, how far, how fast, how long (and how much beer) exists before we utter anything. It exists whether we record it or not. But we do and that is the discourse practice.

The design behind our data follows the tradition of the hard sciences and has alphabetic and images to communicate the info (charts, graphs). Arguably design is another discourse for us as we all have different ways of running, different brands or models of GPS watches. In all cases design is communicating something: scientific but fun (or perhaps poking fun at our scientifically driven lives), amount of money invested for a training watch, triathlete or not (based on watch model), and levels of competitiveness. The design of our running group also becomes material, production and distributed, when we order our shirts that always say, “Run and Be Hoppy” on them somewhere. More through collaboration, production, have we come to be the data driven entities that we are.

Production of our data is a physical labor, transferring and transforming the information from our bodies to the satellites and chronometers and back. We transfer the information from our watch to the paper. Later it is transferred once more when our fearless but never beerless leader and computer scientist puts it into the website, coding and algorithms to analyze and interpret our data.  Production is always multimodal: utilizing and shifting design, the mode of conversation, applied discourse, sourced ultimately from discourse as Kress and Leeuwen have defined it.

Distribution is also what connects us. Who is closest to getting into the keg club? Who ran the most? Who is training for a race? The distribution gives a new way of seeing what we could communicated, or distributed differently. We are able to connect and stay connected with a much larger group of people because of distributing our stats on the internet.