chapter  3
18 Pages

The Neurocognitive Model of Multimodal Rhetoric

In this chapter, I identify specific attributes of a neurocognitive model of multi - modal rhetoric. Considering the review of extant literature in both fields-neuro - biology/physiology and multimodal rhetoric-provided in the previous chapter, five particular characteristics of neurobiology, distributed cognition, and multi - modal rhetoric emerge, each of which integrates elements of existing theory, however, I synthesize perspectives from both fields. I also introduce the nature of the studies that act as cases that I use in subsequent chapters to illustrate the model. A debate in the field of multimodal rhetoric is the orientation of a given theory. As mentioned in Chapter 1, rhetoric includes the way information is presented within a message (design of a message) and how one perceives that message (audience’s perception of the information in the message). Kress’ (2009) termin - ology, for example, tends to focus on design attributes of multimodality-items that affect how one is able to develop a given multimodal product and how one considers that product via social semiotics. Others like Ball (2006) as well as Odell and Katz (2009) try to theorize more from the audience’s perspective, that is, how to develop a given message relative to how one perceives infor - mation and their expectations relative to information needs. Much like the process of usability testing in technical communication and information architecture, I (Remley 2012) attempt to use both approaches as a means to develop good products through an interactive and iterative process-a multimodal object is developed and tested, an audience provides feedback regarding their perception of that object and its ability to help them understand its meaning toward facili - tating revision to improve the rhetorical effectiveness, that is, to improve the ability of the message to provide the intended meaning so the audience can understand it better. Because this theory integrates biological and social attributes, it is neces - sarily audience oriented, however, it attempts to integrate attributes of design. As is generally considered within the field of technical communication, one must

understand one’s audience and its information needs before designing a given message. So this model can be applied relative to analyzing a given product and an audience’s reaction to its effectiveness as well as relative to designing an effective product to facilitate cognition. The five particular attributes from a synthesis of scholarship in multimodal rhetoric and neurobiology that emerge are

1. Intermodal sensory redundancy-the preference to integrate more than one sense to facilitate reinforcement of information;

2. Visual dominance-recognition that the visual sense is usually engaged first and as such is dominant in information processing;

3. Temporal synchronicity-the timing of exposure to different stimuli affects how related information is processed;

4. Prior experience-the role that previous experience with certain informa - tion or learning style has on acquiring new information; and

5. Attention-modal filtering-that one must filter certain modal information in an effort to concentrate and best process relevant multimodal information.