chapter  6
15 Pages

Towards a Multimodal Social Semiotic Agenda for Touch

WithCarey Jewitt

This chapter sets out a multimodal social semiotic agenda for understanding touch communication practices. It outlines how multimodal social semiotics can provide a framework that can be used to explore the materiality of touch, how these are shaped into touch based semiotic resources and modes, and how their take up by people to communicate is culturally and socially patterned and regulated. The chapter draws inspiration from Theo van Leeuwen's early interdisciplinary explorations of emergent modes (i.e. sound and colour) by asking how a multimodal social semiotic approach might be complemented by insights on touch from psychophysics, anthropology of the senses, and sociology. It articulates the relationships across these increasingly blurred disciplinary boundaries towards mapping the landscape of touch as 'semiotic resource' and 'mode(s)'. The chapter identifies and examines touch-based modes: their semiotic principles and meaning potentials. It characterises people's use of touch for communication with attention to the cultural and social norms and power relations that shape their use.