Transduction

‘Transduction’, a term originally coined by Gunther Kress (1997) in a social semiotic view of multimodality, refers to remaking meaning across modes. For example, writing might be remade as drawing, or speech as action – and this becomes increasingly complex when more than one mode is entailed. Taking this process to refer to externally visible semiotic action rather than activity in the brain, the notion of transduction has been alternatively termed. For example ‘the transmodal moment’ (Newfield, 2009) focuses attention on the multiple transformations that occur in processes of transduction – in materiality, genre, meaning, subjectivity and learning – as well as revealing the situatedness of transmodal semiotic action. ‘Transmodal redesign’ (Mavers, 2011) refers to how form and meaning are remade in response to the framing of the social environment. A shift across modes demands choice of fresh semiotic resources in an endeavor to retain constancy of meaning. Certain resources are not modally shared (e.g. words, spelling, letter case and punctuation do not exist in image). Where someone deliberately remakes something in a different mode, decisions must be made about how this will be achieved. Verbs might be reconfigured as ‘vectors’ in drawing, and prepositions by spatial arrangement. The move from one mode to the other has profound implications for meaning because of changes to what it is possible to mean. Given material variations and differences in the histories of social and cultural work, there can never be a ‘perfect translation’ from one mode to another. Semiotic practices, and hence modal practices, are situated in specific contexts, and are hence historically, socio-culturally and politically inflected. Additional or alternative cultural meanings and practices may accompany the transductive process. For young African students, processes of transduction in semiotic practices familiar to them, but not usually admitted into or valued in school classrooms opened up spaces for them which had not existed before (Newfield, 2009). It is the task of the researcher to identify instances of transduction and to ask what is sustained, what is gained and what is lost in this chain of semiosis.

Editor: Diane Mavers
Other contributor: Denise Newfield

Key References
Mavers, D. (2011)
Children’s Drawing and Writing: The Remarkable in the Unremarkable
New York: Routledge

Newfield, D. (forthcoming)
“Transduction, transformation and the transmodal moment”. In Jewitt, C. (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis
London: Routledge

Stein, P. (2008)
Multimodal Pedagogies in Diverse Classrooms: Representation, Rights and Resources
London: Routledge

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