Chapter: Empirical Multimodality Research – The State of Play (2021)

As an introduction to our volume ‘Empirical Multimodality Research: Methods, Evaluations, Implications‘, we offer a comprehensive discussion of the nature of empirical multimodality research and develop five central quality criteria for good empirical practice. The abstract reads:

“Multimodality research has always shown a strong reliance on data. How-
ever, the field has primarily developed around more exploratory, descriptive, and
interpretative work on smaller data sets — as suggested by results we present from
a meta-study of contributions to three multimodality-close international journals
(Social Semiotics, Visual Communication, Multimodal Communication). Framed by
a discussion of the qualitative-quantitative dichotomy and a deliberately broad
working definition of empirical, we argue that it is not sample size or quantitative
methods alone that support a more solid empirical grounding of multimodality
research, but rather an explicit orientation to just how theory and analysis make
contact with data. To this end, we propose five quality criteria of empirical practice,
that is, completing the empirical feedback loop: from theory to data and back,
ensuring objectivity, reliability, and validity in research, and acknowledging the
inherent tentativeness of results. We thereby seek to chart paths for an appropriate
and productive application of various empirical methods to novel (and supposedly
familiar) forms of meaning-making in order to further strengthen the development
of theory and methods in multimodality, and to encourage an even more intense
exchange among the diverse communities of multimodalists.”

Feel free to download the chapter here.

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