Transmodalities and Transnational Encounters: Fostering Critical Cosmopolitan Relations

Transmodalities and Transnational Encounters: Fostering Critical Cosmopolitan Relations Abstract The ‘trans-’ turn in language studies illuminates human communication as the coordination and interpretation of a vast array of semiotic resources that are entangled with language in fluid and unpredictable ways. It also highlights the current era of globalization in which communication occurs with ever-increasing rapidity among ever-expanding audiences, through rapidly changing semiotic means and modes. It transcends the local, to become translocal and transnational, indexing the diversity of actors engaged in new configurations of communicative engagements. Framed by notions of repertoires and modalities, in this article I offer a rationale for and close articulation of transmodalities, to more fully consider processes of semiosis across place, space, and time. Because meanings matter—especially relational aspects of communication—I propose critical cosmopolitanism to account for humane, ethical approaches to human engagements and their outcomes. I provide data from a project that connects youth across the globe through technology-mediated communications to demonstrate how these dual frames—transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism—can serve as guideposts and heuristic lenses for transnational interactions, relations, and learning in a globalized, technologized world. THE ‘TRANS-’ TURN IN LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION Applied linguistics has long been an interdisciplinary field focused on issues pertaining to language-in-use in the world. How we understand language—what it is, how it works, what it accomplishes—shapes how we understand human communications and relations, local and global others, and ways of being and knowing. Yet language does not stand alone; it is one component of the repertoire of resources with which humans make and share meaning. As has been noted, the origins of the field rest predominantly on cognitive and structural perspectives (Hawkins 2011, 2013; Douglas Fir Group 2016; Canagarajah 2018). More recently, however, there has been a significant increase of attention to the ways in which language is enmeshed with other semiotic resources in constructing meanings in communication (e.g., Goodwin 2000; Lemke 2002). One of the great contributions of the ‘trans-’ turn in language studies is just this acknowledgement that human communication entails the coordination and interpretation of a vast array of semiotic resources that are entangled with language in fluid and unpredictable ways. This is not a new concept; debates within anthropological approaches to the study of human interaction from the inception of the field of sociolinguistics, for instance, have for some time addressed this phenomenon, situating communication in its social and cultural contexts of use (e.g., Gumperz 1964; Hymes 1972). Yet this earlier work, while moving beyond a decontextualized theory of grammar, remained focused on speech acts and organization of linguistic features. Fred Erickson (1996), in defining ethnographic microanalysis in 1996, juxtaposed it to interactional sociolinguistics, stating that, ‘in interactional sociolinguistics there is more emphasis on speech phenomena per se … whereas ethnographic microanalysis has (made) an attempt to analyze nonverbal and verbal phenomena together’ (p. 287). Today, in this moment where the fields of second language acquisition and applied linguistics are attending to various understandings of language-in-use, and engaging in transdisciplinary meshing, defining language and understanding its relationship to other semiotic resources in communication is an issue that has come strongly to the fore (Douglas Fir Group 2016). A second contribution is that the ‘trans-’ turn points to the current era of globalization in which communication occurs with ever-increasing rapidity among ever-expanding audiences, through rapidly changing semiotic means and modes. It transcends the local, to become translocal and transnational, indexing the diversity of actors engaged in new configurations of communicative engagements. Thus in this article I propose the notion of ‘transmodalities’ within the field, to acknowledge the fluid integration, and mutual informativity, of repertoires of resources in meaning-making processes across local and global encounters and interactions in our globalized world. I begin by unpacking conceptualizations of ‘repertoires’ and ‘modalities’—terms frequently taken up in ‘trans-’ perspectives to reference the intertwining of semiotic resources in communication as discussed above, pointing to limitations and challenges, especially in reference to translocal and transnational communications, that provide the impetus for the move to transmodalities. I then offer a close articulation of transmodalities, and what it offers both functionally and heuristically, while pointing to a need to account for not only processes of semiosis across time and space, but also to the effects. For this I introduce critical cosmopolitanism as a construct, to attend to aspects of morality and ethicality in the forging of human relations and understandings through translocal and transnational engagements and communications. While this article is conceptually driven, I want to attend to why particular conceptualizations of language-in-use matter; thus I provide data from a project that connects youth across the globe through digitally mediated communications to illustrate how the dual lenses of transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism can account for, and shape understandings of, transnational engagements and learning in a globalized and technologized world. In short, this article offers a discussion of themes of globalization; translocal and transnational interactions; and resources, repertoires, and modalities, offering the key concepts of transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism in service of more nuanced understandings of processes and effects of semiosis in transnational communications. I illustrate the discussion through examples of transmodal transnational communications among global youth, showing how this dual framework may enhance critical understandings of communications across time and space. REPERTOIRES AND MODALITIES IN TRANSLOCAL AND TRANSNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS Repertoires Understandings of languaging owe much to theorizations of repertoires. The concept of repertoire is useful in moving us beyond conceptualizing ‘languages’ as distinct codes that people use and sometimes move between, to a view of language-in-use as fluidly leveraging, integrating, and negotiating a variety of semiotic resources in the act of meaning-making. In current ‘trans-’ perspectives on language, such as translanguaging and translingual practice, repertoire plays a central role. A foundation of translanguaging, as conceived of by Garcia (and echoing Gumperz, but invoking multilingualism), is that bilingual youth do not move between ‘languages’, but have one language repertoire composed of all of the semiotic codes at their command, from which they draw fluidly in situated interactions. In Garcia’s words, I think what the translanguaging lens makes clear is that for a bilingual child, what is happening is really not that he or she is going from one language system to another language system (because those are social constructions); what is happening is that they’re drawing from one linguistic repertoire. (as quoted in Orellana and Garcia 2014: 387) Similarly, for translingual practice, Canagarajah asserts, ‘Users treat all available codes as a repertoire in their everyday communication, and not separated according to label’ (Canagarajah 2013: 6). Repertoires go beyond language systems and codes. The notion that communication rests on more than ‘language’ - indeed is an orchestration of many representational features, forms and modes- has been addressed from multiple perspectives. In sociolinguistics, Gumperz introduced ‘verbal repertoires’ (Gumperz 1960, 1964) in research illuminating that communication entails more than forming particular words and grammars in particular ways. His work attended to features of language (e.g., stress, intonation), as well as genres, styles, and frames that shape meaning in situated, socially embedded communication. Repertoire, in his view, ‘contains all the accepted ways of formulating messages. It provides the weapons of everyday communication. Speakers choose among this arsenal in accordance with the meanings they wish to convey’ (Gumperz 1964: 140). He considered repertoires, as opposed to language, as central to communicative competence and to the field of sociolinguistics. Yet Gumperz’ work remained focused on utterances and speech acts in communication. More recently, Rymes has introduced ‘communicative repertoires’ to expand what it is that repertoires encompass (Rymes 2010, 2014). The term ‘communicative repertoire’ is now used to refer to the collection of ways individuals use language and other means of communication (gestures, dress, posture, accessories), to function effectively in the multiple communities in which they participate. (Rymes 2014: 4) This clearly moves beyond features of language to index non-verbal features of communication as part of the semiotic resources that comprise repertoires, including movement and materiality. Still, the features that Rymes references are all directly observable in face-to-face communication. Blommaert and Backus (2013), similarly to Rymes, conceive of ‘repertoires’ as individual acquisitions, but point to the dimension of biography and the non-linear progression of their development. Repertoires, according to them, expand over a lifetime as people move through different phases and spaces. They claim, ‘Repertoires are biographically organized complexes of resources, and they follow the rhythms of human lives’ (p. 9). They point to the place- and space-based nature of forms of language, and note that in an era of superdiversity repertoires are ‘records of mobility’ (p. 22). Gutierrez and her colleagues (Gutierrez and Rogoff 2003; Gutierrez et al. 2003), considering repertoires from an educational perspective, also reference the role of life trajectory in their conceptualization of repertoires, and that of spatiality. They posit repertoires as formed through an individual’s participation in various communities of practice, terming them ‘repertoires of practice’. They point to the cultural-historical dimensions (i.e., ‘linguistic and cultural-historic repertoires’), and the role of student agency in deploying resources from their repertoires across various settings. The notion of repertoires, for them, is an antidote to a view of individual competence that places blame for school failure on the student, through offering a different positioning of student performance—one that is rooted in students’ cultural and historical experiences. Repertoires are composed of, ‘dynamic patterns of individuals’ participation in … historical constellations of community practices, continuing and transforming across generations’ (Gutierrez and Rogoff 2003: 23), placing repertoires within a socio-historical and practice-based perspective. In these accounts, repertoires are the accumulation of semiotic resources people have access to and can leverage in communication, always embedded in socio-historical trajectories, expanding from those directly identifiable in face-to-face interaction (such as gesture and dress) to those less tangible (such as cultural-historical scripts, and understandings and beliefs embodied through life trajectories). Theorizations such as these that envision repertoires as socially and culturally embedded, and located in and shifting over space and time, offer the potential for semiotic resources other than language or those visible in face-to-face communication to be considered as part of communicative repertoires. This is of paramount importance in transglobal and transnational communications, which often take place across distances and time, mediated by textual and/or technological tools. (Multi) Modalities While the term ‘modalities’ has been taken up somewhat differentially across various groups of scholars in various disciplines, it foundationally refers to linked clusters of semiotic resources used to make meaning in communication that are culturally embedded and recognizable. Rooted in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), especially for scholars working in language and literacy-related areas, it attends to the act of communication, the ways in which communication takes place, and the contexts within which communication occurs. Jewitt (2017), in her seminal handbook, offers this definition: Multimodality describes approaches that understand communication and representation to be more than about language, and which attend to the full range of communicational forms people use—image, gesture, gaze, posture and so on—and the relationships between these. (p. 15) The concept of multimodality, referencing the co-occurrence of multiple semiotic modes in any communicative act, moves beyond language codes, and directly takes up issues of what, in addition to language, comprise repertoires for meaning-making. Literature on multimodality varies on this point; some consider modes, in alignment with the discussion of repertoires above, to refer to semiotic features other than speech that are present in interactions between those in one physical space. Early and Marshall, for example, discussing multimodality within classroom research, state, ‘along with talk and writing, a range of other representational and communicational modes, such as gesture, gaze, movement, dance, music and spatial organization, is ever more frequently interwoven in the meaning-making process’ (Early and Marshall 2008: 379), and Flewitt refers to ‘visual, gesture and kinaesthetic modes’ (Flewitt 2011: 293). Yet this is complexified as, in this ‘21st century’ era of globalization, communication is with increasing frequency not face-to-face, within a confined physical space, nor even in ‘real time’. What might be considered as modes in varied forms of translocal and transnational communication, which occur across different spaces and trajectories, and on different timescales? And what is their impact on meaning-making? Much of the extant work considers modes as ‘co-present’ and ‘co-dependent’ (Murphy 2012), yet 21st century communication, often digitally or electronically mediated, may be across distances and asynchronous. Kress begins to address this by expanding the definition of modes: ‘Mode is a socially shaped and culturally given resource for meaning-making. Image, writing, layout, music, gesture, speech, moving image, soundtrack are examples of modes used in representation and communication’ (Kress 2017: 60). This definition expands notions of what might count as modes, accounting more for technology-mediated communication than those portrayed earlier. Yet many complexities and tangles remain. Complexity #1: Modes intertwined There is a tension, in discussions of multimodality, between identifying modes—such as gesture, posture, image—and their role in communication, and exploring the inter-relationships and entanglements of modes together. Focus on modes individually runs the risk of over-determining the impact of the particular and missing the holistic view; focus on the multimodal ensemble obscures understandings of the meaning-making potential of individual modes (Bezemer and Jewitt 2010; Mills 2016). This is similar to the discussion above on repertoires and languaging; it points to the need across all forms of communication to deconstruct monolithic, labeled communicative ‘categories’, and attend to how resources interact with one another to form something different than what may be understood by the simple addition of their components and attributes. Complexity 2: Relationship between modes, language, and material objects Much work on multimodality, historically and currently, privileges language, and considers modes as they relate to language. Yet modes carry distinctive meanings in and of themselves, or entwined together even in the absence of spoken or written ‘language’ (Bezemer and Jewitt 2010; Flewitt 2011; Kress 2011). Kress claims ‘language’ is just one among the resources for making meaning; and … all such resources available in one social group and its cultures at a particular moment ought to be considered as constituting one coherent domain… all equal, potentially, in their capacity to contribute meaning to a complex semiotic identity. (Kress 2011: 242) Scholars of multimodality are beginning to destabilize the centrality of language, and even of human intent, in considering multimodal communication. Theories of the material, such as Actor-Network Theory (Latour 2005) and Posthuman Performativity (Barad 2003), are being leveraged to explain the ways that people and things mutually and reflexively constitute communication and production, and to de-center language and human modes and choices in communicative acts (e.g., see Toohey et al. 2015; Canagarajah 2018). ‘Non-human actors’ (Latour 2005), or things, it has been argued, have their own histories, and their own semiotic power and potential that both carry and mediate meanings in interaction (Barad 2003; Latour 2005; Stornaiuolo et al. 2016). Yet there is still much work to be done to understand how relationships between things and people constitute meaning, and the role of human agency. Complexity #3: Production/assemblage, reception, and negotiation Much of the empirical work framed by multimodality considers multimodal production and multimodal assemblage. That is, the focus is on how people use—or orchestrate—modes in production of representations of meaning-making, whether in performance or through artifacts (see, e.g., Early and Marshall 2008; Toohey et al. 2015; Mills 2016). This may be in part due to limitations of research, especially classroom research, where production and performance are primary evidence of learning, and also of the research complexity of following chains of semiosis across time and space. Terms in use in discussions of multimodality include design (Lemke 2002), production (Flewitt 2011), multimodal orchestration (Jewitt 2017), multimodal improvisation (Flewitt 2011), and representation (Jewitt 2017), all of which point to the act of designing meaning, and to the actor/s doing the design work. Jewitt, for example, claims, ‘people orchestrate meaning through their selection and configuration of modes’ (Jewitt 2017: 29). While people do indeed orchestrate the design of their communicative acts, a sole focus on design/orchestration falls short of capturing meaning-making in communicative interactions. The challenges, from the perspective of materiality, are these: (i) What is the role of human intent and agency, and individual consciousness, in multimodal design and assemblage? (ii) Of critical importance, are meanings made and negotiated in communication faithful to the intent of the sign-maker? This issue of meaning-making as having reflexive (or in Bakhtin’s sense, dialogic) productive, receptive, and negotiated interactional components—what I call ‘the arc of communication’—has been little addressed in multimodality, but is at the heart of all communications, and perhaps particularly complex in transnational communications. Complexity #4: Context and culture Consistent with its foundation in SFL, theories of multimodalities are social semiotic theories (following Halliday 1978), and attend to context in communication. Context may be considered at different levels. One is the context of the multimodal assemblage itself; scholars have pointed to the multimodal artifact as comprising of multiple modes which, through complex inter-relationships and mutual informativity, determine meanings while continuously re-making the meaning of the whole and of each of its constituent parts (Lemke 2002; Murphy 2012; Flewitt et al. 2017). Another aspect of context is the setting and domain within which multimodal communications take place. Many empirical studies focus on a local context—the place and time within which multimodal engagements or productions take place, and within which they are given meaning. While attention has been paid to the ways in which meanings of modes sediment over time (Canagarajah 2018; Kress 2017), there is primarily focus on the ways in which multimodal meaning-making is embedded in the local, in a specific time and place. Flewitt (2011), for example, calls for ‘holistic insights into how participants’ multimodal meaning-making is situated in the ebb and flow of daily practices’ (p. 296), while Kress (2011) asserts, ‘Signs are specific at the moment of their making, and are remade by those who interpret them also as specific albeit now differently specific signs’ (p. 241). Newfield (2017) has offered ‘the transmodal moment’, transitioning to multimodality as a theory of practice, and identifies two sorts of interactions between modes: (i) on-the-spot, as modes combine to make messages; and (ii) having a time component, as different resources are used over time in interaction ‘within a topic, issue, or experience’ (Newfield 2017: 102). There has been much attention, in language and literacy studies, to issues of place and space. Conceptualizations point to the mobile nature of semiotic signs, resources, and artifacts, especially within 21st century global flows, and highlight distinctions between ‘place’—locally bounded geographic entities—and ‘space’—entities composed of relational places (Hawkins 2014, following Pascual-de-Sans 2004). This both illuminates the importance of the local, as production and meaning-making occur in local places—so local ecologies matter—but also confers equal importance on the translocal and transnational, as semiotic resources and artifacts travel across spaces (Brandt and Clinton 2002). Both space and place simultaneously serve as resources for meaning-making, carry their own semiotic weight, and mediate meanings made within them (Hawkins 2014). Blommaert et al. (2005) claim, Spaces, and the scales at which they can be imagined, are semiotic sources from which all kinds of indexical meanings can be derived… When talking about trajectories, networks and flows, it is important to see where precisely the trajectory starts and where it ends, across which spaces flows occur, and what particular spaces are connected in networks, knowing that the spaces themselves have an influence in what people can do and can become in them. (p. 203) Context, then, comprises the multimodal artifact or assemblage itself, the local, translocal, and transnational places, spaces, and conditions of multimodal interactions and meaning-making, and the histories and trajectories of modal resources and engagements. Culture, too, is central to current discourses on multimodalities; it is, in fact, often part of the definition. Kress defines mode as, ‘a socially shaped and culturally given resource for meaning-making’ (Kress 2017: 60), and many scholars claim that modes are embedded in and shaped by cultures—often over periods of time—and must be recognizable to members of a culture or community (Bezemer and Jewitt 2010; Flewitt 2011; Kress 2011, 2017; Mills 2016). This is somewhat problematic because while it is easy to agree that semiotic signs are embedded in contexts and that there are cultural aspects to contexts, it is not entirely clear what constitutes a ‘culture’ (or a ‘community’), nor who the members might be. If we assume that cultures are not monolithic, that they are composed of people who share certain attributes, allegiances, experiences, and/or interests but are shifting, fluid, and mobile, and are not geographically bound, then how do we conceive of cultural resources that might comprise modes? And to whom must modes we leverage in communication be recognizable? This is particularly challenging in translocal and transnational communications, where the producers/designers may not share cultural attributes with those with whom they engage in multimodal interactions, and in fact may not be aware of who, in specific, will be recipients of their messages. Several scholars, in discussion of research and research methods in multimodality, address analyses of multimodal texts themselves but call for a complementary component of ethnography, to fully realize the social and cultural contexts within which multimodal interactions occur (Flewitt 2011; Kress 2011; Newfield 2017). This, it seems to me, is critical—the complementarity of multimodal and ethnographic research may offer insights into not only the moment of production but into the entire process of meaning construction and negotiation across place and space in multimodal interactions. Complexity #5: Transnationalism and relations of power Multimodality now has a significant and growing body of theoretical and empirical work under its aegis. While scholars look to understand modes, multimodal ensembles, and production and meaning-making, little attention has been paid to issues of status, privilege, and power. Yet context is a part of multimodality’s very definition, and critical and social-justice-oriented scholars have long claimed that relations of power and privilege infuse all contexts, and affect what can be done, communicated, and learned within them. So how do we understand the relationships between multimodality and relations of power? Issues of access, voice, and recognition/value are visible, although sparse, in the literature. There is acknowledgement that there is differential access to semiotic resources and to technology among various communities, and among various members of communities (Stein 2008; Newfield 2011; Lam and Warriner 2012; Archer 2017) that impacts possibilities for and in multimodal interactions. Yet in addition to access, power relations play out in multiple ways in multimodal interactions. Multimodal communications are, after all, interactions between people, and people and the resources they bring and leverage carry unequal weight in situated encounters. In literacy studies, there is a body of research that considers migrants’ transnational engagements with those in or from their home communities. Lam and Warriner (2012), in a review of this literature, frame transnational engagements in terms of capital (Bourdieu 1991), and claim, ‘as people interact in these fields of activity, their language and literacy repertories are shaped by the discourse practices that are valued and serve as cultural capital to achieve particular social positions’ (p. 210; ibid). Thus the social and cultural capital that interactants and their associated resources hold within a given encounter shape what modes are used and hold sway, how modes and meanings are represented and interpreted, and how people (and groups of people) are positioned vis-à-vis one another. Stornaiuolo et al. (2016), within a framework for analyzing transliteracies, or ‘literacies on the move’ (p. 1), also consider transliteracies as enactments of power, drawing attention to ‘how people’s literacy practices can be differentially valued and recognized, in turn reproducing, exacerbating, or challenging existing social inequities’ (p. 3). In order, then, to understand meaning-making in multimodal encounters, attention must be paid to the differential valuing and positioning of people and resources that comprise the interactions. TRANSMODALITIES AND CRITICAL COSMOPOLITANISM Transmodalities Now, at last, I can call for a turn to transmodalities. What ‘trans-’ offers to conceptualizations of modalities is comparable to affordances it offers to applied linguistics, as identified in the opening discussion. Transmodalities index the simultaneous co-presence and co-reliance of language and other semiotic resources in meaning-making, affording each equal weight. It highlights the complexity of modes and the entanglements and relationships between them that shape meaning in multimodal artifacts and communications. It also highlights the need to destabilize and move beyond named categories of ‘modes’, to a view of semiotic resources as embedded and given meaning within the specific assemblage, and within trajectories of time and space, continuously shifting and re-shaping in their contexts and mobility. Keith Murphy, in exploring the inter-relationships of modes used in the process of design in a Swedish design studio, developed the concept of ‘transmodality’ within a design context, claiming: Viewed from the perspective of transmodality, modes like speech, drawing, and gestures… do not just supplement each other in relationships of mutual support, they sequentially perforate and interpenetrate each other, acquiring a certain co-morbid resemblance. (2012: 1969) Stornaiuolo, Smith, and Phillips, too, in their discussion of transliteracies, call for attention to, ‘not just how phenomena move and intersect as separate entities, but how phenomena intermingle, interpenetrate, and assemble in emergent configurations’ (Stornaiuolo et al. 2016: 5). These offer a more complex view of semiotic resources in action, yet transmodalities refers to more than localized multimodal interactions; it also points to the movements and trajectories of flows of semiosis across local, translocal, and transnational borders (Brandt and Clinton 2002; Hawkins 2014), and across diverse contexts and communities. The movements of semiotic resources and artifacts across time and space, and across and among different groups of people, are an integral aspect of the meaning-making they afford. Transmodalities attends to meaning-making across the arc of transmodal communications, such that, while production and assemblage may be the starting point, the spaces and timescales traversed, as well as the contexts and processes of reception and negotiation, are given equal weight. And lastly, transmodalities references transcendence and transgression, where inequitable relations of power can be dismantled and reconfigured, affording equal access, value, and representation to all participants in transmodal interactions. The concept of transmodalities has much to contribute to language and literacy studies, and to understandings of semiotic resources in meaning-making. Critical cosmopolitanism While attending to the complexities of processes of communication, we must attend to the effects as well. Central to the discussion thus far have been challenges attendant to theorizations of repertoires and multimodality. If modes are defined as shaped by and recognizable to members of a culture or community, how can we think about global communications between members of different cultures and communities, who may not share common understandings of codes or modes or messages? And yet such communications are ever more present and necessary in our increasingly globalized, mobile, and connected world (Appadurai 1996; Douglas Fir Group 2016; Stornaiuolo et al. 2016). Understandings constructed through transnational engagements matter—they shape how we view others in the world, the relationships we forge with them, and how we understand ourselves in relation to these others. Perhaps especially in our current geopolitical climate, forging relations of goodwill, responsiveness, and caring seems an important goal, and to do that we need not only deep understandings of transmodalities—of semiosis across time and space—such that we can account for and attend to how representations carry meaning across diversity, but also conceptualizations attending to the relational dimension of such communication. I offer critical cosmopolitanism as a lens for ethical consideration of dispositions, understandings, and interactions in situated human encounters and engagements. The concept of cosmopolitanism has a long history, dating back to Diogenes in the 4th century BC and Socrates in the 3rd century BC (as cited in Ong 2009). Historically, it meant being a ‘citizen of the world’. More recent considerations have pointed to the distinction between those with privilege, who can traverse the globe and sample what the world has to offer, and those who do not have and cannot have such experiences, yet may move between places, languages, and cultures through need or even force; in the words of Stuart Hall (2006) (interview, retrieved 12/2015), they are ‘living in translation every day of their lives’. Hall termed this ‘cosmopolitanism of the above’ and ‘cosmopolitanism of the below’, and others have noted the same distinction, using labels such as ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ (Appiah 2005), ‘cosmopolitanism on the ground’ (Hansen 2010), and ‘everyday cosmopolitanism’ (Hull et al. 2010). Ultimately, I invoke cosmopolitanism to reference how all people encounter one another within global flows of mobility, whether the encounter takes place through people who move, or materials and resources, or messages, understanding that the semiotic modes that mediate encounters—face-to-face or virtual—embody, reflect, and shape meanings derived and constructed. Cosmopolitanism, following Appiah (2005), is recognizing ‘universality plus difference’ (p. 151), such that global relationships are forged that value ways in which we are like one another, as well as ways in which we differ. He postulates that encounters matter, and that developing dispositions of openness, inquiry, and care—an ethical approach to encounters with global others, and to the outcomes of such engagements—is paramount. Rizvi (2008) calls for the development of epistemic virtues, to question epistemic assumptions in our relations with others, and for engagement ‘involving critical exploration and imagination’ (p. 30). It seems clear that we cannot theorize transmodalities as power-neutral; in the words of Hansen: ‘what we call bias, prejudice, presupposition or assumption is a necessary ground for any dialogic act’ (Hansen 2014: 9). Hansen points to the hopefulness inherent in cosmopolitan approaches to human encounters, stating, ‘it makes possible arriving, in ever dynamic ways, at a broader, more responsive as well as respectful platform for judgment and mutual understanding’ (Hansen 2014: 9). Agreeing with Hansen, I have posited critical cosmopolitanism to integrate a focus on creating and sustaining just, equitable, and affirming relations with global (and local) others in global engagements and interactions through attending to the workings of status, privilege, and power between people and groups of people (Hawkins 2014, 2016). As discussed above, this is little attended to in discussions of multimodality (but see Stein 2008; Newfield 2011; Archer 2017). Following Canagarajah (2013), consideration must be paid to the ways in which meanings that are negotiated and constructed with (global) others re-organize, re-source, and re-distribute knowledge, privilege, and resources, leading to critical personal and societal transformations and the cultivation of open and equitable relationships. These issues are fully embraced in a theory of transmodalities. TRANSNATIONAL ENGAGEMENTS OF GLOBAL YOUTH: A CASE IN POINT While this is not an empirically driven article, it may be useful at this point to offer an illustration of transmodalities in action, as global youth engage in digitally mediated communications. Data are drawn from a project—Global StoryBridges—that links groups of youth who live in communities of poverty in various global locales to share digital stories and chats about their communities and lives on a dedicated website (www.globalstorybridges.com). This is not part of formal schooling, nor is it individual engagement with social media. Rather, each group of youth meet in their community-based setting to collaboratively engage in project activities, such that meanings and transmodal messages and artifacts are collaboratively assembled and negotiated locally (within the site) as well as transnationally. Youth together discuss and decide topics for the videos, composition, processes, and so on, and then create and edit it. When it is completed they post for youth in all other sites to view. And together they discuss videos posted by other groups and decide on questions and comments to post in response. They are supported by an adult facilitator, but all decisions are made, and all facets of the project accomplished, by the youth. The data used here to exemplify the discussion above—a small portion of the overall data set—consist of a video made and shared by youth (approximately 11–12 years old) in a rural project site in Uganda, and a subsequent discussion of the video (in a chat space provided on the project website) among similarly aged youth in a Midwestern US site located in a small town and those in Uganda that created the video, with some data from youth in a second US site located in a small city. I organize the discussion by the themes identified above. Chapal at Our School Chapal at Our School (ibid) is the name of a video posted by a site in rural western Uganda. While the project is not part of formal school curriculum, this site is located at a Christian school (youth meet in out-of-school time), and, as you will see, religion is central to the lives of those in the community. All participating youth are in the process of learning English. For these Ugandan youth, schooling is in English, but their home language is their tribal language (Lukhonzo), and English is only spoken at school. US youth are immigrants, or from immigrant families (but do not share a home language), and meet in a community center. All texts will be represented as the youth composed them. The video, which runs 4 minutes 52 seconds, begins with a caption underneath that reads, ‘In Uganda, christianity/religion is key figure in peoples lives to the extend that it is included to our learning frame works in every class at elementary and high school levels. That’s how our school develops in it’. The video opens with a quick shot of students, dressed in school uniforms, dancing and singing on what looks to be the cement stoop of a building, to the sounds of drumming and singing. Very quickly, text scrolls over the backdrop of the moving image, which reads, ‘This is our way of expressing our Joy for our Lord. This was a presentation at social dev’t time’. The text fades, and the dancing and singing students come back into focus. At 24 seconds, there is a transition inserted (much like a flipping page), and another scene is unveiled. This one starts with a close-up shot of approximately 10 students and an adult sitting on the ground, singing. The camera pans back, and within 4 seconds a text caption appears that reads, ‘EVEN IN THE GRAVE HE IS LORD’. This portion, switching between individual and choral singing, continues for 48 seconds. The video then transitions to a collage of photos, all shots of the current activity (chapel) at the school, capturing different groups of children and adults. The transition continues rotating to video footage of many students sitting in a circle, with four women and one man standing in the middle speaking to them. They speak in their indigenous language, Lukhonzo, whereas all of the singing up to this point has been in English. As the sequence begins, words scroll across the page (over the video) that say, ‘Our school parents are also welcomed to share the word of God with us during our religious social development assembly which is scheduled once every term. They encourage us in Gods good words and we feel loved when they follow us to school. WE LOVE OUR MUMS’. While this is scrolling, the video sequence continues, with a ‘mum’ speaking briefly, one short utterance at time, and the man repeating each utterance loudly directly after it is spoken, seemingly in exhortation, with much gesturing. In live-action sequence, the women then sit on wooden chairs that have been grouped together in the circle, and being to sing and clap. Everybody joins in, and the children begin to rise, clap, dance, and sing. The mums, too, rise, and sway and sing. After approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds, the scene cuts back to the earlier group of youth and the woman sitting on the lawn. They are singing in English. This song is slow and measured, and they all have their arms wrapped around themselves, their eyes closed, and they sway gently as they sing (except for a very young child sitting in front, playing with a paper plate in the dirt). The song switches between a ‘call and response’ format, and an ensemble. There is then a relatively abrupt transition to video of students, in lines on the cement stoop, dancing animatedly to drumming, clapping, and kicking and turning and pumping their arms in unison, which lasts for 8 seconds. It concludes with scrolling credits—the names of the youth makers—on a background of changing colors. So from a lens of transmodalities, what can be said about this video? Modes intertwined To begin, ‘language’ is not the central semiotic feature, or mode. The only oral language represented was the words to the songs (in English), and the ‘preaching’ to the students (in Lukhonzo). Thus no spoken language that was not song lyrics would be recognizable to project participants transnationally, none of whom speak Lukhonzo. Written text appears four times, all in English: the introductory text; two scrolling texts; and the caption, totaling less than 100 words in all. Meaning were carried via the ensemble, with oral and written text, music, movement, gesture, sound, image, and more all ‘interpenetrating’ in specific and unique ways to portray and share a ‘slice of life’ from this community and group of students. Note that I have named, or categorized, modes. Individually each carries weight and meaning, and each is sedimented through its history and trajectory. The singing—tunes and lyrics, and ways of performing them—are passed through Christianity, and are in English, as per the spread of Christianity throughout this region of the world (and others). The drumming and dancing are sedimented through the history of this particular ‘culture’ and place. The use of English—and the knowledge of English—has been considered a legacy of colonialism. And so on. Each means something specific to the youth makers of the video, whether explicitly or implicitly (as part of their cultural and historical repertoires) and in combination, as an assemblage, they tell a certain story, and convey specific messages to their global audience as to who these youth are, what they value and believe, how they live. If we were to isolate any one mode, it would tell a specific but different story. Modes, language, and material objects While various forms of language are implicit in the multiple modes represented, such as talk, exhortation, prayer, hymn-singing, captioning, and so on, if we de-center the human and focus on objects, we see that these, too, are semiotic elements fully entangled in representations and meanings. Identifiable objects other than human bodies are clothing (students are in school uniforms); the physical structures (a basic building of concrete with log beams, no windows); environmental context (large field of dry grass surrounded by brush); and material objects (two poles with a beam connecting them, under which are four basic wood chairs; three handmade drums; the paper plate with which the child is playing). These are the totality of material objects represented in the video. Together, they speak to the socioeconomic conditions of the community, and the scarcity of resources, particularly in comparison to youth in the US site (who also live in communities of poverty, relatively). And they are integrally entangled in carrying meanings with the visible actions, activities, and language portrayed. To illustrate, perhaps, the power of transmodality, at least partially, let us pause for a moment to think about the image that you, as an audience, have now constructed through the words that I have used to describe this video. I offer two screen shots in hopes that by seeing bodies, at least at one moment in time, and postures, and setting, and color, and so on, we can see the meanings that are carried by modes, and by things, and how they are entangled together in rich portrayals (faces are blurred to protect privacy) (Figures 1 and 2). And one more comment about ‘things’: The tools that the youth makers use in the production of this video are ‘things’ that are implicit in the assemblage and conveyance of meaning; they, too, carry semiotic weight and mediate meaning. What the camera captures is what is able to be incorporated in the video. The very fact that there is a camera, and youth are intent on video-making, mediates what they attend to and reflect on, and shapes their view of their production and the event itself. They must edit, and attend to details that otherwise would likely be invisible to them; they see themselves through the camera, and are able to engage in meta-reflection about themselves vis-à-vis the activity. They must upload the finished video to the project website, and there is a size limit, thus placing boundaries about how much can be included, and forcing choices about how to portray their message. The technology serves as a tool for meaning-making, while its features mediate what can be shared and how; it provides a ‘mirror’ and an impetus for their reflections. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Youth dancing and drumming during chapel Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Youth dancing and drumming during chapel Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Youth singing a hymn with a ‘mum’ Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Youth singing a hymn with a ‘mum’ Production/assemblage, reception, and negotiation The Ugandan youth makers, in dialog, decided what they wanted the focus of their video to be (what aspect of their lives and community they wished to portray to their global peers), what they wanted to include in terms of modes, footage, and so on, how they wished to sequence it, and what ‘context’ and ‘explanation’ they wished to give (the written text). They edited it together, entailing another complex series of decisions. Unfortunately, we do not have data on that process for them, but in line with the discussion above, while the video can be assumed to portray what the youth wished to portray, we cannot assume that the messages that they purposefully embedded and included in the video were received as they intended. This illustrates the importance of the call to blend multimodal analysis with ethnographic approaches; data on the processes of youth decision-making in situ would offer much illumination. However, it is safe to assume that their intention in capturing the specific performances they videoed, the environment and the activities, were to portray what is ‘normal’ to them, part of their culture, traditions and practices, with deep personal and collective meaning. Yet for youth in other global sites, this was new and different. Their responses demonstrate how they received these messages, and how they were negotiated. The youth from the Midwestern US site first discussed the video together, then collaboratively crafted this response: What songs are you singing? Why do you wear uniforms? What languages do you speak at chapel? It will be cool to have a church in school because we don’t. What musical instruments do you play when you are singing? How do you dance? Maybe you upload a video! The Ugandan youth, after discussing the questions, responded with: We were singing Christian songs in our local language since we were with our parents who may not hear English. We were uniform for smartness, identify our selve of which school you study from, and safety from kidnappers and other bad people. When you have uniform, every one will want to help you from dangerous situations. And some of us may not have enough clothes to keep exchanging. We speak ‘LUKHONZO’, the language of the people around Rwenzori Mountain. It’s cool. Why don’t you have? Do your teachers teach you about God and Jesus Christ? We use drums at school but some churches use keyboards, xylophones. Do you have many? The US youth responded to these questions with more: Do you try to teach your parents English? Sometimes we try to teach English to our parents, but they still talk Spanish. We think that uniforms are good ideas. They can keep you safe from kidnappers. We do not have to wear uniforms. Our teachers do not teach us about church. They are not allowed to. Many students are many different religions. In the USA we can decide what religion you are and what you believe. It is not fair if the teacher teaches only one. We use drums, piano, violin, tambourines, maracas, and guitar to make music. This discussion offers a view of the meaning-making process. It would be apt here to invoke Agar (1994), who argues that things are not visible until they bump up against something unfamiliar; the youth noticed things as they related to their own lives and contexts. The US youth were not familiar with the songs, which were local hymns, nor uniforms for school, nor the language they heard. They clearly understood that this was a religious event, but were unfamiliar with church at school, and drumming as part of ‘singing’. Their questions—what they noticed and responded to—brought up issues that were unfamiliar to the Ugandan youth, and served as a catalyst for a rich discussion about many things, including the role of religion in schools. The ways in which the youth came to understand one another was not solely from the production of the multimodal ensemble, it was from unpacking together, through dialogic engagement, the layered and sedimented meanings as the messages encoded in the video passed through time and space, and came to be interpreted and then negotiated through other cultural lenses, and thus re-cast to the original makers. It is here that we can see critical cosmopolitanism in action; youth engage in discussions (even of ‘sensitive’ topics, such as religion) in a spirit of openness and inquiry, collaboratively engaging in deep explorations of each other’s lives, beliefs, and experiences. There are biases and assumptions evident—echoing Hansen (2014: 30), ‘bias, prejudice, presupposition or assumption is a necessary ground for any dialogic act’; this can be seen, for example, in an attitude toward English (as good and important), and in the US youth’s statement that teaching a religion in schools is not ‘fair’. Yet this transmodal dialogic engagement enables close encounters with others’ lives through opportunities for rich and creative portrayals and for deep reflection and dialog, and fosters the forging of relationships through which to gain an insider understanding of, and dispositions of respect and care for, one another. Context and culture Literature on multimodality claims that modes are embedded in, and must be recognizable to, specific cultural groups. So what about transmodal engagement across cultural groups, and distances and spaces? In this video, there was movement (dancing, swaying, clapping, and so on) that would not have been familiar cultural practices to those who were on the reception end of the video. The events, contexts, and meanings were not similar for the two groups. Yet cross-cultural encounters and exchanges are common, and necessary, both in light of globalization and for purposes of cultivating critical cosmopolitan relations. In the first set of posted questions and comments, the US youth seem to be searching for understanding about things unfamiliar to them; exposure through engagement may be a necessary first step to traversing cultural boundaries. They were clearly responding from dispositions of inquiry and openness as they sought information. In the Ugandan responses, the messages embedded in the video—at least the ones the US youth noticed—are expanded and expounded on, offering deeper insight into aspects of the Ugandan youths’ lives. And in the next round of responses, the US youth connect what they are learning about their global peers to their own lives and understandings, and make connections. The original ‘multimodal ensemble’—the video—did not enable this in and of itself, but the chain of semiosis through the unfolding sequence of transmodal interactions did; it was the integration of visual, aural, oral, and textual that enabled the negotiations and constructions of meanings. In one more example from the chat data generated by this video, the youth from another US site, located in a community center in a small city, entered the discussion. The youth in the aforementioned US site were all Mexican-origin, whereas in this site there was a mix of heritages and ethnicities. They posted, as follows, after the exchange above. How do we dance? Well there are different kind dances we do over here. For example, there is Hmong dancing, indian dancing, American dances, and break dancing. Why does people think jesus is god’s son? Do you believe in spirits, goddess and gods? What made you guys believe in jesus? What do jesus do for you guys? And, in response to this, the Ugandan youth videomakers posted: We don’t think Jesus is the Son of God but we believe because the Bible says so and the Bible is the truth of God. Some people believe in the small gods and spirits here like witch doctors, socerers etc but for us we believe in the TRINITY Supernatural nature of God. When we use the name of Jesus Christ, difficult situations become simple for us; even we have seen the lame walk, sick get well, demons unbound from people, stammered people speak, blind see…. When the name of Jesus Christ is used. In this example, in the responses from these US youth we can see representations of heritages, practices, and beliefs of the youth participants, several of whom, for example, were Hmong; they mentioned Hmong dancing as well as contributed the questions about spirits, goddesses, and gods. And the Ugandan youth straightforwardly represented their understanding of the power of religion. Context and culture matter, not because they enable recognition of what is familiar within them, but because they have directive force in what is seen, thought, and represented across and through modes, and therefore what can be noticed, discussed, and learned. They are not only the ‘background’, or environment, for transmodal communication, they are fully engrained and entwined in assemblages and meaning-making, and cannot be separated from it. Thus transmodality enables the making and sharing of meanings through multiple means and modes within, across, through, and as part of context and culture. Power, privilege, and status Both transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism explicitly attend to issues of power, privilege, and status. In the project there are differences, on many levels, in terms of status, social, cultural and economic capital, and resources among participants. Access to technology is unequal; in some sites they have computers, video cameras, and internet access, and these things are integral parts of the daily lives of local youth. In others, community members have never seen or touched a computer or video camera, much less had internet experience, prior to joining the project. It is an interesting conundrum to consider imperialism and western imposition, where the project was conceived from a western perspective with western values around languaging, literacies, modalities, and global exchanges, and imported to and implemented in under-resourced contexts. Yet, within discourses and ideologies inextricable from globalization, locales where the project has been implemented had already fully adopted values and ideologies about the power and value of technology, English and globalization. By design, all project sites are in communities of poverty, and there is much multimodal representation of resources and capital in the videos and chats. In the example above, representation of (scant) resources is visible in the video. Yet issues of differential status, resources, privilege, and power among the youth are not easily identified in the ensuing chats. They are certainly operant in the local contexts of their lives—the Ugandan children, for example, have safety concerns as a salient feature of their lives; they are poor rural children in danger of being raped, kidnapped, and killed. They also have a school uniform because they cannot afford other clothes ‘to keep exchanging’. The US youth, ‘try to teach English to our parents, but they still talk Spanish’. Difference in resources and privilege is visible, although not taken up directly, as the US youth, in their initial response, ask, ‘What kind of fun things do you do?’ The Ugandan youth reply, ‘Making funny faces, statue dances, sac races, three leg races, stories… can you tell us too?’ And the US youth respond with, ‘We do lots of fun things like: play with our pets, video games, or computer, we play outside, or ride our bikes or skateboard, we read or draw’. It is clear that, while each site is considered a site of ‘poverty’, definitions of poverty are fluid and relative. Yet there were three more sets of exchanges in this chain, and there was no overt acknowledgement or even response to this within them (although it may have been in inter-group discussion; this again is a limitation of research at a distance and illustrates the need for an ethnographic component). The fact that it was not visibly discussed nor negotiated does not mean that it was not noticed; rather it draws attention to the need for critical reflectivity as part of (transnational) transmodal communications. It also speaks to the critical cosmopolitan nature of the endeavor—there is no evident positioning, negotiations nor judgments around relative status visible. CONCLUSION The ‘trans-’ turn in language studies is a response, in large part, to new and rapidly changing contexts of mobility, and new global configurations of people, resources, and communications. It calls for a destabilization—a post-structural and even post-sociocultural understanding—of how language, culture, and community have historically been defined, and new understandings of semiotic assemblages and trajectories across place, space, and time, in which language is integrally intertwined with other ‘things’ to mediate meaning-making. Transmodalities, as a conceptual tool, enables consideration not only of the complex entanglements of people, things, messages, and meanings, but also an overt focus on why they matter. As humans increasingly encounter each other across distances and differences, we must nurture the critical cosmopolitan ethics of care, openness, responsiveness, and equity in the relationships we forge, and in continuously emerging understandings of selves and others. It is my hope that the dual frames of transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism may serve as guiding concepts and as heuristic lenses in shaping and understanding the impact of dialogic engagements among global citizens. Acknowledgements Deepest thanks and appreciation to Junko Mori, colleague and editor extraordinaire; this piece is much enriched by her counsel. And I remain grateful to and awed by youth and adult project participants for their commitment and dedication to Global StoryBridges. REFERENCES Agar M. 1994. 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T. 2010. ‘ Cosmopolitanism and education: A view from the ground,’ Teachers College Record  112: 1– 30. Hansen D. T. 2014. ‘ Cosmopolitanism as cultural creativity: New modes of educational practice in globalizing times,’ Curriculum Inquiry  44/ 1: 1– 14. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Hawkins M. R. 2011. Social Justice Language Teacher Education . Multilingual Matters. Hawkins M. R. 2013. ‘Introduction’ in Hawkins M. R. (ed.): Framing Languages and Literacies: Socially Situated Views and Perspectives . Routledge Press. Hawkins M. R. 2014. ‘ Ontologies of place, creative meaning-making and critical cosmopolitan education,’ Curriculum Inquiry  44/ 1: 90– 113. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Hawkins M. R. 2016. ‘Mobility, language and critical cosmopolitan education’ in AERA Second Language Special Interest Group Newsletter . Spring, pp. 9– 12. Hull G. 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C. 2009. ‘ The cosmopolitan continuum: Locating cosmopolitanism in media and cultural studies,’ Media, Culture and Society  31: 449– 66. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Orellana M. F., Garcia O.. 2014. ‘ Language brokering and translanguaging in school,’ Language Arts  91/ 5: 386– 92. Pascual-de-Sans A. 2004. ‘ Sense of place and migration histories: Idiotopy and idiotope,’ Area  36/ 4: 348– 57. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Rizvi F. 2008. ‘ Epistemic virtues and cosmopolitan learning,’ The Australian Educational Researcher  35/ 1: 17– 35. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Rymes B. 2010. ‘Classroom discourse analysis: A focus on communicative repertoires’ in Hornberger N., McKay S. (eds): Sociolinguistics and Language Education . Multilingual Matters. Rymes B. 2014. ‘Communicative repertoire’ in Street B., Leung C. (eds): Handbook of English Language Studies . Routledge Press. Stein P. 2008. Multimodal Pedagogies in Diverse Classrooms: Representation, Rights and Resources . Routledge. Stornaiuolo A., Smith A., Phillips C.. 2016. ‘ Developing a transliteracies framework for a connected world,’ Journal of Literacy Research  49/ 1: 68– 91. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Toohey K., Dagenais D., Fodor A., Hof L., Nuñez O., Singh A., Schulze L.. 2015. ‘‘ That sounds so cooool’: Entanglements of children, digital tools, and literacy practices,’ TESOL Quarterly  49/ 3: 461– 85. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   © Oxford University Press 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Applied Linguistics Oxford University Press

Transmodalities and Transnational Encounters: Fostering Critical Cosmopolitan Relations

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Oxford University Press
Copyright
© Oxford University Press 2018
ISSN
0142-6001
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1477-450X
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10.1093/applin/amx048
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Abstract

Abstract The ‘trans-’ turn in language studies illuminates human communication as the coordination and interpretation of a vast array of semiotic resources that are entangled with language in fluid and unpredictable ways. It also highlights the current era of globalization in which communication occurs with ever-increasing rapidity among ever-expanding audiences, through rapidly changing semiotic means and modes. It transcends the local, to become translocal and transnational, indexing the diversity of actors engaged in new configurations of communicative engagements. Framed by notions of repertoires and modalities, in this article I offer a rationale for and close articulation of transmodalities, to more fully consider processes of semiosis across place, space, and time. Because meanings matter—especially relational aspects of communication—I propose critical cosmopolitanism to account for humane, ethical approaches to human engagements and their outcomes. I provide data from a project that connects youth across the globe through technology-mediated communications to demonstrate how these dual frames—transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism—can serve as guideposts and heuristic lenses for transnational interactions, relations, and learning in a globalized, technologized world. THE ‘TRANS-’ TURN IN LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION Applied linguistics has long been an interdisciplinary field focused on issues pertaining to language-in-use in the world. How we understand language—what it is, how it works, what it accomplishes—shapes how we understand human communications and relations, local and global others, and ways of being and knowing. Yet language does not stand alone; it is one component of the repertoire of resources with which humans make and share meaning. As has been noted, the origins of the field rest predominantly on cognitive and structural perspectives (Hawkins 2011, 2013; Douglas Fir Group 2016; Canagarajah 2018). More recently, however, there has been a significant increase of attention to the ways in which language is enmeshed with other semiotic resources in constructing meanings in communication (e.g., Goodwin 2000; Lemke 2002). One of the great contributions of the ‘trans-’ turn in language studies is just this acknowledgement that human communication entails the coordination and interpretation of a vast array of semiotic resources that are entangled with language in fluid and unpredictable ways. This is not a new concept; debates within anthropological approaches to the study of human interaction from the inception of the field of sociolinguistics, for instance, have for some time addressed this phenomenon, situating communication in its social and cultural contexts of use (e.g., Gumperz 1964; Hymes 1972). Yet this earlier work, while moving beyond a decontextualized theory of grammar, remained focused on speech acts and organization of linguistic features. Fred Erickson (1996), in defining ethnographic microanalysis in 1996, juxtaposed it to interactional sociolinguistics, stating that, ‘in interactional sociolinguistics there is more emphasis on speech phenomena per se … whereas ethnographic microanalysis has (made) an attempt to analyze nonverbal and verbal phenomena together’ (p. 287). Today, in this moment where the fields of second language acquisition and applied linguistics are attending to various understandings of language-in-use, and engaging in transdisciplinary meshing, defining language and understanding its relationship to other semiotic resources in communication is an issue that has come strongly to the fore (Douglas Fir Group 2016). A second contribution is that the ‘trans-’ turn points to the current era of globalization in which communication occurs with ever-increasing rapidity among ever-expanding audiences, through rapidly changing semiotic means and modes. It transcends the local, to become translocal and transnational, indexing the diversity of actors engaged in new configurations of communicative engagements. Thus in this article I propose the notion of ‘transmodalities’ within the field, to acknowledge the fluid integration, and mutual informativity, of repertoires of resources in meaning-making processes across local and global encounters and interactions in our globalized world. I begin by unpacking conceptualizations of ‘repertoires’ and ‘modalities’—terms frequently taken up in ‘trans-’ perspectives to reference the intertwining of semiotic resources in communication as discussed above, pointing to limitations and challenges, especially in reference to translocal and transnational communications, that provide the impetus for the move to transmodalities. I then offer a close articulation of transmodalities, and what it offers both functionally and heuristically, while pointing to a need to account for not only processes of semiosis across time and space, but also to the effects. For this I introduce critical cosmopolitanism as a construct, to attend to aspects of morality and ethicality in the forging of human relations and understandings through translocal and transnational engagements and communications. While this article is conceptually driven, I want to attend to why particular conceptualizations of language-in-use matter; thus I provide data from a project that connects youth across the globe through digitally mediated communications to illustrate how the dual lenses of transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism can account for, and shape understandings of, transnational engagements and learning in a globalized and technologized world. In short, this article offers a discussion of themes of globalization; translocal and transnational interactions; and resources, repertoires, and modalities, offering the key concepts of transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism in service of more nuanced understandings of processes and effects of semiosis in transnational communications. I illustrate the discussion through examples of transmodal transnational communications among global youth, showing how this dual framework may enhance critical understandings of communications across time and space. REPERTOIRES AND MODALITIES IN TRANSLOCAL AND TRANSNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS Repertoires Understandings of languaging owe much to theorizations of repertoires. The concept of repertoire is useful in moving us beyond conceptualizing ‘languages’ as distinct codes that people use and sometimes move between, to a view of language-in-use as fluidly leveraging, integrating, and negotiating a variety of semiotic resources in the act of meaning-making. In current ‘trans-’ perspectives on language, such as translanguaging and translingual practice, repertoire plays a central role. A foundation of translanguaging, as conceived of by Garcia (and echoing Gumperz, but invoking multilingualism), is that bilingual youth do not move between ‘languages’, but have one language repertoire composed of all of the semiotic codes at their command, from which they draw fluidly in situated interactions. In Garcia’s words, I think what the translanguaging lens makes clear is that for a bilingual child, what is happening is really not that he or she is going from one language system to another language system (because those are social constructions); what is happening is that they’re drawing from one linguistic repertoire. (as quoted in Orellana and Garcia 2014: 387) Similarly, for translingual practice, Canagarajah asserts, ‘Users treat all available codes as a repertoire in their everyday communication, and not separated according to label’ (Canagarajah 2013: 6). Repertoires go beyond language systems and codes. The notion that communication rests on more than ‘language’ - indeed is an orchestration of many representational features, forms and modes- has been addressed from multiple perspectives. In sociolinguistics, Gumperz introduced ‘verbal repertoires’ (Gumperz 1960, 1964) in research illuminating that communication entails more than forming particular words and grammars in particular ways. His work attended to features of language (e.g., stress, intonation), as well as genres, styles, and frames that shape meaning in situated, socially embedded communication. Repertoire, in his view, ‘contains all the accepted ways of formulating messages. It provides the weapons of everyday communication. Speakers choose among this arsenal in accordance with the meanings they wish to convey’ (Gumperz 1964: 140). He considered repertoires, as opposed to language, as central to communicative competence and to the field of sociolinguistics. Yet Gumperz’ work remained focused on utterances and speech acts in communication. More recently, Rymes has introduced ‘communicative repertoires’ to expand what it is that repertoires encompass (Rymes 2010, 2014). The term ‘communicative repertoire’ is now used to refer to the collection of ways individuals use language and other means of communication (gestures, dress, posture, accessories), to function effectively in the multiple communities in which they participate. (Rymes 2014: 4) This clearly moves beyond features of language to index non-verbal features of communication as part of the semiotic resources that comprise repertoires, including movement and materiality. Still, the features that Rymes references are all directly observable in face-to-face communication. Blommaert and Backus (2013), similarly to Rymes, conceive of ‘repertoires’ as individual acquisitions, but point to the dimension of biography and the non-linear progression of their development. Repertoires, according to them, expand over a lifetime as people move through different phases and spaces. They claim, ‘Repertoires are biographically organized complexes of resources, and they follow the rhythms of human lives’ (p. 9). They point to the place- and space-based nature of forms of language, and note that in an era of superdiversity repertoires are ‘records of mobility’ (p. 22). Gutierrez and her colleagues (Gutierrez and Rogoff 2003; Gutierrez et al. 2003), considering repertoires from an educational perspective, also reference the role of life trajectory in their conceptualization of repertoires, and that of spatiality. They posit repertoires as formed through an individual’s participation in various communities of practice, terming them ‘repertoires of practice’. They point to the cultural-historical dimensions (i.e., ‘linguistic and cultural-historic repertoires’), and the role of student agency in deploying resources from their repertoires across various settings. The notion of repertoires, for them, is an antidote to a view of individual competence that places blame for school failure on the student, through offering a different positioning of student performance—one that is rooted in students’ cultural and historical experiences. Repertoires are composed of, ‘dynamic patterns of individuals’ participation in … historical constellations of community practices, continuing and transforming across generations’ (Gutierrez and Rogoff 2003: 23), placing repertoires within a socio-historical and practice-based perspective. In these accounts, repertoires are the accumulation of semiotic resources people have access to and can leverage in communication, always embedded in socio-historical trajectories, expanding from those directly identifiable in face-to-face interaction (such as gesture and dress) to those less tangible (such as cultural-historical scripts, and understandings and beliefs embodied through life trajectories). Theorizations such as these that envision repertoires as socially and culturally embedded, and located in and shifting over space and time, offer the potential for semiotic resources other than language or those visible in face-to-face communication to be considered as part of communicative repertoires. This is of paramount importance in transglobal and transnational communications, which often take place across distances and time, mediated by textual and/or technological tools. (Multi) Modalities While the term ‘modalities’ has been taken up somewhat differentially across various groups of scholars in various disciplines, it foundationally refers to linked clusters of semiotic resources used to make meaning in communication that are culturally embedded and recognizable. Rooted in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), especially for scholars working in language and literacy-related areas, it attends to the act of communication, the ways in which communication takes place, and the contexts within which communication occurs. Jewitt (2017), in her seminal handbook, offers this definition: Multimodality describes approaches that understand communication and representation to be more than about language, and which attend to the full range of communicational forms people use—image, gesture, gaze, posture and so on—and the relationships between these. (p. 15) The concept of multimodality, referencing the co-occurrence of multiple semiotic modes in any communicative act, moves beyond language codes, and directly takes up issues of what, in addition to language, comprise repertoires for meaning-making. Literature on multimodality varies on this point; some consider modes, in alignment with the discussion of repertoires above, to refer to semiotic features other than speech that are present in interactions between those in one physical space. Early and Marshall, for example, discussing multimodality within classroom research, state, ‘along with talk and writing, a range of other representational and communicational modes, such as gesture, gaze, movement, dance, music and spatial organization, is ever more frequently interwoven in the meaning-making process’ (Early and Marshall 2008: 379), and Flewitt refers to ‘visual, gesture and kinaesthetic modes’ (Flewitt 2011: 293). Yet this is complexified as, in this ‘21st century’ era of globalization, communication is with increasing frequency not face-to-face, within a confined physical space, nor even in ‘real time’. What might be considered as modes in varied forms of translocal and transnational communication, which occur across different spaces and trajectories, and on different timescales? And what is their impact on meaning-making? Much of the extant work considers modes as ‘co-present’ and ‘co-dependent’ (Murphy 2012), yet 21st century communication, often digitally or electronically mediated, may be across distances and asynchronous. Kress begins to address this by expanding the definition of modes: ‘Mode is a socially shaped and culturally given resource for meaning-making. Image, writing, layout, music, gesture, speech, moving image, soundtrack are examples of modes used in representation and communication’ (Kress 2017: 60). This definition expands notions of what might count as modes, accounting more for technology-mediated communication than those portrayed earlier. Yet many complexities and tangles remain. Complexity #1: Modes intertwined There is a tension, in discussions of multimodality, between identifying modes—such as gesture, posture, image—and their role in communication, and exploring the inter-relationships and entanglements of modes together. Focus on modes individually runs the risk of over-determining the impact of the particular and missing the holistic view; focus on the multimodal ensemble obscures understandings of the meaning-making potential of individual modes (Bezemer and Jewitt 2010; Mills 2016). This is similar to the discussion above on repertoires and languaging; it points to the need across all forms of communication to deconstruct monolithic, labeled communicative ‘categories’, and attend to how resources interact with one another to form something different than what may be understood by the simple addition of their components and attributes. Complexity 2: Relationship between modes, language, and material objects Much work on multimodality, historically and currently, privileges language, and considers modes as they relate to language. Yet modes carry distinctive meanings in and of themselves, or entwined together even in the absence of spoken or written ‘language’ (Bezemer and Jewitt 2010; Flewitt 2011; Kress 2011). Kress claims ‘language’ is just one among the resources for making meaning; and … all such resources available in one social group and its cultures at a particular moment ought to be considered as constituting one coherent domain… all equal, potentially, in their capacity to contribute meaning to a complex semiotic identity. (Kress 2011: 242) Scholars of multimodality are beginning to destabilize the centrality of language, and even of human intent, in considering multimodal communication. Theories of the material, such as Actor-Network Theory (Latour 2005) and Posthuman Performativity (Barad 2003), are being leveraged to explain the ways that people and things mutually and reflexively constitute communication and production, and to de-center language and human modes and choices in communicative acts (e.g., see Toohey et al. 2015; Canagarajah 2018). ‘Non-human actors’ (Latour 2005), or things, it has been argued, have their own histories, and their own semiotic power and potential that both carry and mediate meanings in interaction (Barad 2003; Latour 2005; Stornaiuolo et al. 2016). Yet there is still much work to be done to understand how relationships between things and people constitute meaning, and the role of human agency. Complexity #3: Production/assemblage, reception, and negotiation Much of the empirical work framed by multimodality considers multimodal production and multimodal assemblage. That is, the focus is on how people use—or orchestrate—modes in production of representations of meaning-making, whether in performance or through artifacts (see, e.g., Early and Marshall 2008; Toohey et al. 2015; Mills 2016). This may be in part due to limitations of research, especially classroom research, where production and performance are primary evidence of learning, and also of the research complexity of following chains of semiosis across time and space. Terms in use in discussions of multimodality include design (Lemke 2002), production (Flewitt 2011), multimodal orchestration (Jewitt 2017), multimodal improvisation (Flewitt 2011), and representation (Jewitt 2017), all of which point to the act of designing meaning, and to the actor/s doing the design work. Jewitt, for example, claims, ‘people orchestrate meaning through their selection and configuration of modes’ (Jewitt 2017: 29). While people do indeed orchestrate the design of their communicative acts, a sole focus on design/orchestration falls short of capturing meaning-making in communicative interactions. The challenges, from the perspective of materiality, are these: (i) What is the role of human intent and agency, and individual consciousness, in multimodal design and assemblage? (ii) Of critical importance, are meanings made and negotiated in communication faithful to the intent of the sign-maker? This issue of meaning-making as having reflexive (or in Bakhtin’s sense, dialogic) productive, receptive, and negotiated interactional components—what I call ‘the arc of communication’—has been little addressed in multimodality, but is at the heart of all communications, and perhaps particularly complex in transnational communications. Complexity #4: Context and culture Consistent with its foundation in SFL, theories of multimodalities are social semiotic theories (following Halliday 1978), and attend to context in communication. Context may be considered at different levels. One is the context of the multimodal assemblage itself; scholars have pointed to the multimodal artifact as comprising of multiple modes which, through complex inter-relationships and mutual informativity, determine meanings while continuously re-making the meaning of the whole and of each of its constituent parts (Lemke 2002; Murphy 2012; Flewitt et al. 2017). Another aspect of context is the setting and domain within which multimodal communications take place. Many empirical studies focus on a local context—the place and time within which multimodal engagements or productions take place, and within which they are given meaning. While attention has been paid to the ways in which meanings of modes sediment over time (Canagarajah 2018; Kress 2017), there is primarily focus on the ways in which multimodal meaning-making is embedded in the local, in a specific time and place. Flewitt (2011), for example, calls for ‘holistic insights into how participants’ multimodal meaning-making is situated in the ebb and flow of daily practices’ (p. 296), while Kress (2011) asserts, ‘Signs are specific at the moment of their making, and are remade by those who interpret them also as specific albeit now differently specific signs’ (p. 241). Newfield (2017) has offered ‘the transmodal moment’, transitioning to multimodality as a theory of practice, and identifies two sorts of interactions between modes: (i) on-the-spot, as modes combine to make messages; and (ii) having a time component, as different resources are used over time in interaction ‘within a topic, issue, or experience’ (Newfield 2017: 102). There has been much attention, in language and literacy studies, to issues of place and space. Conceptualizations point to the mobile nature of semiotic signs, resources, and artifacts, especially within 21st century global flows, and highlight distinctions between ‘place’—locally bounded geographic entities—and ‘space’—entities composed of relational places (Hawkins 2014, following Pascual-de-Sans 2004). This both illuminates the importance of the local, as production and meaning-making occur in local places—so local ecologies matter—but also confers equal importance on the translocal and transnational, as semiotic resources and artifacts travel across spaces (Brandt and Clinton 2002). Both space and place simultaneously serve as resources for meaning-making, carry their own semiotic weight, and mediate meanings made within them (Hawkins 2014). Blommaert et al. (2005) claim, Spaces, and the scales at which they can be imagined, are semiotic sources from which all kinds of indexical meanings can be derived… When talking about trajectories, networks and flows, it is important to see where precisely the trajectory starts and where it ends, across which spaces flows occur, and what particular spaces are connected in networks, knowing that the spaces themselves have an influence in what people can do and can become in them. (p. 203) Context, then, comprises the multimodal artifact or assemblage itself, the local, translocal, and transnational places, spaces, and conditions of multimodal interactions and meaning-making, and the histories and trajectories of modal resources and engagements. Culture, too, is central to current discourses on multimodalities; it is, in fact, often part of the definition. Kress defines mode as, ‘a socially shaped and culturally given resource for meaning-making’ (Kress 2017: 60), and many scholars claim that modes are embedded in and shaped by cultures—often over periods of time—and must be recognizable to members of a culture or community (Bezemer and Jewitt 2010; Flewitt 2011; Kress 2011, 2017; Mills 2016). This is somewhat problematic because while it is easy to agree that semiotic signs are embedded in contexts and that there are cultural aspects to contexts, it is not entirely clear what constitutes a ‘culture’ (or a ‘community’), nor who the members might be. If we assume that cultures are not monolithic, that they are composed of people who share certain attributes, allegiances, experiences, and/or interests but are shifting, fluid, and mobile, and are not geographically bound, then how do we conceive of cultural resources that might comprise modes? And to whom must modes we leverage in communication be recognizable? This is particularly challenging in translocal and transnational communications, where the producers/designers may not share cultural attributes with those with whom they engage in multimodal interactions, and in fact may not be aware of who, in specific, will be recipients of their messages. Several scholars, in discussion of research and research methods in multimodality, address analyses of multimodal texts themselves but call for a complementary component of ethnography, to fully realize the social and cultural contexts within which multimodal interactions occur (Flewitt 2011; Kress 2011; Newfield 2017). This, it seems to me, is critical—the complementarity of multimodal and ethnographic research may offer insights into not only the moment of production but into the entire process of meaning construction and negotiation across place and space in multimodal interactions. Complexity #5: Transnationalism and relations of power Multimodality now has a significant and growing body of theoretical and empirical work under its aegis. While scholars look to understand modes, multimodal ensembles, and production and meaning-making, little attention has been paid to issues of status, privilege, and power. Yet context is a part of multimodality’s very definition, and critical and social-justice-oriented scholars have long claimed that relations of power and privilege infuse all contexts, and affect what can be done, communicated, and learned within them. So how do we understand the relationships between multimodality and relations of power? Issues of access, voice, and recognition/value are visible, although sparse, in the literature. There is acknowledgement that there is differential access to semiotic resources and to technology among various communities, and among various members of communities (Stein 2008; Newfield 2011; Lam and Warriner 2012; Archer 2017) that impacts possibilities for and in multimodal interactions. Yet in addition to access, power relations play out in multiple ways in multimodal interactions. Multimodal communications are, after all, interactions between people, and people and the resources they bring and leverage carry unequal weight in situated encounters. In literacy studies, there is a body of research that considers migrants’ transnational engagements with those in or from their home communities. Lam and Warriner (2012), in a review of this literature, frame transnational engagements in terms of capital (Bourdieu 1991), and claim, ‘as people interact in these fields of activity, their language and literacy repertories are shaped by the discourse practices that are valued and serve as cultural capital to achieve particular social positions’ (p. 210; ibid). Thus the social and cultural capital that interactants and their associated resources hold within a given encounter shape what modes are used and hold sway, how modes and meanings are represented and interpreted, and how people (and groups of people) are positioned vis-à-vis one another. Stornaiuolo et al. (2016), within a framework for analyzing transliteracies, or ‘literacies on the move’ (p. 1), also consider transliteracies as enactments of power, drawing attention to ‘how people’s literacy practices can be differentially valued and recognized, in turn reproducing, exacerbating, or challenging existing social inequities’ (p. 3). In order, then, to understand meaning-making in multimodal encounters, attention must be paid to the differential valuing and positioning of people and resources that comprise the interactions. TRANSMODALITIES AND CRITICAL COSMOPOLITANISM Transmodalities Now, at last, I can call for a turn to transmodalities. What ‘trans-’ offers to conceptualizations of modalities is comparable to affordances it offers to applied linguistics, as identified in the opening discussion. Transmodalities index the simultaneous co-presence and co-reliance of language and other semiotic resources in meaning-making, affording each equal weight. It highlights the complexity of modes and the entanglements and relationships between them that shape meaning in multimodal artifacts and communications. It also highlights the need to destabilize and move beyond named categories of ‘modes’, to a view of semiotic resources as embedded and given meaning within the specific assemblage, and within trajectories of time and space, continuously shifting and re-shaping in their contexts and mobility. Keith Murphy, in exploring the inter-relationships of modes used in the process of design in a Swedish design studio, developed the concept of ‘transmodality’ within a design context, claiming: Viewed from the perspective of transmodality, modes like speech, drawing, and gestures… do not just supplement each other in relationships of mutual support, they sequentially perforate and interpenetrate each other, acquiring a certain co-morbid resemblance. (2012: 1969) Stornaiuolo, Smith, and Phillips, too, in their discussion of transliteracies, call for attention to, ‘not just how phenomena move and intersect as separate entities, but how phenomena intermingle, interpenetrate, and assemble in emergent configurations’ (Stornaiuolo et al. 2016: 5). These offer a more complex view of semiotic resources in action, yet transmodalities refers to more than localized multimodal interactions; it also points to the movements and trajectories of flows of semiosis across local, translocal, and transnational borders (Brandt and Clinton 2002; Hawkins 2014), and across diverse contexts and communities. The movements of semiotic resources and artifacts across time and space, and across and among different groups of people, are an integral aspect of the meaning-making they afford. Transmodalities attends to meaning-making across the arc of transmodal communications, such that, while production and assemblage may be the starting point, the spaces and timescales traversed, as well as the contexts and processes of reception and negotiation, are given equal weight. And lastly, transmodalities references transcendence and transgression, where inequitable relations of power can be dismantled and reconfigured, affording equal access, value, and representation to all participants in transmodal interactions. The concept of transmodalities has much to contribute to language and literacy studies, and to understandings of semiotic resources in meaning-making. Critical cosmopolitanism While attending to the complexities of processes of communication, we must attend to the effects as well. Central to the discussion thus far have been challenges attendant to theorizations of repertoires and multimodality. If modes are defined as shaped by and recognizable to members of a culture or community, how can we think about global communications between members of different cultures and communities, who may not share common understandings of codes or modes or messages? And yet such communications are ever more present and necessary in our increasingly globalized, mobile, and connected world (Appadurai 1996; Douglas Fir Group 2016; Stornaiuolo et al. 2016). Understandings constructed through transnational engagements matter—they shape how we view others in the world, the relationships we forge with them, and how we understand ourselves in relation to these others. Perhaps especially in our current geopolitical climate, forging relations of goodwill, responsiveness, and caring seems an important goal, and to do that we need not only deep understandings of transmodalities—of semiosis across time and space—such that we can account for and attend to how representations carry meaning across diversity, but also conceptualizations attending to the relational dimension of such communication. I offer critical cosmopolitanism as a lens for ethical consideration of dispositions, understandings, and interactions in situated human encounters and engagements. The concept of cosmopolitanism has a long history, dating back to Diogenes in the 4th century BC and Socrates in the 3rd century BC (as cited in Ong 2009). Historically, it meant being a ‘citizen of the world’. More recent considerations have pointed to the distinction between those with privilege, who can traverse the globe and sample what the world has to offer, and those who do not have and cannot have such experiences, yet may move between places, languages, and cultures through need or even force; in the words of Stuart Hall (2006) (interview, retrieved 12/2015), they are ‘living in translation every day of their lives’. Hall termed this ‘cosmopolitanism of the above’ and ‘cosmopolitanism of the below’, and others have noted the same distinction, using labels such as ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ (Appiah 2005), ‘cosmopolitanism on the ground’ (Hansen 2010), and ‘everyday cosmopolitanism’ (Hull et al. 2010). Ultimately, I invoke cosmopolitanism to reference how all people encounter one another within global flows of mobility, whether the encounter takes place through people who move, or materials and resources, or messages, understanding that the semiotic modes that mediate encounters—face-to-face or virtual—embody, reflect, and shape meanings derived and constructed. Cosmopolitanism, following Appiah (2005), is recognizing ‘universality plus difference’ (p. 151), such that global relationships are forged that value ways in which we are like one another, as well as ways in which we differ. He postulates that encounters matter, and that developing dispositions of openness, inquiry, and care—an ethical approach to encounters with global others, and to the outcomes of such engagements—is paramount. Rizvi (2008) calls for the development of epistemic virtues, to question epistemic assumptions in our relations with others, and for engagement ‘involving critical exploration and imagination’ (p. 30). It seems clear that we cannot theorize transmodalities as power-neutral; in the words of Hansen: ‘what we call bias, prejudice, presupposition or assumption is a necessary ground for any dialogic act’ (Hansen 2014: 9). Hansen points to the hopefulness inherent in cosmopolitan approaches to human encounters, stating, ‘it makes possible arriving, in ever dynamic ways, at a broader, more responsive as well as respectful platform for judgment and mutual understanding’ (Hansen 2014: 9). Agreeing with Hansen, I have posited critical cosmopolitanism to integrate a focus on creating and sustaining just, equitable, and affirming relations with global (and local) others in global engagements and interactions through attending to the workings of status, privilege, and power between people and groups of people (Hawkins 2014, 2016). As discussed above, this is little attended to in discussions of multimodality (but see Stein 2008; Newfield 2011; Archer 2017). Following Canagarajah (2013), consideration must be paid to the ways in which meanings that are negotiated and constructed with (global) others re-organize, re-source, and re-distribute knowledge, privilege, and resources, leading to critical personal and societal transformations and the cultivation of open and equitable relationships. These issues are fully embraced in a theory of transmodalities. TRANSNATIONAL ENGAGEMENTS OF GLOBAL YOUTH: A CASE IN POINT While this is not an empirically driven article, it may be useful at this point to offer an illustration of transmodalities in action, as global youth engage in digitally mediated communications. Data are drawn from a project—Global StoryBridges—that links groups of youth who live in communities of poverty in various global locales to share digital stories and chats about their communities and lives on a dedicated website (www.globalstorybridges.com). This is not part of formal schooling, nor is it individual engagement with social media. Rather, each group of youth meet in their community-based setting to collaboratively engage in project activities, such that meanings and transmodal messages and artifacts are collaboratively assembled and negotiated locally (within the site) as well as transnationally. Youth together discuss and decide topics for the videos, composition, processes, and so on, and then create and edit it. When it is completed they post for youth in all other sites to view. And together they discuss videos posted by other groups and decide on questions and comments to post in response. They are supported by an adult facilitator, but all decisions are made, and all facets of the project accomplished, by the youth. The data used here to exemplify the discussion above—a small portion of the overall data set—consist of a video made and shared by youth (approximately 11–12 years old) in a rural project site in Uganda, and a subsequent discussion of the video (in a chat space provided on the project website) among similarly aged youth in a Midwestern US site located in a small town and those in Uganda that created the video, with some data from youth in a second US site located in a small city. I organize the discussion by the themes identified above. Chapal at Our School Chapal at Our School (ibid) is the name of a video posted by a site in rural western Uganda. While the project is not part of formal school curriculum, this site is located at a Christian school (youth meet in out-of-school time), and, as you will see, religion is central to the lives of those in the community. All participating youth are in the process of learning English. For these Ugandan youth, schooling is in English, but their home language is their tribal language (Lukhonzo), and English is only spoken at school. US youth are immigrants, or from immigrant families (but do not share a home language), and meet in a community center. All texts will be represented as the youth composed them. The video, which runs 4 minutes 52 seconds, begins with a caption underneath that reads, ‘In Uganda, christianity/religion is key figure in peoples lives to the extend that it is included to our learning frame works in every class at elementary and high school levels. That’s how our school develops in it’. The video opens with a quick shot of students, dressed in school uniforms, dancing and singing on what looks to be the cement stoop of a building, to the sounds of drumming and singing. Very quickly, text scrolls over the backdrop of the moving image, which reads, ‘This is our way of expressing our Joy for our Lord. This was a presentation at social dev’t time’. The text fades, and the dancing and singing students come back into focus. At 24 seconds, there is a transition inserted (much like a flipping page), and another scene is unveiled. This one starts with a close-up shot of approximately 10 students and an adult sitting on the ground, singing. The camera pans back, and within 4 seconds a text caption appears that reads, ‘EVEN IN THE GRAVE HE IS LORD’. This portion, switching between individual and choral singing, continues for 48 seconds. The video then transitions to a collage of photos, all shots of the current activity (chapel) at the school, capturing different groups of children and adults. The transition continues rotating to video footage of many students sitting in a circle, with four women and one man standing in the middle speaking to them. They speak in their indigenous language, Lukhonzo, whereas all of the singing up to this point has been in English. As the sequence begins, words scroll across the page (over the video) that say, ‘Our school parents are also welcomed to share the word of God with us during our religious social development assembly which is scheduled once every term. They encourage us in Gods good words and we feel loved when they follow us to school. WE LOVE OUR MUMS’. While this is scrolling, the video sequence continues, with a ‘mum’ speaking briefly, one short utterance at time, and the man repeating each utterance loudly directly after it is spoken, seemingly in exhortation, with much gesturing. In live-action sequence, the women then sit on wooden chairs that have been grouped together in the circle, and being to sing and clap. Everybody joins in, and the children begin to rise, clap, dance, and sing. The mums, too, rise, and sway and sing. After approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds, the scene cuts back to the earlier group of youth and the woman sitting on the lawn. They are singing in English. This song is slow and measured, and they all have their arms wrapped around themselves, their eyes closed, and they sway gently as they sing (except for a very young child sitting in front, playing with a paper plate in the dirt). The song switches between a ‘call and response’ format, and an ensemble. There is then a relatively abrupt transition to video of students, in lines on the cement stoop, dancing animatedly to drumming, clapping, and kicking and turning and pumping their arms in unison, which lasts for 8 seconds. It concludes with scrolling credits—the names of the youth makers—on a background of changing colors. So from a lens of transmodalities, what can be said about this video? Modes intertwined To begin, ‘language’ is not the central semiotic feature, or mode. The only oral language represented was the words to the songs (in English), and the ‘preaching’ to the students (in Lukhonzo). Thus no spoken language that was not song lyrics would be recognizable to project participants transnationally, none of whom speak Lukhonzo. Written text appears four times, all in English: the introductory text; two scrolling texts; and the caption, totaling less than 100 words in all. Meaning were carried via the ensemble, with oral and written text, music, movement, gesture, sound, image, and more all ‘interpenetrating’ in specific and unique ways to portray and share a ‘slice of life’ from this community and group of students. Note that I have named, or categorized, modes. Individually each carries weight and meaning, and each is sedimented through its history and trajectory. The singing—tunes and lyrics, and ways of performing them—are passed through Christianity, and are in English, as per the spread of Christianity throughout this region of the world (and others). The drumming and dancing are sedimented through the history of this particular ‘culture’ and place. The use of English—and the knowledge of English—has been considered a legacy of colonialism. And so on. Each means something specific to the youth makers of the video, whether explicitly or implicitly (as part of their cultural and historical repertoires) and in combination, as an assemblage, they tell a certain story, and convey specific messages to their global audience as to who these youth are, what they value and believe, how they live. If we were to isolate any one mode, it would tell a specific but different story. Modes, language, and material objects While various forms of language are implicit in the multiple modes represented, such as talk, exhortation, prayer, hymn-singing, captioning, and so on, if we de-center the human and focus on objects, we see that these, too, are semiotic elements fully entangled in representations and meanings. Identifiable objects other than human bodies are clothing (students are in school uniforms); the physical structures (a basic building of concrete with log beams, no windows); environmental context (large field of dry grass surrounded by brush); and material objects (two poles with a beam connecting them, under which are four basic wood chairs; three handmade drums; the paper plate with which the child is playing). These are the totality of material objects represented in the video. Together, they speak to the socioeconomic conditions of the community, and the scarcity of resources, particularly in comparison to youth in the US site (who also live in communities of poverty, relatively). And they are integrally entangled in carrying meanings with the visible actions, activities, and language portrayed. To illustrate, perhaps, the power of transmodality, at least partially, let us pause for a moment to think about the image that you, as an audience, have now constructed through the words that I have used to describe this video. I offer two screen shots in hopes that by seeing bodies, at least at one moment in time, and postures, and setting, and color, and so on, we can see the meanings that are carried by modes, and by things, and how they are entangled together in rich portrayals (faces are blurred to protect privacy) (Figures 1 and 2). And one more comment about ‘things’: The tools that the youth makers use in the production of this video are ‘things’ that are implicit in the assemblage and conveyance of meaning; they, too, carry semiotic weight and mediate meaning. What the camera captures is what is able to be incorporated in the video. The very fact that there is a camera, and youth are intent on video-making, mediates what they attend to and reflect on, and shapes their view of their production and the event itself. They must edit, and attend to details that otherwise would likely be invisible to them; they see themselves through the camera, and are able to engage in meta-reflection about themselves vis-à-vis the activity. They must upload the finished video to the project website, and there is a size limit, thus placing boundaries about how much can be included, and forcing choices about how to portray their message. The technology serves as a tool for meaning-making, while its features mediate what can be shared and how; it provides a ‘mirror’ and an impetus for their reflections. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Youth dancing and drumming during chapel Figure 1: View largeDownload slide Youth dancing and drumming during chapel Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Youth singing a hymn with a ‘mum’ Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Youth singing a hymn with a ‘mum’ Production/assemblage, reception, and negotiation The Ugandan youth makers, in dialog, decided what they wanted the focus of their video to be (what aspect of their lives and community they wished to portray to their global peers), what they wanted to include in terms of modes, footage, and so on, how they wished to sequence it, and what ‘context’ and ‘explanation’ they wished to give (the written text). They edited it together, entailing another complex series of decisions. Unfortunately, we do not have data on that process for them, but in line with the discussion above, while the video can be assumed to portray what the youth wished to portray, we cannot assume that the messages that they purposefully embedded and included in the video were received as they intended. This illustrates the importance of the call to blend multimodal analysis with ethnographic approaches; data on the processes of youth decision-making in situ would offer much illumination. However, it is safe to assume that their intention in capturing the specific performances they videoed, the environment and the activities, were to portray what is ‘normal’ to them, part of their culture, traditions and practices, with deep personal and collective meaning. Yet for youth in other global sites, this was new and different. Their responses demonstrate how they received these messages, and how they were negotiated. The youth from the Midwestern US site first discussed the video together, then collaboratively crafted this response: What songs are you singing? Why do you wear uniforms? What languages do you speak at chapel? It will be cool to have a church in school because we don’t. What musical instruments do you play when you are singing? How do you dance? Maybe you upload a video! The Ugandan youth, after discussing the questions, responded with: We were singing Christian songs in our local language since we were with our parents who may not hear English. We were uniform for smartness, identify our selve of which school you study from, and safety from kidnappers and other bad people. When you have uniform, every one will want to help you from dangerous situations. And some of us may not have enough clothes to keep exchanging. We speak ‘LUKHONZO’, the language of the people around Rwenzori Mountain. It’s cool. Why don’t you have? Do your teachers teach you about God and Jesus Christ? We use drums at school but some churches use keyboards, xylophones. Do you have many? The US youth responded to these questions with more: Do you try to teach your parents English? Sometimes we try to teach English to our parents, but they still talk Spanish. We think that uniforms are good ideas. They can keep you safe from kidnappers. We do not have to wear uniforms. Our teachers do not teach us about church. They are not allowed to. Many students are many different religions. In the USA we can decide what religion you are and what you believe. It is not fair if the teacher teaches only one. We use drums, piano, violin, tambourines, maracas, and guitar to make music. This discussion offers a view of the meaning-making process. It would be apt here to invoke Agar (1994), who argues that things are not visible until they bump up against something unfamiliar; the youth noticed things as they related to their own lives and contexts. The US youth were not familiar with the songs, which were local hymns, nor uniforms for school, nor the language they heard. They clearly understood that this was a religious event, but were unfamiliar with church at school, and drumming as part of ‘singing’. Their questions—what they noticed and responded to—brought up issues that were unfamiliar to the Ugandan youth, and served as a catalyst for a rich discussion about many things, including the role of religion in schools. The ways in which the youth came to understand one another was not solely from the production of the multimodal ensemble, it was from unpacking together, through dialogic engagement, the layered and sedimented meanings as the messages encoded in the video passed through time and space, and came to be interpreted and then negotiated through other cultural lenses, and thus re-cast to the original makers. It is here that we can see critical cosmopolitanism in action; youth engage in discussions (even of ‘sensitive’ topics, such as religion) in a spirit of openness and inquiry, collaboratively engaging in deep explorations of each other’s lives, beliefs, and experiences. There are biases and assumptions evident—echoing Hansen (2014: 30), ‘bias, prejudice, presupposition or assumption is a necessary ground for any dialogic act’; this can be seen, for example, in an attitude toward English (as good and important), and in the US youth’s statement that teaching a religion in schools is not ‘fair’. Yet this transmodal dialogic engagement enables close encounters with others’ lives through opportunities for rich and creative portrayals and for deep reflection and dialog, and fosters the forging of relationships through which to gain an insider understanding of, and dispositions of respect and care for, one another. Context and culture Literature on multimodality claims that modes are embedded in, and must be recognizable to, specific cultural groups. So what about transmodal engagement across cultural groups, and distances and spaces? In this video, there was movement (dancing, swaying, clapping, and so on) that would not have been familiar cultural practices to those who were on the reception end of the video. The events, contexts, and meanings were not similar for the two groups. Yet cross-cultural encounters and exchanges are common, and necessary, both in light of globalization and for purposes of cultivating critical cosmopolitan relations. In the first set of posted questions and comments, the US youth seem to be searching for understanding about things unfamiliar to them; exposure through engagement may be a necessary first step to traversing cultural boundaries. They were clearly responding from dispositions of inquiry and openness as they sought information. In the Ugandan responses, the messages embedded in the video—at least the ones the US youth noticed—are expanded and expounded on, offering deeper insight into aspects of the Ugandan youths’ lives. And in the next round of responses, the US youth connect what they are learning about their global peers to their own lives and understandings, and make connections. The original ‘multimodal ensemble’—the video—did not enable this in and of itself, but the chain of semiosis through the unfolding sequence of transmodal interactions did; it was the integration of visual, aural, oral, and textual that enabled the negotiations and constructions of meanings. In one more example from the chat data generated by this video, the youth from another US site, located in a community center in a small city, entered the discussion. The youth in the aforementioned US site were all Mexican-origin, whereas in this site there was a mix of heritages and ethnicities. They posted, as follows, after the exchange above. How do we dance? Well there are different kind dances we do over here. For example, there is Hmong dancing, indian dancing, American dances, and break dancing. Why does people think jesus is god’s son? Do you believe in spirits, goddess and gods? What made you guys believe in jesus? What do jesus do for you guys? And, in response to this, the Ugandan youth videomakers posted: We don’t think Jesus is the Son of God but we believe because the Bible says so and the Bible is the truth of God. Some people believe in the small gods and spirits here like witch doctors, socerers etc but for us we believe in the TRINITY Supernatural nature of God. When we use the name of Jesus Christ, difficult situations become simple for us; even we have seen the lame walk, sick get well, demons unbound from people, stammered people speak, blind see…. When the name of Jesus Christ is used. In this example, in the responses from these US youth we can see representations of heritages, practices, and beliefs of the youth participants, several of whom, for example, were Hmong; they mentioned Hmong dancing as well as contributed the questions about spirits, goddesses, and gods. And the Ugandan youth straightforwardly represented their understanding of the power of religion. Context and culture matter, not because they enable recognition of what is familiar within them, but because they have directive force in what is seen, thought, and represented across and through modes, and therefore what can be noticed, discussed, and learned. They are not only the ‘background’, or environment, for transmodal communication, they are fully engrained and entwined in assemblages and meaning-making, and cannot be separated from it. Thus transmodality enables the making and sharing of meanings through multiple means and modes within, across, through, and as part of context and culture. Power, privilege, and status Both transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism explicitly attend to issues of power, privilege, and status. In the project there are differences, on many levels, in terms of status, social, cultural and economic capital, and resources among participants. Access to technology is unequal; in some sites they have computers, video cameras, and internet access, and these things are integral parts of the daily lives of local youth. In others, community members have never seen or touched a computer or video camera, much less had internet experience, prior to joining the project. It is an interesting conundrum to consider imperialism and western imposition, where the project was conceived from a western perspective with western values around languaging, literacies, modalities, and global exchanges, and imported to and implemented in under-resourced contexts. Yet, within discourses and ideologies inextricable from globalization, locales where the project has been implemented had already fully adopted values and ideologies about the power and value of technology, English and globalization. By design, all project sites are in communities of poverty, and there is much multimodal representation of resources and capital in the videos and chats. In the example above, representation of (scant) resources is visible in the video. Yet issues of differential status, resources, privilege, and power among the youth are not easily identified in the ensuing chats. They are certainly operant in the local contexts of their lives—the Ugandan children, for example, have safety concerns as a salient feature of their lives; they are poor rural children in danger of being raped, kidnapped, and killed. They also have a school uniform because they cannot afford other clothes ‘to keep exchanging’. The US youth, ‘try to teach English to our parents, but they still talk Spanish’. Difference in resources and privilege is visible, although not taken up directly, as the US youth, in their initial response, ask, ‘What kind of fun things do you do?’ The Ugandan youth reply, ‘Making funny faces, statue dances, sac races, three leg races, stories… can you tell us too?’ And the US youth respond with, ‘We do lots of fun things like: play with our pets, video games, or computer, we play outside, or ride our bikes or skateboard, we read or draw’. It is clear that, while each site is considered a site of ‘poverty’, definitions of poverty are fluid and relative. Yet there were three more sets of exchanges in this chain, and there was no overt acknowledgement or even response to this within them (although it may have been in inter-group discussion; this again is a limitation of research at a distance and illustrates the need for an ethnographic component). The fact that it was not visibly discussed nor negotiated does not mean that it was not noticed; rather it draws attention to the need for critical reflectivity as part of (transnational) transmodal communications. It also speaks to the critical cosmopolitan nature of the endeavor—there is no evident positioning, negotiations nor judgments around relative status visible. CONCLUSION The ‘trans-’ turn in language studies is a response, in large part, to new and rapidly changing contexts of mobility, and new global configurations of people, resources, and communications. It calls for a destabilization—a post-structural and even post-sociocultural understanding—of how language, culture, and community have historically been defined, and new understandings of semiotic assemblages and trajectories across place, space, and time, in which language is integrally intertwined with other ‘things’ to mediate meaning-making. Transmodalities, as a conceptual tool, enables consideration not only of the complex entanglements of people, things, messages, and meanings, but also an overt focus on why they matter. As humans increasingly encounter each other across distances and differences, we must nurture the critical cosmopolitan ethics of care, openness, responsiveness, and equity in the relationships we forge, and in continuously emerging understandings of selves and others. It is my hope that the dual frames of transmodalities and critical cosmopolitanism may serve as guiding concepts and as heuristic lenses in shaping and understanding the impact of dialogic engagements among global citizens. Acknowledgements Deepest thanks and appreciation to Junko Mori, colleague and editor extraordinaire; this piece is much enriched by her counsel. And I remain grateful to and awed by youth and adult project participants for their commitment and dedication to Global StoryBridges. REFERENCES Agar M. 1994. 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Applied LinguisticsOxford University Press

Published: Feb 1, 2018

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