Disruptive practice: Multimodality, innovation and standardisation from the medieval to the digital text

Matt Collins, Riki Thompson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Superficially, digital technologies that rely on a keyboard with preset icons to translate characters onto a digitized screen look like extreme divergences from earlier, pre-digital writing practices. Yet, in this paper we argue that contemporary digital writing practices, while adaptive to technological architecture, remediate the practices of specifically medieval manuscript production and consumption. To demonstrate this, we historicize writing and reading practices to argue for the importance of multimodality in communicative situations across time. Taking a trans-historical interdisciplinary approach, we consider the importance of visual rhetoric as both aesthetic and functional components that help readers navigate texts(compare also Moore, this volume). Visual rhetoric in this sense can be understood as the use of visual imagery to communicate and the processes by which such imagery influences viewers (Foss 2005), drawing on the affordances–the capabilities–of a given mode. Our focus is on continuities in the visual properties of the text, engaging with Bolter and Grusin’s(2000:14–15)argument that “new media are doing exactly what their predecessors have done: presenting themselves as re-fashioned and improved versions of other media”. We discuss how medieval readers may have interacted with texts, based on their visual arrangement, and examine how the affordances of digital multimodality mirror, and in a sense re-cover, the same fluid, contingent and participatory textual experience of their medieval predecessors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMessage and Medium
Subtitle of host publicationEnglish Language Practices Across Old and New Media
EditorsMel Evans, Caroline Tagg
Place of PublicationBerlin, Boston
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783110670837
ISBN (Print)9783110620399
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameTopics in English Linguistics
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISSN (Print)1434-3452


Dive into the research topics of 'Disruptive practice: Multimodality, innovation and standardisation from the medieval to the digital text'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this