Language@Leeds in conjunction with the British Academy held a three-day FREE event at the University of Leeds. The event, aimed at ECRs and PGRs working on multimodal approaches, was a resounding success. The aims were to explore the purpose and application of multimodal approaches to language research – textual, visual-gestural, audio, instrumental, computational – and to establish a regional network of scholars to share practice, expertise and resources.
The pre-conference workshops (on analysing multimodal data and on eye-tracking) and the conference attracted researchers from 15 universities within and around Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the North-West. The keynote speakers, Sotaro Kita from Warwick, and Mandana Seyfeddinipur from SOAS, London were inspirational. Paper presentations dealt with multimodal methods in language-related research within education, psychology, computing, linguistics, English, translation, human communication, and neurotology.
The feedback was very positive and new events are being organized as a follow up to this event.
“I wasn’t expecting so much background in the talks, I thought it would be more about using the software. I’m glad about this though! It was really interesting and engaging and I really gained a lot from the workshop. ”
“I enjoyed the workshop. It was a great opportunity to learn about eye-tracking which I wanted to do for a while and also meet people who are doing it first hand.”
“It was enjoyable, fruitful and useful. Thank you for this fantastic event.”
“It’s really nice to have the local focus – good to know what is happening locally & to think about possible future collaborations on a local level…which in the end are more satisfying for all the global/EU projects, I think!”
“It was informative and inspiring to see other people’s work and a variety of topics and methodological backgrounds.”
Language use is fundamentally multimodal. The technological advancements of recent years have provided the tools to record, document, and analyse language in its fullest instantiation and to build up and analyse huge databases of language data in all its forms. This allows us to finally pay justice to the multimodal nature of communication. The orchestration of the modalities allows us to understand how language is produced, comprehended and also learned. The study of multimodal communication not only applies to in-person communication but also to other forms of communication like film, theatre, Skype, websites and social media. The availability of cheap digital technology has had the additional effect of increasing multimodal communication across the globe.
Whether we are trying to document an endangered language, understand how children learn meanings or investigate emerging forms of digital communication we need to understand the nature of multimodality and master the technology available to further our research.