Mapping Unknown Territory: Cross-modal, multi-contextual, infinitely interpretable

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Mapping Unknown Territory: Cross-modal, multi-contextual, infinitely interpretable

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Mapping Unknown Territory: Cross-modal, multi-contextual, infinitely interpretable
Anderson, Anne W. ( Author )
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University of South Florida
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1 online resource (4 pages)


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Education -- Research ( lcsh )
Semiotics ( lcsh )


All texts are implicitly cross-modal and multi-contextual, and all readers of texts bring unique perspectives to the reading, making possible different interpretations of the texts and suggesting Iser's "soft theory" as a foundation of Cro-MENDA.

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University of South Florida
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University of South Florida
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I19-00002 ( USFLDC DOI )
i19.2 ( USFLDC Handle )

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Anne W. Anderson, 2016 / Cro MENDA 1 Mapping Unknown Territory : Cross modal, multi contextual, infinitely interpretable All texts are implicitly cross modal and multi contextual, and all readers of texts bring unique perspectives to the reading, making possible different interpretations of the texts and suggesting Iser's "soft theory" as a foundation of Cro MENDA. Cross Modal Ethnographic Narrative Document Analysis, or Cro MENDA, emerged as I conducted a larger study of editorial car toons appearing in an early twentieth century newspaper. I wanted to know what topics the cartoonists chose to depict, how they presented the topics, how they framed the topics, what themes recurred, and how these topics, frames, and themes tried to shape ideological stances and discourses among their readers. But I kept running into problems as I tried to analyze the cartoons. Some of the problems were due to : the cross modal nature of all texts including cartoons the multi contextual nature of all texts including editorial cartoons the non linear nature of cartoons, and the interpretive nature of t ext analysis. Plus, I needed to answer this question: How Do You Know that What You Say You Think You Know About a Multi Modal Text is Valid ? Audiences in some disciplines accept that an interpretive method can be i mplicit in and inferred from the analysis itself, and they are not mistaken. But explicating a method serves three purposes as it provides a mean s for scholars and reviewers to check for gaps and oversights in the analysis, identify other paths that have not been taken into a text and to pursue those, and have some assurance that the reported whole is equal to the sum of the individual parts. Interpretive methods, however, have a different theoretical foundation than do more quantitative methods and this theoretical difference also mu st be addressed [ See Block Icon for a discussion of methods. ] Interpretive Methods / Soft Theory vs. Hard Core Theory : Iser (2006 ) suggested "soft theory is the foundation of research in the humanities, as opposed to the "hard core theory" of the empiric al sciences (p. 5 ). H ard core theory wrote Iser "makes predictions while soft Figure 1 "Marching on to Washington, by SAV, published in the Appeal to Reason February 12, 1910, p. 1 Map Icon


Anne W. Anderson, 2016 / Cro MENDA 2 theory "is an attempt at mapping" (p. 5). Hard core theory begins with laws that control how things behave, but soft theory "pieces together' observed data, elements drawn from different frameworks, and combines presuppositions in order to gain access to the domain to be charted" ( Iser, 2006, p. 5). [ See PuzzleIcon for a discussion of elements and WebIcon for a discussion of frameworks or contexts. ] Iser also noted th at p henomenology which seeks to understand phenomena by observing peoples and processes, and hermeneutics which seeks to understand texts by observing structures and patterns of thought, are two types of soft theory. Phenomenology and an Interpreted Wo rld Spinelli (1989) explained phen omenology by first comparing objective reality to subjective reality. Objective reality accepts that a physical world exists whether we are present or not to experience it yes, there are trees in the forest that occasionally fall and produce sound waves, w hether or not anyone is there to hear them. Subjective reality suggests that an outside world only exists when someone is there to experience it only if an eardrum is present for the sound waves to bounce against and to transmit sound to the corresponding brain, can the falling tree be truly said to exist. A purely subjective reality would argue, wrote Spinelli (1989) that "nothing but mental constructs exist" (p. 7). The cartoons I was studying existed before I was born. But in my experience, they only b egan to exist when I first laid eyes on them. When I closed the fil e containing the cartoon, propo nents of subjective reality would arg ue the cartoon ceased to exist while proponents of objective reality would say it was only my experience of the cartoon t hat ceased to exist. Rather, phenomenology posits a middle ground. Phenomenology, wrote Spinelli (1989), suggests that first, we can never completely know the full substance of an object and, second, that even an object we perceive at one point in time c an never be perceived by us in exactly the same way Perceived Reality Subjective Reality Figure 2. Practically speaking, most of us accept a world filled with trees and other things we have never seen and that do not suddenly manifest themselves when we arrive on the scene To some extent, however, we only experience part of even the things we see everyday. Most of us have not cut down a tree to see the inside nor have we examined each and ev ery inch of bark, leaf or needle; our perceived reality of the tree consists of whatever portion of exterior we have experienced and a hazy sense of the rest, much of it accepted by faith in other's recounted experiences.


Anne W. Anderson, 2016 / Cro MENDA 3 a second time. Instead, "our experience of the world is always made up of an interaction between the raw matter of the world, whatever that may be, and our mental faculties" (Spinelli, 1989, p. 8). Ad ditionally, because each of us is a unique individual who has experienced the world in different ways from every other individual, that interaction between object and mind will never be exactly alike for any two people. At the same time, the researcher mus t be aware of and acknowledge, or "bracket," his/her assumptions within the work. Thus, an interpretation of an object cannot be said to be correct in terms of "external, objective laws or truths' that have been universally ascertained [but is] influenced to a great degree, by consensus viewpoints agreed upon by a group of individuals, or even by a whole culture" ( Spinelli, 1989, p. 5). Cartoons, and other texts are made up of intentional messages transmitted through words and visual images, but there is no one, correct interpretation of what a cartoon "means However, methods of hermeneutics provide paths into texts that can help us derive an understanding of a text that is grounded in the text itself. Hermeneutics and Mapping a Text Pokorn (2011) explained that hermeneutics "is derived from the Greek word herm!neu" which seems to have meant imitating Hermes,' the messenger of the gods" (p. 3), and he described a number of hermeneutical methods for interpreting text. Each of these m ethods involved examining different layers alone and in various combinations within the text including the grammatical layer, the syntactical layer, the rhetorical layer as well as the contextual layers surrounding the text While Pokorn confined his discussion of hermeneutical methods to alphabetic sacred texts, Howard (1982) noted that 19 th century philosophers Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm Dilthey "used the term hermeneutics' in conjunction with their effort to find a theory of knowledge for the data with which the cultural scientist works in short, for such products as are th e result of man's deliberate ingenuity [rather] than of nature's blind working" (pp. 1 2). Therefore, Pokorn 's discussion of hermeneutical methods is applicable not just to alphabetic texts that are implicitly cross modal but also to explicitly cross moda l texts such as cartoons. And, if methods of hermeneutics provide paths into texts, then following those paths and describing what is encountered along the way can be said to produce a map of the text. Cross modal ethnographic narrative document analys is (CroMENDA) provides a structured approach to identifying, selecting, and analyzing documents, defined by Altheide and Schneider (2012) as "any symbolic representation that can be recorded or retrieved for analysis" (p. 5), including such symbolic repres entations as "footpaths worn in grass, dog eared pages in books, and other unobtrusive indicators" (p. 7). Grounded in Iser's (2006) explanation of soft theory and b ased on Altheide and Figure 3. An exploratory map is not a city planning grid. Map image source: aTeLLa7T4


Anne W. Anderson, 2016 / Cro MENDA 4 Schneider's (2012) ethnographic content analysis, which they used to a nalyze television news footage, on Rodriguez and Dimitrova's levels of visual framing, and on Mead's theories of s ymbolic interaction (Blumer, 196 6), I developed CroMENDA to understand editorial cartoons from two early 20 th century newspapers. I first wandered through the individual cartoons, following paths suggested by the elements within the cartoon, by the cultural context in which it was created, and by my own unique mental faculties and predispositions. I made field notes of my wanderings, coded n arratives describing the cross moda l stylistic choices made by cartoonist, the cultural/historical context in which the cartoon was set, and my own suppositions as I placed myself in the position of the actor/cartoonist and/or of the role/character I then pieced together the narratives to detect topics and to discern themes and to determine frames through which the topics and themes were presented. From this field note mapping and piecing together of narratives, I discussed ideological stances and discours es found in the collection References Altheide, D. L., & Schneider, C. J. (2012). Qualitative media analysis (2 nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Blumer, H. (1973). Sociological implications of the thought of George Herbert Mead. American Sociological Rev iew, 71 (5), 535 544. Howard, R. J. (1982). Three faces of hermeneutics: An introduction to current theories of understanding Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Iser, W. (2006). How to do theory. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Pokorn P. (2011). Hermeneutics as a theory of understanding. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. Rodriguez, L., & Dimitrova, D. (2011). The levels of visual framing. Journal of Visual Literacy, 30 (1), 48 65. Spinelli, E. (1989). The interpreted world: An introduction to phenomenological psychology London, UK: Sage.


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