Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Department of Archaeology

Theory and history of multimodal communication

When we speak, we use gestures and facial expressions simultaneously. When we write texts, we use typography and layouts to present the text in a reader-friendly way. Images are often combined with writing. This combination of different media in one message is called multimodal communication.

The multimodality of human communication is not a modern phenomenon; rather, it’s a wide-spread cultural phenomenon that is just started to be researched. There is even evidence of multimodal communication forms in ancient cultures. The ancient northeast African region provides us with especially interesting examples. One reason for this are the special properties of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script, whose design principles allow a close association between image and text in communication. One example:

Fig.: Kelly Accetta

The professorship and teaching area “Theory and history of multimodal communication” is devoted to this phenomenon. It takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining methods and theories from semiotics, linguistics, visual studies, Egyptology, and archaeology.

This focus is rare in the field of ancient studies and offers students and faculty the opportunity to take part in the formation of a new area of research.