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This resource offers a generative list of questions to ask about some other media/genres that you might assign as multimodal projects. Like the questions in the podcast and infographic resources, these questions would be used during Steps 1 and 2 when you and your students are analyzing models. You can also adapt them to guide peer review, reflection, and assessment activities.
Television and Film Analysis Questions
How does the piece begin?
How are the characters introduced?
What is the setting (time and place)?
What are the elements of mis-en-scène (or the physical elements of the production, such as costumes, props, sets)?
Editing and Camera Work
How are individual scenes edited? Fades? Dissolves? Abrupt cuts?
How does the editing affect the overall narrative or our understanding of certain characters or plot lines?
Are there longer scenes with fewer cuts or shorter edits? Or is there a mix?
What is the relationship between some of the edits—does the ordering of or juxtapositions of scenes or characters in quick succession affect the plot or characters?
How do the camera angles in key scenes affect our understanding of characters or plot?
Is the camera work smooth or unstable? Does the camera work have a handheld quality? Or is it shot in such a way that we forget the camera is present?
Does camera angle create a sense of power or diminishment by shooting subjects from below or above?
How are key shots composed? What is in the foreground and background? Does the relationship of items in the frame comment on the overall themes or content?
What is presented in close up? How do these choices affect the content?
How does lighting affect the mood or tone of the piece?
How does the soundtrack add to the mood of the piece? Does it foreshadow aspects of the plot, heighten tension, or shape our understanding of key characters or plot lines?
Are there sound effects included, such as laugh tracks or other noises, that add to the scenes?
Are certain sounds or music related to key images or characters?
Is any music recognizable? What are the implications of using this recognizable piece of music?
Is there narration? Who is the narrator and what scenes do they narrate? What images accompany the narration?
Who are the central characters, and what aspects of society do characters represent?
What kinds of values are asserted by the piece? Is there a moral to the story? Does the story affirm or subvert common values?
What might the central conflict of the piece be?
How are key themes related to the context surrounding the piece?
How does the ending of the piece resolve the overall conflict? Or raise questions?
Print Advertising Elements and Analysis Questions
What is there to consider in the overall design or layout of the ad?
How does text compare to pictorial matter?
How much white space is used?
How is the space divided?
What elements are emphasized?
Where is your eye directed?
How do the text and/or images direct your eye to focus on certain aspects of the overall composition?
If the add includes a photograph, at what angle is the photograph shot?
Do we look up or down at the figures, or are they at eye-level?
What is the significance of the camera angle?
What mood does the lighting create?
How are lighter and darker shadows used?
What role, if any, does color play in the ad?
What colors dominate and what significance might the colors have?
What is happening in the ad?
Is there a narrative?
How does the print ad suggest a storyline?
If there are figures in the ad, how would you describe them?
What age/ethnicity/sex do they appear to be?
What are they wearing?
What does their body language seem to say?
Are they looking at the viewer or elsewhere?
What relationship do they seem to have to each other?
Does the advertisement include textual material? If so, how is language used?
What does the text state or imply about any people who appear in the ad?
Does the advertisement use analogies or figurative language?
Does the typeface have any relevance to the argument being made?
Does the ad include parody or a play on words?
Does any of the language convey double meanings or unexpected connotations?
Where does the ad take place?
What is the significance of the location?
What product is being sold?
Who uses the product? For what purpose?
What values and beliefs seem to be reflected in the advertisement?
Does the ad use any familiar symbols or signs that suggest the values at work?
What assumptions seem to be made about the values of the audience?
What kind of rhetorical appeals (e.g. ethos, pathos, logos) does the ad use?
Where was the ad found?
Who might see this ad?
In a helpful article for The Conversation on how to understand and approach visual art, Kit Messham-Muir offers something called the “look see think” process. The following questions follow that framework, and also work in tandem with the provided vocabulary list.
Look (observation without judgment, description)
What medium or material is the thing you are looking at? Is it a painting, a photograph, an object, a sculpture, an installation, graffiti?
How can you describe what is going on in your visual art piece? Is it more abstract or conceptual? Is there a lot going on or is it pretty minimal? What kinds of people, structures, or landscapes do you see? Is the scene realistic or is it more fantastic or surrealistic? Is there a lot of movement or is it frozen in time?
What kinds of colors are used? Are they warm, muted, or cold? Are the colors mostly in the same family, or does the artwork use many colors all at once? Are they natural and earthy, or neon and saturated? Are they harmonious or discordant?
See (making sense of what you are looking at, applying meaning to it)
What kinds of symbols or strong images do you see?
If there are people depicted, what kind of people are they? What actions are they taking? What emotions are they expressing? If there are multiple people, how are they related to one another spatially? Narratively?
If you are looking at a mostly abstract piece, how do the shapes, colors, and lines make an impression on you? Do they remind you of anything else?
What kind of tone words would you use to describe the artist’s attitude towards the subject of their piece? Would you use positive, neutral, or negative tone words to describe it? Does the artist’s attitude seem effusive, playful, whimsical, or serene? What about indirect, understated, or objective? Or, is the tone rather despairing, foreboding, or melancholy?
How would you describe your overall emotional response to the piece? What parts of the piece (subject, color, texture, etc.) make you feel this particular way? Do you feel contemplative, warm, futile, uncomfortable, indifferent?
What are you already familiar with that helps you make sense of your artwork?
Think (the process of analysis and interpretation)
What broader contexts can you put your artwork in to understand more about what you are looking at?
Who is the artist? Where are they from? When are they from? Is the artwork representative of a particular kind of school or style?
When was the work made? What do you know about what was happening at the time? How might this knowledge reflect some of what’s happening in your artwork?
Why do you think the artist made some of the aesthetic decisions that they did, and how do these decisions affect your understanding of the artwork?
Why did the artist create this work and what might its meaning have been to them? To us, now?
Photojournalism Analysis Questions
What is your first impression of the subject in the photograph? Do you have a positive or negative reaction? What feelings or beliefs does the photograph bring up for you?
How does the photograph shape your understanding of the subject it references?
What kind of reaction do you have to the people in the photograph (if there are any)? What does their body language express to you?
Who might be the intended audience for this photograph? How might considerations about audience have shaped the choices the photographer made?
Where is the photograph displayed (alongside a news article, in a museum)? How does the location of the photograph affect how the audience perceives the content?
What is the purpose of the photograph? Was it meant to send a message about a certain news-related or historical topic?
Focus – Which aspects of the photograph are in the clearest focus? Which are out of focus?
Light – How does light highlight (or obscure) certain aspects of the photograph? How would you describe the lighting (harsh, dim, hazy, soft)? How does lighting shape our understanding of the subject?
Repetition – What colors, shapes, or features related to the subject are repeated or create a pattern? Why might the photographer have chosen to repeat this imagery?
Shape – What kinds of shapes (organic or geometric) are present in the photograph or suggested by the composition of the photograph?
Camera Angle – How does the camera angle affect our understanding of the subject? Is the shot a close-up or is the subject shot from above (which implies diminishment) or from power (which implies power)? Are there any extreme or awkward angles?
Composition – What aspects of the photograph are in the frame and which are only partially in the frame? What is in the foreground and what is in the background? How do subjects in the frame relate to each other? What is implied is most important based on the composition?
Space – Does the photograph imply a deep or shallow space? Is there any negative space or is the space filled or cramped? What does the use of space imply about the subject?
Technological Issues – Were any of the elements in the photograph altered or manipulated? Did the photograph use any filters or effects? What kind of exposure is used (over exposed, under exposed)?
Serafini, Frank. Reading the Visual: An Introduction to Teaching Multimodal Literacy. Teachers College Press, 2014.
Messham-Muir, Kit. “Three Simple Steps to Understand Art: Look, See, Think.” The Conversation, 22 Oct 2014, https://theconversation.com/three-simple-steps-to-understand-art-look-see-think-33020