Multimodality and Writing: Academic voice across modes of communication


WEDNESDAY 20 Nov, 2019


Location: Room 803, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

How has academic writing in Higher Education changed within contemporary academic environments? How is ‘academic voice’ constructed in the texts we write and read?

Dr Arlene Archer from the University of Cape Town discusses the changing status and forms of writing in Higher Education with a focus on student access and diversity. Contemporary writing is marked by an increasing multiplicity and integration of different forms of meaning-making, including images, sound and layout. This has implications for the teaching of academic writing, particularly as writing remains the main mode of assessment.

Drawing examples from her current research, Dr Archer explores changing texts, focusing on a key concept in academic writing, namely ‘voice’. In focusing on voice, Dr Archer looks at how authorial engagement is realized through semiotic choices, and the ways in which voice is constructed intertextually and through citation.

The presentation argues for the usefulness of critical metalanguages to assist students, teachers and researchers in the production and critique of different kinds of texts. Dr Archer highlights the importance of this endeavour within developing and diverse contexts, such as the South African Higher Education one.

The session is an opportunity for participants to rethink our understanding of ‘academic voice’ and consider the implications for the teaching of academic writing.

About the speaker


Dr Arlene Archer is Associate Professor and Director of the Writing Centre at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She has a PhD in Applied Linguistics and an extensive record of publications in the field of multimodality. Her research employs a multimodal social semiotic perspective to re-look at key concepts of an ‘academic literacies’ approach to teaching and research to enable student access to Higher Education. She has recently co-edited four books on multimodality and writing and has been awarded a British Academy Fellowship to investigate the changing nature and forms of writing in a digital age (2017 – 2020).

The Visual and Multimodal Research Forum is a research hub for academic discussion on multimodality run by the UCL Centre for Multimodal Research. For information about future events visit:

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