Here's an idea that came to me today.
Rather than simply using words in an attempt to describe and define multimodality, I could make a short video that would be an multimodal way of doing so. If I think this is any good in the morning, I'll explore it in greater depth in due course. Maybe later in the week. It would be embedded either within the literature review or in the introductory section where I'm defining terms. It would make use of text (including quotes), photography and sound.
Actually, here's a thing: maybe I could try and use a few short videos across the the dissertation. This would include the 'defining multimodality' video above, the exploration of existing multimodal practice in the form of a walk around the campus (as described unsatisfactorily in the Lit Review) and perhaps also the idea of an evolving university crest (building on Ray Land's work) to reflect changing literacy within the academy (that I've been toying with for a while). In each case, this is a more authentic way of covering those particular areas of content (rather than in text alone).
Each video would need to be embedded in the text, although with little fuss - if they're good enough they should work in their own right, without the need for explanatory text. They should stand alone as artefacts, while also working as part of the assemblage on that particular screen.
The videos will complement and, to an extent, reproduce some what's in the surrounding text. But they'll also go further. The use of sound, colour and design will add richness. By including these videos I'll be exploring how digital multimodality can extend beyond 'words on page or screen' and I should acknowledge this in the rationale and also put a short explanation in the 'user information' that will be linked on the front page of the website.
In taking this approach, I'm taking a digital multimodal approach to themes within the dissertation that cannot be adequately described solely through words.
Assuming I do this at all, I'll need to do it sparingly, not least as each video will a take fair bit of time to prepare (much more so than would be case for text on the page/screen). I like the idea of maybe having up to three videos within key sections of the dissertation, if that's possible.
Another side effect of this is that this might replace the need for a 'soundtrack' for the wider dissertation. That's quite attractive, actually, as it makes more meaningful use of sound than simply a 'something to listen to whilst reading/viewing this stuff.
I'll write about how this might be practically/technically realised at a later date.