21. Field and multimodal texts
Wendy L. Bowcher [+]
I wish to ask a seemingly basic question regarding multimodal texts, which I do not believe has been adequately answered in the literature so far. My question is: using Halliday’s model of context and in particular, the system networks of field developed by Hasan (1999), how can we account for context of situation in relation to multimodal texts? A second and related question is: how can we represent the construal of field in multimodal texts within the current SFL theoretical model? Before moving on to my attempt to answer these questions three important points need to be made. First, this chapter works within my interpretation of the traditional model of context as outlined by Halliday (see especially 1978; 1985) and as developed by Hasan (1995; 1999).2 Second, the focus of this chapter is on fi eld, but it should be pointed out that fi eld is one of the conceptual components of context of situation and that the parameters of fi eld are permeable. That is, although we can talk about the different contextual variables as though they were separate entities, they are interdependent and their configuration within any one situation is ‘like a chemical solution, where each factor affects the meaning of the others’ (Hasan, 1995: 231). Third, it is not possible to take account of all the different types and shapes of multimodal texts. Therefore, this chapter presents observations about the relationship between context (fi eld) and multimodal text on the basis of two page-based multimodal instructional texts. It is hoped, however, that the analyses and the discussion in this chapter will offer theoretical insights which may be useful in analysing other multimodal texts.