Kineikonic Mode

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The kineikonic mode is a term for the moving image as a multimodal form. It indicates an approach to the analysis of film, video, television and any instance of moving image media that examines how systems of signification such as image, speech, dramatic action, music and other communicative processes work together to create meaning within the spatial and temporal frames of filming and editing.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


As a way of exploring how informal digital video production involved not only the familiar functions of filming and editing, but also the dramatization of identity, drawing from film theory and multimodality theory, Andrew Burn and David Parker coined the term kineikonic in 2003 by combining the Greek words kinein meaning "to move" and eikon meaning "image".[7][1] Kineikonic analysis pays attention to how the modes of the moving image, such as speech, music, dramatic action, work together in kineikonic texts, be they film, video, videogame or animation, by observing both the modes within an individual frame and also how these modes work together throughout the temporal sequence of the text, both within and beyond the level of the shot.[1][8] In this sense, the kineikonic model disputes Metz's proposal that there can be no grammar of film below the level of the shot.[9] The concept of 'mode' stems from multimodal theory, and refers to 'a set of socially and culturally shaped resources for making meaning. Mode classifies a ‘channel’ of representation or communication for which previously no overarching name had been proposed'.[10] By examining modes, such as sound, movement, image, and gesture, analysts can understand how the meaning of a text is constructed across and between the signifying systems of these semiotic forms.[11][12]

The kineikonic mode[edit]

One can understand the kineikonic mode by examining each mode individually, such as tracing the rhythm, melody or harmonic patterns of the music in and across the shots of a film. However, a central proposition of the kineikonic is a theory of how the 'contributory' modes are organized by the 'orchestrating modes' of filming and editing: how they have been juxtaposed to work both through the space of the film (the frames), and through the timeline of the film, the movement through time of the images, as well as the time-based modes of language, music and sound.[8][13]

The importance of the theory of the kineikonic mode[edit]

The kineikonic mode has been important in contemporary analyses of filmic text because it moves beyond the dominant emphasis in film studies on the processes of filming and editing to a common set of semiotic principles operating across all the modes involved. The kineikonic mode provides a language with which to analyze the elements within and throughout a film in a way that recognizes how all of the pieces of the film work both by themselves and together to create meaning. In deploying a multimodal and social semiotic theory of communication, it also allows for a common analytical framework to be applied across the moving image text and its context, so that the text can be analysed in relation to the meanings created by different media of exhibition (projectors, the internet, mobile phones), and by their discursive surroundings (cinemas, YouTube, tablet interfaces), as well as in relation to their regimes of production and reception.

Contemporary uses of the theory of the kineikonic mode[edit]

Since its coining in 2003, the theory of the kineikonic mode has been expanded in several ways. Some have examined how tracing the kineikonic mode can show how particular youth identities are represented in youth-produced videos, such as representing a Native self through the ways in which various modes are highlighted and put together.,[13] or how primary school children use embodied modes of action and self-representation to invoke memory and construct identity.[14] Another expansion of the theory is to examine in more detail how time works in the orchestration of the modes.[15][16] Andrew Burn has expanded his own theory to discuss both this new temporal understanding of the kinekonic, but also by developing the idea of the metamodal kineikonic. The metamodal kineikonic shows how modes "nest" in one another and how this nesting can be analysed at whatever level suits the purposes of the analyst, whether it be at the orchestrating level or at the smallest level of granularity, such as tonal contour in spoken language, or a lighting change.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Burn, Andrew; Parker, David (2003). Analysing Media Texts. London, UK: Continuum International Publishing Group.
  2. ^ Mills, Kathy (2011). ""Now I know their secrets": Kineikonic texts in the literacy classroom". Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. 34 (1): 24–37.
  3. ^ Mattar, Shaikha Nurfarah. "Problematising The Self-Representation Of Race And Gender In Vines: Who Has The Last Laugh?" (PDF). MEDIA@LSE MSc Dissertation Series. London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Media and Communications. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  4. ^ Mills, Kathy (2010). "Shrek meets Vygotsky". Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 54 (1): 35–41.
  5. ^ Halverson, Erica (2010). "Film as Identity Exploration: A Multimodal Analysis of Youth-Produced Films". Teachers College Record. 112 (9): 2352–2378.
  6. ^ Gilje, Oystein (2015). "Writing Within and Across Modes in Filmmaking". In Archer, Arlene; Breuer, Esther (eds.). Multimodality in Writing: The State of the Art in Theory, Methodology, and Pedagogy. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijtke Brill NV. pp. 153–174.
  7. ^ Burn, Andrew (2009). Making New Media: Creative Production and Digital Literacies. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
  8. ^ a b c Burn, Andrew. "The Kineikonic Mode: Towards a Multimodal Approach to Moving Image Media". NCRM Working Paper. NCRM, London, UK. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  9. ^ Metz, Christian (1974). Film Language. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago University Press.
  10. ^ "Glossary of Multimodal Terms". MODE NCRM node in multimodal research methods.
  11. ^ Kress, Gunther; Van Leeuwen, Theo (2006). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (2nd ed.). London; New York: Routledge.
  12. ^ Jewitt, Carey (2014). The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. New York: Routledge.
  13. ^ a b Gibbons, Damiana (2010). "Tracing the Paths of Moving Artifacts in Youth Media Production" (PDF). English Teaching: Practice and Critique. 9 (1): 8–21.
  14. ^ Potter, John (2005). "'"This brings back a lot of memories": a Case Study in the analysis of video production by young learners'". Education, Communication and Information. 5 (1).
  15. ^ Curwood, Jenn Scott; Gibbons, Damiana (2010). "'Just as I have felt': Multimodal Counternarratives in Youth-Produced Digital Media". International Journal of Learning and Media. 2 (1): 59–77.
  16. ^ Gibbons, Damiana; Drift, Téa; Drift, Deanna (2011). "Whose Story Is It? Being Native and American: Crossing Borders, Hyphenated Selves". In Fisherkeller, JoEllen (ed.). International Perspectives on Youth Media: Cultures of Production & Education. New York: Peter Lang Publishers. pp. 172–191.