Combining autoethnography and multimodal social semiotics : potentials for theory and method

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Abstract: Different methodological approaches allow varying access to the objects of inquiry and enable one to ask different kinds of questions. This paper explores the possibilities that emerge through the combination of multimodal social semiotics and autoethnography. We discuss the epistemological and methodological bases for each approach and show the potentials in combining them. Drawing on an autoethnographic study in civil engineering, we argue that three aspects of research inquiry are enhanced through the combination of these approaches. These three aspects include a greater understanding of social context and its impact on meaning-making; an awareness of the multimodal nature of meaning-making; and an understanding of the ways in which the ‘interest’ of the researcher (as participant) manifests in texts. Overall, we argue that these approaches augment each other in generative ways, and allow for an in-depth look at how texts are embedded in particular practices and communities.