Digital communication of the International Human Genome Editing Summit. Exploring the multimodal potential of conference presentations


This study investigates the multimodal potential of conference presentations for specialized knowledge dissemination purposes during the International Summit on Human Gene Editing. The methodological framework combines a genre perspective with a social semiotic reading of multimodal artefacts, focusing on the main canvas of analysis represented by the video recording of a PowerPoint-based conference presentation, with the parallel corpus of slides and commissioned papers. The study pursues the aim to assess how different semiotic codes interact in the resulting multimodal artefact, and, specifically, how video recording of conference presentations contributes to the dissemination of scientific knowledge on human gene editing in slides and papers. The findings pinpoint the disappearance of elements typical of dissemination and popularization from the papers and the PowerPoint slides, and at the same time confirm that videos provide adaptive choices for integrating different modes for the fullest knowledge dissemination attempt, with some minor technical shortcomings.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v40p165

Keywords: conference paper presentations; multimodal meaning making; gene editing; knowledge dissemination; specialized communication


Baldry A. and Thibault P. 2005, Multimodal Transcription and Text Analysis: A Multimedia Toolkit and Coursebook, Equinox, London.

Bateman J.A. 2008, Multimodality and Genre: A Foundation for the Systematic Analysis of Multimodal Documents, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Bateman J.A. 2011, The Decomposability of Semiotic Modes, in O’Halloran K. and Smith B. (eds.), Multimodal Studies: Multiple Approaches and Domains, Routledge, London, pp. 17-38.

Bateman J.A., Wildfeuer J., Hiippala T. 2017, Multimodality: Foundations, Research and Analysis – A Problem-Oriented Introduction, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin.

Bezemer J. and Kress G. 2016, The textbook in a changing multimodal landscape, in Klug N.-M. and Stöckl H. (eds.), Hanbuch Sprache im multimodalen Kontext, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin-Boston, pp. 476-498.

Bucher H.-J. and Niemann P. 2012, Visualizing science. The reception of PowerPoint presentations, in “Visual Communication” 11 [3], pp. 283-306.

Calsamiglia H. and van Dijk T. 2004, Popularization discourse and knowledge about genome, in “Discourse and Society” 15 [4], pp. 369-389.

Carter-Thomas S. and Rowley-Jolivet E. 2003, Analysing the scientific conference presentation (CP), A methodological overview of a multimodal genre, in “Asp” 39-40, pp. 1-20.

Charles C. and Ventola E. 2002, A multi-semiotic genre: The conference slide show, in Ventola E., Shalom C. and Thompson S. (eds.), The Language of Conferencing, Peter Lang, Frankfurt, pp. 169-210.

Dubois B.L. 1980, The use of slides in bio-medical speeches, in “English for Specific Purposes” 1, pp. 45-50.

Engebretsen M. 2014, The soundslide report: Innovative journalism or misplaced works of art?, in “NORDICOM Review: Nordic Research on Media and Communication” 35 [1], pp. 99-113.

Forceville C. 2014, Relevance Theory as model for analysing visual and multimodal communication, in Machin D. (ed.), Visual Communication, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin, pp. 51-70.

Halliday M.A.K. 1994 [1985], An Introduction to Functional Grammar, Second Edition, Edward Arnold, London.

Hiippala T. 2015, The Structure of Multimodal Documents: An Empirical Approach, Routledge, London.

International Summit on Human Gene Editing. Reproduced with permission from the National Academy of Sciences, Courtesy of the National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

Jewitt C. 2014, Different approaches to multimodality, in Jewitt C. (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis, Routledge, London, pp. 31-43.

Kress G. 2009, Multimodality: a Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication, Routledge, London.

Kress G. 2014, What is mode?, in Jewitt C. (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis, Routledge, London, pp. 60-75.

Kress G. and van Leeuwen T. 2006, Reading images. The Grammar of Visual Design, Routledge, London.

Lynch T. 2011, Academic listening in the 21st century: Reviewing a decade of research, in “Journal of English for Academic Purposes” 10 [2], pp. 79-88.

Mattiello E. 2019, “Designer Babies” and “Playing God”: Metaphor, Genome Editing, and Bioethics in Popular Science Texts, in “Languages, Cultures, Mediation” 6, pp. 65-88.

Morell T. 2015, International conference paper presentations: A multimodal analysis to determine effectiveness, in “English for Specific Purposes” 37, pp. 137-150.

Moreno R. and Mayer R. 2007, Interactive multimodal learning environments, in “Educational Psychology Review” 19, pp. 309-326.

Nelkin D. 1994, Promotional metaphors and their popular appeal, in “Public Understanding of Science” 3 [1], pp. 25-31.

Nelkin D. 2001, Molecular metaphors: the gene in popular discourse, in “Nature Reviews Genetics” 2 [7], pp. 555-559.

Nikitina J. 2019, Representing Gene-Editing in Newspapers: between Science Dissemination and Fantasy, in Garzone G., Doerr R. and De Riso G. (eds.) Representing, Disseminating, and Debating Controversial Bioethical Issues in Literature and Popularised Discourse, Special issue of “Anglistica AION” 23 [1], pp. 43-57.

O’Keefe M. et al. 2015, “Editing” Genes: A Case Study About How Language Matters in Bioethics, in “The American Journal of Bioethics” 15 [12], pp. 3-10.

Petersen A. 2001, Biofantasies: Genetics and medicine in the print news media, in “Social Science and Medicine” 52 [8], pp. 1255-1268.

Pramling N. and Säljö R. 2007, Scientific Knowledge, Popularisation, and the Use of Metaphors: Modern Genetics in Popular Science Magazines, in “Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research” 51 [3], pp. 275-295.

Rowley-Jolivet E. 1999, The pivotal role of conference papers in the network of scientific communication, in “Asp” 23/26, pp. 179-196.

Rowley-Jolivet E. 2002, Visual discourse in scientific conference papers: A genre based study, in “English for Specific Purposes” 21, pp. 19-40.

Rowley-Jolivet E. 2004, Different visions, different visuals: a social semiotic analysis of field-specific visual composition in scientific conference presentations, in “Visual communication” 3 [2], pp. 145-175.

Rowley-Jolivet E. 2012, Oralising text slides in scientific conference presentations: A multimodal corpus analysis, in Boulton A., Carter-Thomas S. and Rowley-Jolivet E. (eds.), Corpus-informed research and learning in ESP: Issues and applications, John Benjamins, Amsterdam-Philadelphia, pp. 137-166.

Swales J. 1990, Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Swales J. 2004, Research Genres: Explorations and Applications, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Turney J. 1998, Frankenstein’s footsteps: Science, genetics and popular culture, Yale University Press, New Haven.

van Leeuwen T. 2005, Multimodality, genre and design, in Norris S. and Jones R.H. (eds.), Discourse in Action: Introducing Mediated Discourse Analysis, Routledge, London, pp. 73-94.

Ventola E. 2002, Why and what kind of focus on conference presentations?, in Ventola E., Shalom C. and Thompson S. (eds.), The Language of Conferencing, Peter Lang, Frankfurt, pp. 15-50.

Wells S. and Joly J.S. 2017, The trouble with collective nouns for genome editing, in “Mammalian Genome” 28 [7], pp. 365-366.

Full Text: pdf


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.