Kaela Zhang (9ICOM)

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Public health education through posters in two world cities: A multimodal corpus-based analysis

In this paper, I will attempt to create multimodal understanding of public health posters used in two global cities – New York City and Hong Kong. In contrast to prior research that is either the case study that has focused on so few public health posters which is quite difficult to unravel the more representative patterns of such data and is a threat to the analysis’s validity, or the exclusively qualitative or quantitative exploration of a pool of data, I draw upon both qualitative and quantitative research methods to conduct a more holistic study. The paper examines both linguistic and non-linguistic resources that 60 public health posters make use of in the construction of health-related messages for public health education from three different vantage points of below, roundabout and above. In the first, following systemic-functional semiotics, I investigate the semiotic labour performed by each of the individual semiotic systems (i.e. language and image) on the page of the public health posters. I analyse experiential meaning and interpersonal meaning that the different semiotic resources make. In the second area of investigation, I annotate the content, layout structure, and rhetorical organisation of each poster and build an XML-based multimodal corpus. The annotated corpus provides me with a reliable empirical basis to analyse the various semiotic resources for realising logico-semantic relations as tactic patterns, to explore the possible effect of matching/mismatching hierarchical rhetorical and layout organisations. Subsequently, these two areas are complemented by a further contextual analysis, which as a whole explores how the public health posters educate the general public in New York City and Hong Kong. The results of the study might also be used to improve the information design of health education materials and to propose web-based annotation tools applied to enhancing the multimodal corpus building.



Kaela Peijia ZHANG, currently working as a research associate on Professor Christian Matthiessen’s healthcare communication research project at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), is interested in the application of functional theory and description in multimodal discourse interpretation, multiliteracy, health education and communication, etc. Being supervised by Professor Matthiessen at the PolyU, being ‘mentored’ by Professor John Bateman at Universität Bremen and Dr Tuomo Hiippala at the University of Helsinki, she built a multimodal corpus of public health posters as part of her PhD project. During the past years, Kaela attended the summer school regarding multimodal methodologies at the UCL IOE; she studied at UIUC on an attachment programme with Professor Bill Cope; she presented in several conferences in France, Germany, etc., and worked as research assistant for a couple of research projects at PolyU. Her papers include “Multimodal corpus research based on rhetorical structure theory”, etc.