Defamiliarise to engage the public: a multimodal study of a science video about COVID-19 on Chinese social media

Yiqiong Zhang, Rongle Tan, Marissa K. L. E, Sabine Tan

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Science communication plays an important role in providing accurate and up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic. It is thus necessary to investigate the various ways in which science communication can work impactfully to achieve such a purpose. Using the video “Everything about the novel coronavirus pneumonia”, which was the most viewed video on Chinese social media platforms about COVID-19 during the early stage of the outbreak, a multimodal discourse analysis is carried out here to show how the strategy of defamiliarisation is operationalised semiotically to construct meanings in the video. Defamiliarisation is defined as a rhetorical strategy of making ordinary and familiar objects look different. Drawing on analytical perspectives from multimodal discourse analysis and social semiotics, we examine how the strategy of defamiliarisation operates semiotically to represent the outbreak in a way that juxtaposes contrastive representations on three levels of meaning – textual, interpersonal and ideational. We then discuss how aspects of contrast and juxtaposition, intertextual meanings and unexpectedness can potentially facilitate audience attention and affective engagement, enabling the communication of scientifically accurate and timely information amidst the “infodemic” of communicating the science about COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiscourses, modes, media and meaning in an era of pandemic
Subtitle of host publicationa multimodal discourse analysis approach
EditorsSabine Tan, Marissa K. L. E
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781003168195
ISBN (Print)9780367767075, 9780367767099
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Multimodality

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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