Semiotic technology and practice: A multimodal social semiotic approach to PowerPoint

Sumin Zhao*, Emilia Djonov, Theo Van Leeuwen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    64 Citations (Scopus)
    1765 Downloads (Pure)


    The ubiquitous software PowerPoint has significant influence on evaluations of professional and academic success, and has attracted considerable attention from both social commentators and researchers in various fields. Existing research on PowerPoint considers the software, slideshows created with it, and PowerPoint-supported presentations in isolation from each other and is therefore unable to promote better understanding of the interaction between the software's design and its use. This article proposes a model for exploring this interaction. Specifically, it introduces a multimodal social semiotic approach to studying PowerPoint as a semiotic practice comprising three dimensions - the software's design, the multimodal composition of slideshows, and their presentation - and two semiotic artefacts, the software and the slideshow. It discusses the challenges each dimension presents for discourse analysis and social semiotic research, focusing especially on the need to step away from the notion of text and to develop a holistic, non-logocentric, and adaptive multimodal approach to researching semiotic technologies. Using PowerPoint as a case study, this article takes a step toward developing a social semiotic multimodal theory of the relation between semiotic technologies, or technologies for making meaning, and semiotic practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)349-375
    Number of pages27
    JournalText and Talk
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright de Gruyter 2014. Article originally published in Text and talk, vol 34, iss 3, pages 349-357. The original article can be found at 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.


    • PowerPoint
    • semiotic practice
    • semiotic technology
    • slideshow presentations
    • slideshows
    • software


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