How do speakers who use both words and images employ MFG? And how can they do so intentionally and effectively? As you can see in the illustration below, the speaker refers to the image on the screen in three different ways. These are three types of multiform references (MFRs) that integrate words and images into a unified meaning. The first MFR is an explicit one, in which the speaker refers to the image directly and overtly by saying: “as the image shows…” When the audience hears this phrase, it knows that anything that will be said afterward will address what the image on the screen represents in the eyes of the speaker. By using an explicit MFR, the speaker develops a clear expectation among the audience and, consequently, enables it to agree or disagree with the speaker’s multiform argument (MFA).
The second phrase says: “the modern perception of Earth…” In this case, the MFR between the words and the image is an implicit one as it doesn’t refer directly to what the image shows. Instead, this implicit MFR builds on the semantic similarity that the term “Earth” and the image on the screen maintain. Does the image on the screen represent “Earth”? Does “Earth” represent the image? Not necessarily, since there are various ways to visually represent “Earth,” and there are various meanings that the image on the screen may signify, which we can describe through terms other than “Earth.” Put differently, the term “Earth” and the image on the screen are not “synonyms,” although they may denote, in specific contexts, the same meaning. Thus, in implicit MFRs, the context plays a role; we do need to know how “the modern perception of…” in this phrase operates within the whole MFA, to develop any critical view of this multiform rhetoric. Importantly, even with such a critical view, in this example, there is no explicit reference between the spoken component of the MFA and its visual one.
The third phrase says: “we are the world…” Do the phrase and the image on the screen create a new, unified meaning? And if so, how do they do this? The semantic distance between the term “world” and the image is shorter than the one between “we” and the image. Yet, to what extent the term “world” and the image denote the same meaning? When the speaker says “world” or “the world,” do they refer to what the image on the screen represents? Well, also here, it depends on the context. We need to know how the speaker uses the term “world” and this image, within the MFA, to assess the connection between the two. At the same time, since the phrase “we are the world” is a metaphor that describes who “we” are, and the image may (in specific contexts) denote “the world,” we may interpret the image as “we.” If we do so – if this is the new unified meaning that this multiform rhetoric implies – then we should look for ideologies that are subtly expressed between words and images, through indeterminate MFRs.