Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

Professional Communication

Committee Chair/Advisor

Katz, Steven B

Committee Member

Holmevik , Jan

Committee Member

Hilligoss , Susan


As scholarly theories and explorations of visuality continue to grow in prominence within the discourse on multimodal communication, a gap remains in the literature regarding the affective qualities of sound in multimedia messages. The following study attempts to address this gap and likewise propose a theory of auralacy (aural literacy) by examining the audiovisual interactions present in three different pharmaceutical commercials.
This study begins by examining literature regarding Gestalt perceptual theory, with emphasis on its origins, historical developments, and current status in perceptual research. The literature shows that perceptual wholes may be formed visually, tactilely, aurally, or even intermodally. After reviewing this literature, a holistic methodology is presented for the interpretation of multimodal messages. Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen`s Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design is invoked to help analyze on-screen movement of visuals in the pharmaceutical commercials, and Leonard Meyer`s principles of pattern perception--derived from Gestalt theory and set forth in Emotion and Meaning and Music--are brought to bear on the advertisement`s soundscapes. The affective qualities of each soundscape are examined, including music, narration, and sound effects. A visual strategy for presenting audiovisual interaction, dubbed as the movement analysis, is used to help foreground the aural mode and display patterns of movement and shape. This study concludes with a discussion of auralacy as an important tool for understanding contemporary composition and communication, as well as potential directions for further developing the movement analysis.



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