Launch of the new International Multimodal Communication Centre (IMCC)

You are invited to the launch of the new International Multimodal Communication Centre (IMCC):

Event Programme:

5 pm – 5.15 pm:

Opening remarks: Prof. Timothy Power, Head of OSGA

IMCC: Brief overview: Drs Scott Hale (OII) and Anna Wilson (OSGA), Co-directors of IMCC

IMCC partners: Mr Gavin Pearson

5.15 pm - 6.25 pm: Keynote Talk: Prof. Geoffrey Beattie, Edge Hill University

6.25 pm - 7.15 pm: Wine Reception


Keynote Talk: Visible Thought: The Critical Role of Hand Gestures in Everyday Communication.

Professor Geoffrey Beattie, Edge Hill University

Abstract: Human beings frequently make hand movements whilst they are talking. These gestural movements are often imagistic in form and co-occur alongside the speech itself. There has been considerable debate in psychology over many years about their function, but it is now clear that they often convey core parts of the underlying message. Since we have little conscious awareness of these movements, they can be particularly revealing - we control what we say in our speech but find it difficult, or impossible, to control the content and form of these gestural movements. Their form and ‘meaning’ may not match the accompanying speech and these gesture-speech mismatches can indicate various underlying psychological states, including attempts at deception. I will argue for the essential unity of speech and gesture in the transmission of thought, and suggest that we have underestimated the considerable communicative significance of these movements. These movements make thought visible, and we are able, quite literally, to ‘see’ what people mean in everyday conversations.


Geoffrey Beattie is Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University and an applied social psychologist with research interests in multi-modal communication and applied social psychology. His research on multi-modal communication offers a major reconceptualization of bodily communication, by focussing on the close connections between gestures, speech and thinking in linguistic generation (‘Visible Thought’, 2003; ‘Rethinking Body Language’, 2016). He has a first class honours degree in psychology from the University of Birmingham and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, Trinity College. He was awarded the Spearman Medal by the British Psychological Society for 'published psychological research of outstanding merit' and the internationally acclaimed Mouton d'Or for his work in semiotics. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the author of 25 books published by Granta, Victor Gollancz, Chatto & Windus, Penguin, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Orion, Headline, Routledge etc., which have been translated into a variety of languages. He has published over one hundred academic articles in a range of journals including Nature, Nature Climate Change and Semiotica. He was the resident on-screen psychologist for eleven series of Big Brother on Channel 4 from 2000-2010, and has presented a number of television series, which have applied psychology to everyday life, including 'Life's Too Short' (BBC1), 'Family SOS' (BBC1), 'The Farm of Fussy Eaters' (UKTV) and 'Dump Your Mates in Four Days' (Channel 4).


What is ‘multimodal’ analysis? Why have a multimodal communication centre? Why now?

Multimodal analysis is the combined analysis of at least two of the following aspects of human communication: verbal, sound, and visual. It is becoming increasingly relevant to researchers and research students from a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines as well as computer science and engineering science / natural sciences.

Most human communication is more than just words on a page; it is multimodal. How are verbal input, visual input and sound input integrated to generate messages and support their understanding? What do intonation, facial expression, gesture and body language add to the message communicated? How do producers use timing, settings, camera movement, etc. to manipulate their television or cinema audiences? How do media outlets frame the same event from different angles by foregrounding certain aspects of multimodal communication? How do dissidents use additional multimodal cues to direct the reading of a text in a particular way while preserving deniability with regards to the raw words on the page?  How do people use images, emoticons, videos to communicate multimodally on social media? How do our understanding of mechanisms and underlying goals of multimodal communication inform research in linguistics, psychology, political science, international relations, sociology, media studies, journalism studies, business and economics, cultural and cognitive anthropology, history of art, archaeology, computer science, engineering science?

There is a need to develop analytical models and methods for multimodal communication and large multimodal communication datasets on which these models/methods can be tested, as well as the combined pipelines of tools suitable for semi-automatic and automatic indexing and the annotation and analysis of such datasets. There is a further need to develop training and build capacity in research methods suitable for multimodal communication and discourse analyses. There is also a need to provide a multimodal research evidence-base to Knowledge Exchange (KE) projects.

The International Multimodal Communication Centre meets these needs and situates the University of Oxford at the forefront of multimodal communication research through establishing the International Multimodal Communication Centre (IMCC), which serves as a hub for interdisciplinary and inter-regional research, facilitate KE, and support teaching and training.

Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) with the support of Oxford Internet Institute (OII), St Antony’s College, Oxford, and Red Hen Lab