Responses to the launch of M-Scopes by members of our collaborative network, Aaron Fry, Carol Overby, and Jennifer Wilson, as well as Kay O’Halloran, and Sabine Tan.


Aaron Fry, Carol Overby, and Jennifer Wilson

The Visualizing Finance Lab is a small group of academics, artists and educators based at The New School in New York City, we work at the intersection of finance, education and design. Our lab’s goals are to promote academic and applied methods for empowerment and positive social and institutional change through the development of tools, discussion, network building and other dissemination opportunities that will facilitate communication among designers, art directors, financial educators, financial institutions, and the public.
The three principal members of the lab are co-directors Aaron Fry, Associate Professor, School of Design Strategies, Carol Overby, Assistant Professor, School of Design Strategies and Jennifer Wilson, Associate Professor, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts.

As noted, it is vital to understand how multisemiotic resources can be used to enhance both financial journalism and financial literacy. As large data sets and quantitative models take on ever-more important roles in analyzing economic trends, much of the focus has been on harnessing technology to develop new techniques of data visualization. The M-Scopes project, however, rightly insists that it is time now to take a broader approach to the analysis of financial and economic communication. We need to understand how visualizations and other modalities can be used to communicate the larger narrative – to tell the story of a changing financial world rather than simply providing better resolution or by providing fragmented snapshots of disparate aspects of it. This observation is echoed by George Lakeoff when he laments the dearth of emotively directed framings of issues in favor of a proliferation of “issue silos” in neo-liberal thought. For financial journalism, the choice of visualization or communicative act does more than inform the viewer/reader, it helps to shape their emotional response to the information. Research since the late 1970s in the realm of what became known as behavioral economics shows that our financial behaviors and decision-making are indelibly linked to our emotions and our reactions to situations of risk and uncertainty.

M-scopes’ efforts to understand how multimodal texts operate can both better help us understand how to communicate economic information, and also support financial literacy and empowerment for individuals and societies. Clearly this is a worthy goal, but
it can also be viewed as a belief that if we have more powerful tools then we can beat the problem (of financial literacy). While it is true that mulimodality (as in the case of multi-media) provides today’s financial authors with a powerful array of tools for communicating with citizens and communities, we believe that some of the same old problems remain; these being problems of adoption and agency; how do readers believe in, and then act on, financial information in their own and societies’ interests?  We encourage M-scopes to acknowledge the behavioral aspects going forward.


Lakeoff, George, 2008. The Political Mind, Viking. 51-60

Kahneman, D and Tversky, A, 1979. Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk.

Econometrica, Vol. 47, No. 2. 263-292.

Related websites:



Kay L. O’Halloran

Director of the Multimodal Analysis Lab, Deputy Director of the Interactive & Digital Media Institute (IDMI) and Associate Professor in the Department of English Language & Literature at the National University of Singapore. Her research areas include multimodality, with a specific interest in multimodal approaches to mathematical discourse, and the development of interactive digital technology for multimodal analysis (see

The launch of the M-Scopes research initiative aimed at understanding the multimodal signification of finance and the economy in the news media, with a focus on the eurozone (and its relations to the global economy), is both timely and urgent. The impact of new media technologies on the presentation of information by news networks has been documented (e.g. see Allan, 2006, Tan 2011). The confluence of the internet and cable network television has, for example, ‘led to new, variegated forms of [business] news discourse, much of which tend to be mediated “live” through ‘talk-as-interaction’’ where ‘social identities and relationships are constructed and negotiated multimodally in semiotic space by popular business news networks such as Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business, and Reuters’ [].

The exact nature of financial and business news representations are yet to be understood, however, given the enormous amount of data which is generated daily and the lack of sophisticated techniques for multimodal analysis of large data sets. However, just as digital technology is being used to present financial news and the state of the eurozone, so it can also be harnessed to interpret these multimodal representations, with view to showing recurring patterns across different media outlets (O’Halloran et al. in press).

We have already demonstrated how computational state diagrams offer empirically motivated insights into the distinctive styles that are adopted by different business news networks for representations of social actors and social interactions (Tan et al., submitted for publication). We suggest further avenues for research with a view to developing ‘multimodal digital semiotics’ as a branch of digital humanities (e.g. Berry 2011, also see The M-Scopes project, with its focus on economic data and financial news reporting, fits exactly into this new research paradigm, which is an exciting prospect.


Allen, Stuart (2006). Online News: Journalism and the Internet. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Berry, D. M. (2011). The Computational Turn: Thinking about the Digital Humanities. Culture Machine, 12, 1-22.

O’Halloran, K. L., Podlasov, A., Chua, A. E & Marissa K. L. (accepted, 2012). Interactive Software for Multimodal Analysis. Special Issue on Methodologies: Visual Communication.

Tan, Sabine (2011). Facts, Opinions and Media Spectacle: Exploring Representations of Business News on the Internet. Discourse & Communication, 5(2): 169-194.

Tan, Sabine, Podlasov, Alexey, and O’Halloran Kay L. (submitted for publication). Using Graphic Tools for Visualizing Patterns in on-line Business News Videos. Visual Studies.

Related websites:

Multimodal Digital Semiotics

Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches



Sabine Tan

PhD Scholar, c/o Multimodal Analysis Lab, Interactive & Digital Media Institute (IDMI), National University of Singapore. E-mail: Her research interests include multimodal discourse analysis, social semiotics, and visual communication, with a particular interest in business and financial news discourses mediated on the internet and television.

The launch of the trans-disciplinary M-Scopes research project comes at an opportune time. In an era marked by incessant economic turbulence and instability, business and finance news have come to dominate the global media landscape. While in the past business and finance represented a specialist discourse field reserved largely for professional audiences, contemporary participants in this domain comprise an ever-growing pool of non-experts.

In the digital age, the internet and new media platforms have become an important vehicle for both the dissemination and consumption of economic news (e.g. see Pew Research Center 2010, 2011). More and more news agencies as well as monetary authorities around the world have begun to transcend traditional news media by harnessing the potential of new media applications and social media outlets, not simply to reach but also actively engage the ordinary citizen directly or indirectly affected by the reported fiscal measures (see related websites).

Not only have these developments involving new media technology influenced the ways in which audiences engage with and receive news about finance and the economy, they have also affected the ways in which fiscal news are contextualized and represented for diverse audiences with varied levels of financial literacy. Yet, the research community knows surprisingly very little about the complexities of fiscal reporting involving multimedia platforms, which routinely deploy dynamic, interactive blends of verbiage, images, graphic displays, digitized photographs, and embedded audio and video clips (see also Tan, 2011).

I am honored to be part of this international research initiative, and look forward to contributing to the M-Scopes collaborative network on the topic of multimodal representations and significations of business and finance news in contemporary media.


Pew Research Center (2010a). A New Phase In Our Digital Lives. Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence In Journalism. (

Pew Research Center (2010b). Understanding the Participatory News Consumer – How Internet and Cell Phone Users Have Turned News into a Social Experience. Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence In Journalism. (

Pew Research Center (2011). How Mainstream Media Outlets Use Twitter. Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence In Journalism. (

Tan, Sabine (2011). Facts, Opinions and Media Spectacle: Exploring Representations of Business News on the Internet. Discourse & Communication, 5(2): 169-194.

Related websites:!/usgpo!/mofsg



  • Jenna Hartel

    Congratulations on this interesting project. I’ll be following from the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. Good luck!

  • Matti Rudanko

    Like Jenna below, I congratulate all of you for launching this innovative and inspiring project! My approach to financial markets is that of legal science (the regulation of the markets), but I believe that a wide-range combination of methodological views and tools is required for an understanding of the markets and their role in society and the global market – and as a set of discourses! This means the need of interaction between communication science, psychology, business economics theories of finance, law, sociology, etc. I’m enthusiastic for thinking about possible links e.g. between the legal science approach and that of yours!