School of Communication and the Arts


Doctor of Philosophy in Communication (PhD)


Wesley Hartley

Primary Subject Area

Speech Communication


digital multimodal communication, multimodality, multiliteracies, digital literacy, multimedia literacy, multimodal literacy, rhetorical literacy, meta-literacies, communication, multimodal communication




A digital skills gap has been noted in the literature as college students are joining the workforce lacking the communication competencies needed and expected by employers. Workplace communication is characterized by multimodal expression. The multimodal communication environment is complex and ever-changing requiring workers to possess multiple literacies, but what are these multiple literacies? The purpose of this study was to conduct a qualitative interpretative meta-synthesis (QIMS) of multimodality and multiliteracies to theorize a meta-literacy model in digital multimodal communication. The four meta-literacies may serve as future building blocks to inform pedagogies that may help close the digital workplace gap. The four meta-literacies proposed in this dissertation were: (1) digital literacy, (2) multimedia literacy, (3) multimodal literacy, and (4) rhetorical literacy. The ultimate goal is to have a more complete and cohesive understanding of what it means to be a multiliterate communicator. Using QIMS, the study cast a broad net to collect data from a wide range and number of sources. A chronology of nine frameworks were examined for evidence of the four meta-literacies while over 110 sources contributed to the definitional boundaries established for the literacies. Overarching themes from the frameworks and definitional literature informed a model for four meta-literacies in digital multimodal communication. The four meta-literacy model has theoretical and practical implications. The application of the QIMS approach in communication research has methodological implications.

Included in

Communication Commons