Exploring Reality and Consciousness with the Multimodal Essay

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

Francesca / Huang Jingfei and Echo / Shen Shuowen

Senior 2 students



This year in senior two ELA, we aim to address some philosophical questions, such as “what is reality and how do we construct it?” We read through articles, poems, plays, fiction, paintings, and photographs to approach the question from different perspectives. The play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre, the novel Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and the poem If I Told Him, A Completed Portrait of Picasso by Gertrude Stein have helped us consider ways in which writers attempt to understand reality and the human experience. The supplementary materials provide novel ideas and insights as we developed our understanding of reality. In order to better contemplate this question, we created a multimodal essay.


The purpose of composing a multimodal essay is to approach a question in multi mediums. The question that drove us to this mode is: How can we discuss consciousness and reality without words? We believe that although words are the typical medium for us to record and understand one another, each form holds its own defects. Through audio and visual composition and with the help of technology, we created a video that captures our understanding of reality and consciousness. The mediums overlap and fill in the gaps of each form.


The audio group attempted to interpret reality and consciousness with sound and music. They divided the keyboard into two areas. The bass area, combined with other sounds such as twitter and bicker, is used to represent reality, and the treble represents consciousness.


The technology group recorded everyday sounds to express emotions and compiled them together using audio programs that could alter, distort, and enhance the sounds.


The visual artists captured photos that embody an interpretation of reality and created artwork that piece reality and consciousness together using windows and waves, significant motifs from the literature we read in class, such as Woolf’sThe Waves and Kafka’sThe Metamorphosis.


What is reality and how do we construct it? This question continues to baffle philosophers ever since ancient ages. It is obvious that high schoolers cannot solve it. Yet by creating the multimodal essay, we understand this issue deeper. We began by taking in a lot of ideas based on the literature pieces we’ve previously read, then deconstructing them into fragments, and then reconstructed our ideas into the multimodal essay. The visual group made artwork on puzzled pieces; the audio group gave each note a special sound and used them to create a melody; the technology group took pictures and recorded videos that represent reality and put them together; the journalist group used words to unite all the works; the project manager organized small groups to combine and work as a big group. This multimodal essay is mainly addressed by a video which includes all types of the group work mentioned above.


Our teacher, Ms. Jodi Berry, set us on a journey to explore reality and how humans construct it. Meeting twice per week for one semester, we’ve concluded that human consciousness constructs reality. This can be divided into two aspects. Firstly, physical consciousness is what people see, smell, hear and feel around them. The other one is mental consciousness. People view the world differently—some are optimistic, some are pessimistic, and others belong to neither group. The discrepancy among personalities and past experiences shape who people are, how they think, and finally, how they construct their reality.


At the very end, we appreciate Mr. James Spires and Mr. Thomas Weber for offering substantial help in the initial phases of our multimodal essay. Thank you very much!


Student Contributions:

Alice / Li Ruyin, audio art

Christiana / Liu Zhijun, visual art

Christine / Jiang Tianran, visual art

Echo / Shen Shuowen, journalist

Francesca / Huang Jingfei, journalist

Judy / Li Jiashan, visual art

Karen / Wu Xian, audio art

Lucy / Liu Yuxi, visual art

March / Jin Zixuan, visual art

Maria / Yin Yue, project manager, and video editor

Michelle / Zhan Ruojie, audio art

Sissi / Chen Yaxi, audio art

Tracy / Guo Xingyan, sound engineer

Terry / Luo Tianyi, visual art

Victoria / Ma Mingwei, videographer

Vivi / Jiang Siqi, visual art


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Haidian District, Beijing Huangzhuang, Beijing, China  (Zip code: 100190)

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