You encounter them every day, but do you know how to analyse digital texts? This article will make it seem easy! We explore a variety of different digital texts like websites, emails and even SMSs, show you the features unique to digital texts and strategies to analyse them.
We are living in the digital age and, consequently, digital texts are becoming more and more part of our every day lives. The English syllabus has been adapting to this. So, now you need to consider digital as well as physical texts.
What is a digital text?
A digital text is any text that is electronic or digital.
This means that they can be found on the internet, computers or laptops and your phone.
Digital texts can be made of written texts, visual images, videos, sounds, hyperlinks, interactive elements and other multimodal features! Like websites, e-books, social media apps etc.
Why analyse a website?
In today’s age of technology, we are always surrounded by digital texts; websites, social media posts, emails and more.
Digital texts have become our way of communicating, learning about the world and exploring different ideas.
Therefore, it is important that we understand how they work and how they convey meaning, especially since they play such an important role in our society.
The Stage 4 (Year 9 and 10) English Syllabus requires you to know how to analyse digital texts:
Understand and apply a wide range of reading strategies to enhance comprehension and learning for a range of print, multimodal and digital texts
Analyse and explain how language has evolved over time and how technology and the media have influenced language use and forms of communication (ACELA1528, ACELY1729)
In each Year of Stage 4 students must study examples of:
Media, multimedia and digital texts
Across the stage, the selection of texts must give students experience of:
An appropriate range of digital texts, including film, media and multimedia
How can you analyse a website?
Analysing websites might seem a little intimidating or impractical, but don’t fear!
They are live action or animated movies that let their audience make decisions and control the storyline.
To analyse interactive movies, you need to look out for:
Film techniques (includes video and audio): How do these techniques convey meaning?
Composer’s purpose: Why do an interactive movie as opposed to a normal movie? What are they trying to say?
Audience reception (and interaction): What will the audience get out of this? What do the audience’s choices tell them about themselves?
Relationship between audience and composer: Interactive shows and films give viewers choices, this changes the relationship between audience and composer. How do these choices shape the audience’s reaction? How do the composers shape the viewer’s choices? Do the viewers have the choices they feel they do?
Multimedia websites are basically websites that incorporate multimedia to engage their audiences.
They are usually more interactive than normal websites. Sometimes, multimedia websites requires audiences to actively engage with their website by pressing certain buttons or typing certain things. Buzzfeed online quizes are a good example!
These are pages that you can find on the internet… like the one you’re reading now!
Basically, the features of websites include:
Written text: pronouns, modality, punctuation, figurative language…
Visual text: website format, photographs, colours, graphs, symbols or icons…
Film and audio features: lighting, sound effects, editing…
They are usually less interactive than multimodal websites, however, they can still incorporate multimedia.
Remember, you should always figure out their purpose to help you look for relevant techniques to analyse.
Are they trying to sell a product or are they informing you of an issue? It is important to figure this out because it will help your analysis.
Online newspaper and journal articles
Both of these are non-fiction prose texts.
You would have come across online newspapers like The Guardian or 7News. These are news articles that are published online as opposed to paper.
On the other hand, journal articles are essays or reports that focus on a specific subject and is published regularly online. It is usually written by experts on the topic, based on their research like the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.
Because online newspapers and journal articles rely so heavily on currency, it is important that you take the composer’s context and the article’s context into consideration when you analyse them.
Sometimes, the information represented is outdated. Other times, the information is published so quickly it is not fully vetted and fact-checked. So, it is up to you to figure out whether or not it is reliable.
Social media posts
Facebook pages, Twitter statuses, Instagram posts, Snaps… the list goes on!
Social media posts are basically individuals, companies or groups updating their followers about their lives, an event or something else by making a “post” on “social media”.
Often, when students have to analyse social media posts, they are unsure of how to approach them.
But they shouldn’t be daunting. Treat them as you would other texts. These are some of the features that you need to look out for when you analyse social media posts:
Written language: pronouns, modality, exaggeration, figurative techniques etc.
Visual features: formatting of the page, attached images/photographs, profile pictures…
Film and audio techniques: gifs, attached videos, attached music…
Links: to another website, tagged person, downloadable content…
Remember, you need to figure out what the composer is trying to say, and how these features help them convey their message.
SMS stands for Short Message Service.
These are text messages or little pop-up chats on websites asking if you need help (like Matrix!).
It might seem weird analysing a screenshot of text messages, but these digital texts can reveal a lot about the relationship between the sender and receiver and subsequently, the wider message. Teachers often set SMS dialogues as a way of challenging students to understand how little information you need to understand characters and context. For example, you can get SMS versions of Shakespeare.
When you analyse these, you need to look for Language features: slang, truncated sentences, abbreviation, modality…When you analyse these, it is important that you pay attention to the language features. Very rarely will you see an attached image or video.
Sometimes, you might be asked to analyse the screenshot of an email.
This can be between a local and a government official, friends, family members, customer and service and so much more!
It is important that you know exactly who it is addressed to, who the sender is, their relationship and the purpose of the email.
When you know the purpose and general information about the email, it will help you know what to look for when you analyse it.
For example, a formal email to convince someone authoritative is very different from an informal email that informs someone about a day.
Snaps and Instagram posts
Most of you should know what Snapchat and Instagram are, but do you know how to analyse these contemporary digital texts?
They appear in our daily lives so often, but we never really stop to think twice about how they create meaning.
Companies, celebrities and even ordinary people use these social media to express themselves, market their products, inform the audience and so much more. To do this, these posts have to be created in a certain way, using certain techniques.
So, to analyse these digital texts, you really need to look at:
Written techniques (in the caption)
Tags – location tag, human tags, hashtags etc.
You have to identify every detail and see how it helps convey the overall message.
The different features of digital texts
Remember, digital texts are their own unique form of text. So, let’s see some techniques that you need to look out for when you analyse digital texts.
Visual images, written text and video combined
Remember, most digital texts consist of all three elements: visual images, written text and videos.
When you are learning how to analyse digital texts, the first thing you should do is to get comfortable with the features unique to all three.
You should know them well enough to easily identify and figure out the meaning.
However, do NOT analyse each of them seperately.
Digital texts don’t just rely on one form of technique, but instead, they use a variety of techniques to create meaning TOGETHER.
For example, the photographs compliment written texts by showing the readers a visual representation of the text.
So, when you analyse them, you need to make sure that your analysis explores how these techniques rely on each other to create meaning.
Hypertexts are basically words or phrases that link you to another relevant website or page when you click on it. Like THIS.
Be aware of hypertexts because they highlight the key points of the text or provide more information about it. These links often help the composer convey their meaning.
For example, John wrote an article to inform his audiences about the impacts of global warming. He inserts a hypertext that leads you to another article which explains the research for one of his statistical data that he referenced. This hypertext extends the audience’s knowledge about the issue, which is achieving the composer’s purpose.
When you analyse digital texts, remember to always identify the hypertext links and where they lead you to, because it is another way to convey meaning.
What is code-switching
Code-switching is when you change between two or more languages to cater for different people or audiences.
For example, you might speak Chinese to your parents, Vietnamese to your grandparents, but speak English at school.
When we talk about digital texts, code-switching is basically changing the language for different sites, pages, audiences etc.
By language, we mean things like using abbreviations (eg. OMG, LOL, WTH) on Twitter, formal language (eg. Dear Mr Smith) in important emails, jargon in journals, and even gifs in chats.
This is why it is important that you know the unique features of each textual form and the context of these digital texts; what platform, who is writing, who is it for, personal context etc.
Always remember too look for language techniques and link it to the context of the text.
Talking about code-switching
So, now that you know what code-switching is, how do you discuss it in your analysis of digital texts?
Just identify techniques and explain them! This includes written and visual techniques.
When you analyse digital texts, you don’t have to specifically say “code switching”. However, you do need to make sure that you are ALWAYS identifying the written or visual techniques used.
You then have to relate it to the context of the text, the composer’s context and the intended audience. Make sure that you explain how these unique language features cater to the specific audience.
For example, medical jargon in medical journals caters towards an audience of medical professionals because they know the terms and are familiar with it.
However, if this journal was written for high school students, the medical jargon would either be replaced or defined in the journal because these students would not know what they mean.
Slang and l33t speak
Have you ever seen h3110 or m8? These are examples of l33t slang.
When you are learning how to analyse digital texts, you need to look out for these slangs and l33t speak. They give an indication of the message being conveyed, and the context of the text.
This is because slang and l33t speak are only seen on specific digital platforms, for specific audiences. It is a unique language form that indicates code-switching.
Emojis and gifs
Emojis and gifs are another form of code-switching.
Sometimes, they can be literal and other times they can be an abstract representation of something deeper. It is up to you to figure out the meaning behind the emojis and gifs used.
Remember, you can also use visual techniques to analyse these features.
Strategies for analysing digital texts
In Year 10, you need to know how to analyse digital texts. We’ve gone over different types of digital texts and its features…
So, let’s see some strategies that you can implement for specific types of digital texts.
Approaches for websites
Websites use a variety of techniques, ranging from written, to visual, to film and even interactive elements.
So, how do we approach these texts without being confronted by it?
Read the title and look at the images. This will give you an indication of what the subject or topic of the website.
Read all the written text. This will further explain what the purpose of the digital text is.
Experiment with the interactive elements. Notice how it makes you feel and what you learn from it. Link this to the purpose of the digital text.
Watch any videos or listen to any songs attached. These may further explain what the purpose is.
Go back and analyse the elements in detail. Now, look for your techniques in the written text, visual images, videos, or songs. See if they are symbolic. Try to see how they convey meaning.
Link it to the context and purpose. Sometimes, you need to dig a little deeper or even research about the website to find the context. Link all your findings to this.
Combine your findings. Remember, these techniques rely on each other to create meaning. You have to link the various techniques with each other and see how they work together.
Discussing emails and conversations
Obviously, emails and conversations will rely more heavily on written text. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t use any visual images of videos.
Let’s see how we can analyse them:
Know who is the sender and the receiver. This will give you an indication of what type of relationship they have and the sort of language that is used.
Know the date. Often, emails and conversations are about current events or issues. So, the date will give you an indication of what is going on in the world to better understand what is happening and why.
Look at any visual texts. There might be attached photographs, gifs, emojis etc. These can be symbolic of the content or even complement what is written.
Read the written text. This is where you get the finer details about what is happening.
Read everything again and analyse them. Look for techniques and see how it creates meaning.
Link your findings to the purpose and context.
Combine your findings to see how every part works with each other to convey meaning and achieve the purpose.