American social media on the Russia-Ukraine war: A multimodal analysis

Keywords: interactive discourse, multimodality, political Telegram channel, Russia-Ukraine war, semiotic resource


This research focuses on political narrative about the Russia-Ukraine war in American social media. It aims to investigate the type and configuration of multimodal semiotic resources used to present the events of this war and shape their perception by the audience, primarily American; The New York Times Telegram channel coverage of the 2022 Russian invasion as a case study. What kind of semiotic resources do American social media deploy to construct the narrative about the war? What are the dominant post formats, how they deploy information about the Russia-Ukraine war and construe its perception: the concepts of the war, of Ukraine as a victim of aggression and a fighter for independence, of Russia as a terrorist-state, and of their allies and opponents? Theoretically, this study is underpinned by a cognitive-semiotic, political linguistic and multimodal approach. In political media narrative, storytelling shapes perception of war realities: it frames and reframes the readers’ construal of the world, ascribes connotations to facts and events. A multimodal narrative involves different semiotic resources—verbal, graphic, audial, and cinematographic (in video). The configuration of these heterogeneous signs in a particular Telegram channel’s post defines its influence as predominantly rational or emotional. The findings show that the following post formats are typical for The New York Times Telegram channel: image followed by text and link to another site (the most frequent); gallery (a gallery of images) and quote (a quotation with its source/author as the title) (less frequent); video and audio (rarely used). They serve to accentuate, elaborate, and extend the information in the post.  I argue that Telegram posts together with users’ emoji-reactions are a specific interactive genre of a multimodal political discourse. Emojis realize both pragmatic and cognitive functions: on the one hand, they are effective instruments to measure users’ reaction; on the other, they contribute to meaning-making by evaluating and making salient the concepts described. The dominance of rational and verified information in The New York Times Telegram channel creates the true image of Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine and provides a fair assessment of related concepts.


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How to Cite
Shevchenko, I. (2022). American social media on the Russia-Ukraine war: A multimodal analysis. Cognition, Communication, Discourse, (25), 65-79.

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