First Advisor

Alissa Hartig

Term of Graduation

Summer 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




multimodal discourse analysis, science popularization, social media, systemic functional grammar, transitivity, visual grammar



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 94 pages)


In an increasingly interconnected society where science and technology are advancing at a rapid pace, knowledge dissemination, specifically in terms of public engagement and popularization, must be both encouraged and critically evaluated. As an internationally recognized government agency that is dedicated to the advancement of space exploration and present on several social media platforms, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provides a useful lens from which to analyze large-scale messaging of multimodal scientific information. Although there is a substantial amount of linguistic research into political and government-based messaging in social media, there is not much literature on the social media communication of NASA.

This study examines posts from NASA's primary Instagram account in order to understand how the agency is communicating with its "ambient audience" about its Artemis I mission. Linguistic data include every post that mentions this mission between January and December 2022 (51 posts, totaling 949 clauses). Of these posts, 10 were selected for image analysis (27 photos). The captions and image content in these posts are analyzed using a multimodal approach that draws on the frameworks of systemic functional grammar and visual grammar, focusing on the ideational/representational metafunction, which reflects the perception of human experience. Results show that linguistic material processes and visual narrative structures are most frequent, which suggests that NASA's Instagram posts display an action- and transformation-oriented message centered around storytelling of the agency's goals and activities. Overall, the data present a cohesive message in terms of multimodal communication for the general public.


© 2023 Danica Lynn Tomber

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