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Posts Tagged ‘Applied Comics Network’

Next Friday, March 28th 10am – 4pm, the Applied Comics Network are holding a one-day event at Newcastle University on Comics and Research. Making, using and sharing comics can offer interesting, fun and thought-provoking potential for involving people in research, accessible ways to communicate the complexity of research, and means by which ethical issues in research can be explored.

This one-day event next week includes sessions which look at all these aspects of applied comics and research, including communication of research, comics as a method in research, graphic facilitation, sketch-noting, and comics and user experience.

As one-third of the Applied Comics Network coordinating team, I’ll be there – talking about ethics in research, with particular reference to the work I’ve been doing on the NAGPRA comics about repatriation of sacred items and ancestral remains back to Native American communities.

Speakers:

  • Lydia Wysocki (School of Education Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University)
  • Ian Horton (London College of Communication)
  • John Swogger (Archaeological Comics Network)
  • Florence Okoye (Natural History Museum)
  • Pen Mendonça (University of the Arts London)
  • Liz Todd (Newcastle University)

Although this is a free event, as lunch is provided, please use this lightbox link to register so we can keep track of numbers: https://forms.ncl.ac.uk/view.php?id=4173976

ACN Newcastle poster 96dpi 1

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YOU are the hero!

YOU are the hero!

Recognise this? If you were anything like me as a kid, then of course you do! The Choose Your Own Adventure series were a firm favourite when I was young – but then, so were comics. What would be more natural than to combine the two? How come I didn’t think of that?

Lizzie and Connor Boyle at Disconnected Press did, but (speaking as an archaeologist) they not only combined choose-your-own-adventures with comics, but they then combined it with history. To quote the Fast Show: fantastic! They’ve just published Secret Gardens, a choose-your-own-adventure comic designed to lead the reader through the folklore surrounding Lowther Castle, near Penrith. But even more than that, the book is designed to lead the reader through the gardens and castle itself.

Other comics artists have done choose-your-own-adventure comics – but combining comics, choose-your-own-adventure with historical exploration is a stroke of genius. I’ve never come across that combination before. It’s a great way to use comics to guide real-world learning. In the comics I did for CADW, we used games and activities to the same purpose.

Lizzie gave a talk at the first Applied Comics Network meet-up in London about the applied work of Disconnected Press. They have a highly innovative catalogue, and Secret Gardens is no exception. Chatting with Lizzie at Thought Bubble, I was glad to hear that they’re planning to do more at other historical properties. What’s more, I can certainly see the idea being adapted and used in other kinds of locations, like museums, art galleries – even archaeological sites…!

 

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Over The Line: An introduction to poetry comics - out now.

Over The Line: An introduction to poetry comics – out now.

One of the books I picked up at Thought Bubble last weekend was Over The Line: An introduction to poetry comics (Sidekick Books, 2015). This is a fantastic anthology with a superb critical introduction. For anyone interested in poetry, it provides not just a meaningful introduction to the diversity of the genre, but also does an excellent job of explaining how it works.

It has been interesting – and instructive – to read this anthology alongside a recent article in The Comics Grid entitled Justification of Poetry Comics: A Multimodal Theory of an Improbable Genre“. While I have no argument with author Derik Robertson‘s analysis of the poetry comics used as examples in his article, I was surprised that they all dated from prior to 2012. There has been such a flurry of professional and semi-professional examples of poetry comics published since that time, to say nothing of the development of poetry comics as a rich and distinct genre in the ‘zine and small-press community. Evidence that this expansion of the genre has, indeed, resulted in an instinctively multimodal approach (bearing out Robertson’s analytical conclusions) is clear to see among the small-press tables at events like Thought Bubble. But the disjuncture between the antiquity of Robertson’s source material and the pace of the genre’s development is a source for some concern. Robertson’s analysis is entirely sound – but its critical usefulness could have been greatly extended through the use of more recent examples.

During the Comics Forum weekend, a number of us discussed at some length the need for closer links between research and practice in comics – of the need, perhaps, to more formally (or at least, usefully) pair those who study comics and those who create them. I understand from first-hand experience in the bringing together of comics and archaeology that development of critical practice is now essential to enable the nascent genre to grow and mature. This is no less the case for comics and poetry – but analysis of the genre will benefit its creators most if it keeps pace with them.

At the Applied Comics Network we have discussed the practicalities involved in bringing practice and theory closer together – in bringing scholar and creator closer together. This must be not simply a closer relationship between analysis and practice in vague, general terms; the potential lies in a closer working relationship – for the one side to directly benefit from academic critique, and for the other to better understand the nature of creative decisions which shape text. If an approach to theory can be developed that will inform practice – and vice-versa – then both benefit.

After all, is not comics the bringing together of two distinct and complete arts: image and text? Could we not then model critical practice in comics in the same way – the bringing together of two distinct and complete arts: that of scholarship and comics-making?

 

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Laydeez Do Comics - This coming Monday, Sept. 28th, 6:30-9pm

Laydeez Do Comics – This coming Monday, Sept. 28th, 6:30-9pm

What are you doing on Monday evening?

If you’re in or around Leeds, you should be going to Laydeez do Comics. One of the speakers is Lydia Wysocki – co-founder with myself and Ian Horton of the Applied Comics Network, founder of Applied Comics Etc., educator, artist, editor, publisher and all-round great comics person to know.

Lydia’s going to be talking about two of her most recent Applied Comics Etc. projects. The first is Spineless, a comic about invertebrates created in partnership with the Great North Museum and the Hancock’s ‘Spineless’ exhibition. Lydia’s going to talk about working with guest curators/researchers and the seven comics creators involved in the project. The second project is  True War Stories, a World War I local history project in partnership with the Thomas Baker Brown archive as part of Newcastle University Library Special Collections.

There are two other speakers on the programme: Ross Mackintosh (Seeds) and Emma Donnelly (A Fat Girls Guide To Life: How to Get Through a Breakup), so it will be a great night. Laydeez is always a great event – if you’ve never been before, this is a great opportunity to find out just why Laydeez is so popular.

So, get down to Wharf Chambers in Leeds (LS2 7EQ) this coming Monday, 28th September between 6.30-9pm. Everyone is welcome – £1.50 on the door.

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I enjoyed our random-Wikipedia-article comic making so much I inked-in one of the infographic panels from my comic.

I enjoyed Saturday’s ACN random-Wikipedia-article activity so much I did a bit more research and inked-in the central infographic-style panel from my comic.

Last Saturday, at the half-way point in our Applied Comics Meetupwe made some comics. Lydia had come up with a great workshop idea that provided an excellent opportunity to not only make some informational comics, but talk about how they work as well.

She opened up Wikipedia and clicked on random article, and then we all had half an hour to make a comic based on information from that article. The result was twenty-five different comic interpretations of the same information – an amazing display of the versatility of the medium and the variety of approaches that could be used.

The exercise sparked a whole range of questions:

  • Who narrates an informational comic, and why?
  • What does humour do to an informational narrative?
  • How does knowing who your audience will be change the approach you take?
  • How does having expert knowledge or previous experience of the subject matter change the approach you take?
  • Does using colour affect the pace of the narrative?
  • How do you balance information and engagement – or entertainment?

We’re going to try and put up most of these resulting comics on the Applied Comics Network blog. It would be great to see these comics eventually spark some analysis of the different ways comics and information can be brought together.

For archaeologists interested in comics, this random-Wikipedia-article exercise should feel familiar: every time you stick a trowel in the ground it feels like you’re clicking “random article”. You know you’re going to get some kind of information out of it – but you’re never certain what. The day-by-day comics journalling I did of excavations on Carriacou last year felt like this: every morning I knew I was going to have to do a comic about something archaeological, but I didn’t know what.

I enjoyed the challenge of Saturday’s activity immensely, and I now know how to practice for this coming season’s daily journal on Palau: Applied Comics Networks‘ signature Random-Wikipedia-Article Comics™!

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Applied Comics Network - more events coming soon!

Applied Comics Network – more events coming soon!

Well, I was at our first ever Applied Comics Network meetup in London – and it was a great day, in the company of a great group of comics people. Really interesting presentations by Lizzie Boyle (Cross political satire anthology, Disconnected Press), Selina Lock (University of Leicester, research communication workshops using comics with postgrad students), Lydia Wysocki (Applied Comics Etc), Ian Williams (The Bad Doctor, Graphic Medicine) and Steve Marchant and The Cartoon Museum. Despite the interruption of a fire alarm we managed to fit in loads of interesting discussion about comics and information – and we even managed to make some comics!

Thanks to all our presenters, thanks to Lydia and Ian, and a big thanks to everyone who came along – really good to meet so many people interested in comics and information. We’re planning more events later in the year, so anyone who didn’t get a chance to come along on Saturday: keep in touch with us on Twitter, and via our Applied Comics Network blog.

 

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Interested in graphic narrative/comics and information? What are you doing on May 9th?

Interested in graphic narrative/comics and information? What are you doing today?

Hopefully, you’re coming to the Applied Comics Network Meetup between 12 and 4! A group of us creators who make informational comics on every subject from archaeology and palaeontology, to politics and medicine, will be meeting up at the London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London for a day of workshops and presentations about using this most versatile of mediums as a communications tool. The event is free, and you’re all welcome to come along for the day. In case you can’t make it, you can always follow the event on Twitter and look out for future events on the Applied Comics Network blog.

Applied Comics Network meet-up today – May 9th, 12-4pm, London College of Communication : more via ACN on Twitter

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Interested in graphic narrative/comics and information? What are you doing on May 9th?

Interested in graphic narrative/comics and information? What are you doing tomorrow?

If you’re interested in comics and information, I hope you’re planning to come to the Applied Comics Network Meet-up. It’s an open, free, informal get-together for anyone who’s interested in comics and information. We’ve got four hours of talks, discussions and workshops planned; it’ll be a great opportunity for anyone interested in the subject to network and talk with like-minded comics creators from across the country.

So, whether you make informational or educational comics, graphic textbooks or teaching material, whether you use comics in the classroom or in training, whether you’re a teacher, educator or training specialist looking to develop innovative communication tools – you should be at the meet-up!

We’re meeting in Room T304 at the London College of Communication in Elephant & Castle, London. There’s full details on the poster (left); and you can find out more about the day by following us on Twitter.

And if you can’t make it – don’t worry! We’re an ongoing network, so find us on Twitter and stay in touch for more events.

 

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Panel from Element Zero - Suleiman Bakhit (2012)

Panel from Element Zero – Suleiman Bakhit (2012)

As I’ve been looking at examples of comics used to communicate information, I have been reminded that information is sometimes a troublesome concept in and of itself. Take, for example, the extraordinary comics of Suleiman Bakhit. A Jordanian entrepreneur and comics creator, Bakhit uses comics as a vehicle for a strongly anti-fundamentalist message, creating works that feature terrorist and jihadi-fighting superheroes. Bakhit acknowledges that his works are as intended as much as education as entertainment. Their aim is to present another side to the jihadist story – one that uses the concepts of heroism which are so often used to underpin jihadist recruitment propaganda, particularly when aimed at the young. Bakhit makes the point that jihadist groups use film and even video games to promote their ideology as heroic. What better than the superhero to combat that?

In a 2012 TED talk, Bakhit describes his work as “fighting to change how the West sees Arab youth — and how Arab youth see themselves — one superhero at a time.” He’s now using not only print comics, but games and TV shows to promote this idea. Comics have long been used as a vehicle for social and cultural messages. The first proper comic book I ever owned as a kid in the 1970s was about energy – narrated by Mickey Mouse and Goofy, and sponsored by Exxon. The danger is, of course, that the medium becomes tainted by the message. Bakhit’s challenge must be to ensure that his comics are read as much because they are good comics as for whatever message they contain.

So too for any of us – if we’re trying to change people’s attitudes towards science, or archaeology, or medicine, we have to ensure that – like Suleiman Bakhit – we’re as committed to the comic as much as what it’s intended to communicate. “The best technology we have to cultivate heroic motivation is this medium right here. The comic book.” That’s the voice of a man who takes comics seriously.

Don’t forget: Applied Comics Network meet-up day – May 9th, 12-4pm, London College of Communication : more via ACN on Twitter

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"Sweet Temptations" - fotonovela produced by Melvin F. Baron & team, 2014.

“Sweet Temptations” – fotonovela produced by Melvin F. Baron & team, 2014.

One of the real treats at last year’s Comics & Medicine conference in Baltimore was a presentation by Melvin F. Baron, Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy. He gave a fantastic talk on the use of fotonovelas in raising awareness of diabetes and disseminating information about diabetes-prevention among Latino communities in East Los Angeles.

The fotonovela is a photo-comic, popular in Latino communities since the mid-twentieth century, often vehicles for dramatic, romantic stories. Recently, they have been adopted as a medium for health information, and Melvin talked more about how effective they were as a communication tool (more on that evaluation here and here). He had a stack of them to give away, and I was lucky enough to grab three of them – and they’re great! They’re pocket-sized, published in both English and Spanish in the same volume, and have a 24-page photo-story followed by a three-page Q&A-based “additional information” bit with the main characters from the fotonovela story.

What I found particularly interesting in Melvin’s project (and in other uses of fotonovelas among Latino communities), was the decision to not just use, but exploit a specific comic format and style familiar to, and accepted by, a specific audience. Sweet Temptations is not just a diabetes information booklet in the form of a fotonovela, it is a fotonovela about diabetes: the distinction here is more than just semantics. You could pick up Sweet Temptations and read it as just another fotonovela – the characters, situations, style of production, look and feel of the booklet all make it feel like a “real” fotonovela. But it’s more than just a clever pastiche. The larger-than-life characters, the fast-pacing of the story, the dramatic script, the hammy acting – all these inextricable characteristics of the fotonovela are intentionally used to further the health-based narrative, enliven the informational content and push the message home.

Too often informational comics simply use a “standard” comics approach rather than explore the medium more closely. This can result in a comic which looks like a comic, but doesn’t go much further. What I’m starting to learn is that understanding and exploiting a target audience’s specific expectations of comics can deliver works that are more than simply attractive or appealing, but truly effective.

Don’t forget: Applied Comics Network meet-up day – May 9th, 12-4pm, London College of Communication : more via ACN on Twitter

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