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Essay: Interactive Comics?
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Neil Cohn
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2005 11:34 pm    Post subject: Essay: Interactive Comics? Reply with quote

Just thought I'd let you all know that a new essay of mine is posted at Comixpedia. Its about how the "language of comics" deals with issues of social interactivity. Here's the first paragraph:

Quote:
Sometimes, when people hear my proposal that the "comics medium" is literally a visual language (VL), I receive a response of disbelief stating something like, "What, do you expect people to carry around little pads of paper so they can 'talk' in comic form?" Statements like this bring up an important aspect of language that is essential to address in visual language studies: the social and interactive role of language. Throughout this article, I will address how the role of social interactivity with regard to comics contributes to a further understanding of visual language.

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Eric F Myers
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm always drawing pictures for someone to show my thoughts in real time. It happens all of the time. I'm having a conversation with someone and I don't quite know how to describe something so I grab a napkin and draw a diagram, a person, a map, etc. The picture changes as we talk, forming new images and ideas in sequence over time (comics!). The weird thing is that my coworkers have picked up my habit and now do the same. You might say that our language skills in the office are breaking down and we are becoming child-like, but I would say that communication has improved because we're more likely to understand each other. When someone draws you a picture there is less doubt about what the other is talking about. I'm also in charge of documenting the I.S. manuals and since I started adding detailed pictures (in sequential order) more people have less question about the instructions. Comics improving job skills!
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sillyfran
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The article was interesting.
I just wanted to note a few things:
From the distance, you seem able to recognise a "Japanase", or "Manga" style.
From the distance, i am able to recognise a "super heroe" style.

Not every comic in Japan is mainstream manga and not every comic in north-america is that mainstream super heroe thingy.
Anyway, it's easy to see that mainstream comics are all drawn with a similar style, same as in Japan.

Interestingly enough, that's not the case in France (where comics are a very popular thing, wich sets a similar landmark to the one in Japan).

And i don't think those styles (north american and japanese) are borned just from imitation. I think they are the result of a whole cultural process, that involves everything from visual arts to day to day life.
And how comics are produced and reproduced.
All of the comics from the "golden age" of argentinean comics were produced (and reproduced) in black and white. Therefore, most of the argentinean artists are recognized by their expresive use of black and white. Not only that, comics are undestood as black and white, even when the artists has achance to work them in color (an example you might be familiar with: 100 bullets is publisehd in color, but Eduardo Risso thinks of it AND works it as a black and white thing).


There were some other things, but now i forgot. Maybe later.

Cheerio,
-Fran Lopez (some random guy from argentina)
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Neil Cohn
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Efm? thats very cool that you've been drawing in real time that way. I personally would hesitate from calling it "comics" but it most certainly reflects the type of thing I'm talking about. I'm curious, have you and your co-workers developed any conventional symbols or things that only you guys understand?

Fran?? Without a doubt, there are identifiable stylistic differences between genres. I attribute these to being "dialect" differences, akin to the variation between the way someone speaks in Texas versus California or Boston. There are small subtle differences in vocabulary and accent, but they are all still speaking English grammar. The same is true in visual form. Even the non-mainstream Japanese authors are still identifiable as "Japanese". This is becoming slightly more ambiguous because so many Americans are trying to draw in a Japanese style. In those cases, I would appeal to other more grammatical differences found in the way their sequences are constructed. (Think of it like people inserting Japanese words into English grammar).

When I talk about imitation, I'm refering to processual development ? and I don't think anyone would deny that language as a whole relies on cultural environment. If you're interested, I discuss the reasoning for imitation versus individuality much more in my article Art vs. Language.

I look forward to hearing any more thoughts you have!
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sillyfran
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's see. It's not the first time someone is trying to explain me comics as a language. The work of Umberto Eco and other semeiologists would be the mandatory reference.
Even thoug i'm not so sure about that, let's treat comics as a language in the argument.

And if I do that, the only problem i find with your approach is the treatment of drawing.
I don't belive syntax or grammar in comics should be looked for in similar drawing styles.

The interesting thing about this visual language (comics) it's that it's intuitive. Usually, comics are organized as the usual written lanuage (i mean, left to right and up to down).
BUT, the comic creators that work the subject of syntax it self usually escape that "traditional" syntax and create a whole new one (let's say stuff like Ware's Quimby the Mouse or almost everything from Will Eisner).
If you read Quimby the Mouse, that whole reading is turned upside down, but it doesn't needs you to re-learn the language, because that "upside down" reading is completley intuitive.
On the other hand, some of Will Eisener's graphic novels usually escape the "traditional" sense of panel-to-panel transition.

If comics are a language, every comic creates it's own language (structure wise, i mean - grammar, syntax, etc), i think.


Anyway, gotta go to sleep now, tomorrow i'll keep on reading (is nice to find a new person who's smart and it's thinking about comics),
-Fran lopez (by the way, english it's not similar to european languages, english IS an european language)

PS: Hey, i kinda remember now why i'm not so sure about comics working as a language it self. I belive it was Groesteen who noticed it. It had something to do with the lack of minimal units of "meaning" (i hope you realize i'm translating to english a vague memory of a text in french). I cannot remember now but it was quite convincing when i red it some time ago. Anyway, i promess to look it up for you tomorrow.
PPS: And why is it that USA's essays on comics usually and only quote McCloud's Work? And why is it that McCloud's work only quotes Will Eisner's?
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Neil Cohn
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My work on the visual language used in comics is quite significantly different from the earlier semiologists who discuss it. Outside of a cognitive reading of Peirce, I rather dislike most semiology in fact.

"Drawing styles" is a lexical and "pronunciation" issue, not a syntactic one (by and large).

The grammatical structures found in sequence of images is one of my primary research projects and I've written quite a lot about it. Syntax doesn't just mean reading order, but rather the mechanisms by which people connect sequences of images, of which I've found actual grammatical categories in strings of images. These are consistent across authors and, with varying differences, across cultures.

The issue of quotations in scholarship is largely (I think) because European authors are not translated or widely disseminated in America. McCloud's work was far reaching popularly, and was IMO a far better structuralist styled analysis than the European ones anyhow ? it just doesn't follow the traditional terminology. He only quotes Eisner because UC wasn't originally intended as an "academic" work, treading the line between theory and praxis.
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sillyfran
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, it's true, you have a different approach and I still have a lot to read (your site is packed with text!).

I also dislike most of semiology tratment of comics.
Anyway, most probably you have (and i'll look like an idiot), but if you haven't I should strongly recommend the reading of Groesteen (who doesn't work it like semiology, but has a different explanation of why it doesn't work that way).


Oh, and i'm always forgetting! Besides what i told you earlier, the article that deals with social interactivity i quite interesting. I've never thought of it that way...
Have you noticed, not only the increasing use of "emoticons", but also the fact that MSN has incorporated a drawing pad? It's quite fun and it's a great tool to experiment on what you say on that article...
I use it all the time. The result might not be exactly comics, but sometimes it isn't that far...
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Neil Cohn
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have read a bit Groesteen, but my French is a little rusty. If I recall correctly, my frustration with his work was that it didn't wholly separate the structural from the literary. Once I get some spare time I was going go back and muscle through it again...

Yah, emoticons definitely lend toward what I'm talking about. They're quite a lot like the gestures we use with speech. I didn't know about this MSN drawing pad. I have my own email account, and use a mac so MSN isn't really needed (thankfully). Can you describe it a little more?

I do have a pen pad with my computer though, and the mac has a sketchpad that kicks in for it on the desktop that lets me draw into any program with it. I've had some fun chats online drawing back and forth with people. I can only imagine what it would be like if these sort of practices increase to a fully grammatical level!
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neil Cohn wrote:
Yah, emoticons definitely lend toward what I'm talking about. They're quite a lot like the gestures we use with speech.

I get grumpy about emoticons the same way I get grumpy about a lot of "net-speak" abbreviations. Shakespeare didn't need emoticons. Your point about them being similar to gestures when speaking is a good one. That reinfoces that emoticons may be part of the communication, but not a part of the language. In fact, they cross many language boundries.
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Eric F Myers
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greg Stephens wrote:
I get grumpy about emoticons the same way I get grumpy about a lot of "net-speak" abbreviations. Shakespeare didn't need emoticons. Your point about them being similar to gestures when speaking is a good one. That reinfoces that emoticons may be part of the communication, but not a part of the language. In fact, they cross many language boundries.

lol
Neil Cohn wrote:
Efm? thats very cool that you've been drawing in real time that way. I personally would hesitate from calling it "comics" but it most certainly reflects the type of thing I'm talking about. I'm curious, have you and your co-workers developed any conventional symbols or things that only you guys understand?

I would have to say no. But if we're drawing out network diagrams or warehouse maps we will use already established symbols such as power and data.
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Neil Cohn
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greg Stephens wrote:
I get grumpy about emoticons the same way I get grumpy about a lot of "net-speak" abbreviations. Shakespeare didn't need emoticons. Your point about them being similar to gestures when speaking is a good one. That reinfoces that emoticons may be part of the communication, but not a part of the language. In fact, they cross many language boundries.


Of course, Shakespeare wrote in bare text in a non-interactive setting as well. Emoticons are basically trying to make up for the limitations of bare text online, while net-speak abbreviations (which I too find exasperating sometimes) are a shorthand that answers the demand of "speed of delivery" for those interactions.

I'd agree that emoticons (and gesture) are not language, but I think that both they and language reflect something larger that has been overlooked. That is, the equation is probably not (language + supplemental = communication), but more like a hierachic set (Conceptual expression --> language + gesture/graphics).
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Tim Mallos
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not jumping in to be contrary or throw an off-topic exception into the thread....

Your comment:
Quote:
I'd agree that emoticons (and gesture) are not language,


Made me think that in the case of American Sign Language, emotion (non-verbal cues primarily in the form of facial expression) and gesture are in fact a language. They can stand on their own.

Important to note that the Deaf still type in English when IM'ing So, mode, which is the point of the discussion, is still key. I wonder if the Deaf use more emoticons than the general public.....

I'm not adding much, just sharing a "huh" moment - not nit-picking that comment out of context.

Tim
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Neil Cohn
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh yah, ASL is definitely a language. Usually I hear "gestures" to mean non-sign language. Again, like the distinction I draw in the paper, the sequential structure is the big difference.

That is an interesting question about emoticons. I'd be curious to know the answer too... On the line of the deaf writing in English, I had a deaf friend in high school and college, and when I first got into all the linguistics stuff, I asked him what his internal monologue is like. He said that when he thinks to himself its like those red ticker tape signs, with English writing scrolling by. I would have guessed it'd be images of signing, but I wonder if it varies between people.
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