Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Chapter: Manga

It isn't entirely a new paper, but my paper "Japanese Visual Language" is now published in the anthology Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives now out in paperback. A brief description of my chapter:

Over the past two decades, manga has exploded in readership beyond Japan, and its style has captured the interest of young artists all over. But, what exactly are the properties of this "style" beyond the surface of big-eyes and "backward" reading? This paper explores the structural properties of the visual language underlying the "manga style," how it works, and how it differs from the visual languages in comics from other parts of the world.

The book on the whole though seems to offer a fairly wide range of interesting papers that go quite in depth, and is well worth picking up for anyone interested in study manga.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New essay: The limits of time and transitions

On the *NEW* publication front: The first issue of the new journal Studies in Comics went online today, and I have a brand spankin' new article in it. The first issue is available to read for free online. Here's an abstract of my paper:

The limits of time and transitions: challenges to theories of sequential image comprehension

The juxtaposition of two images often produces the illusory sense of time passing, as found in the visual language used in modern comic books, which creates the sense that this linear sequence presents a succession of moments or temporal units. Author and theorist Scott McCloud took this view to an extreme, proposing that sequential images are guided by a notion that ‘time = space (McCloud 2000), because this temporal passage occurs on a spatial surface. To McCloud, this ‘temporal mapping’ results in a movement of time with a movement of space. This sense of temporality then is the ‘essence’ of comics, which is manifested in McCloud’s taxonomy of transitions of panel-to-panel relationships (McCloud 1993). While less specific, this same type of ‘essence’ of connection can be reflected in Groensteen’s types of ‘arthrology’ across a linear sequence or disparate panels in a broader text (Groensteen 1999).

However, numerous problems arise with McCloud and Groensteen’s approaches to graphic narrative. This article will explore how the linearity of reading panels and the iconicity of images create various false assumptions about the conveyance of meaning across sequential images’ depictions of space and time. With numerous examples, it will argue that any linear panel-to-panel analysis (such as McCloud’s (1993) panel transitions) or loosely defined principles of connection (such as Groensteen’s (1999) ‘arthrology’) between sequential images are inadequate to account for their understanding. The conclusion is that sequential image comprehension must be thought of as the union of conceptual information that is grouped via unconscious hierarchic structures in the mind. As such, the study of the comprehension of the visual language used in comics must be placed in the cognitive sciences.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New blog address!... roughly same as the old...

Hey, my blog has now just slightly moved addresses over to: This was one of the previous address, but now it's the main address along with You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Metaphors go boom!

Derek Kirk Kim uses a fun and common conceptual metaphor in today's installment of his ongoing series "Praxis & Allies" (which you should be reading). Here, the character's head explodes on discovering his crush actually likes him.

"Conceptual metaphor" is a notion that's been prevalent in some circles of linguistics for the last 30 years, and is a phenomena where one domain of ideas is mapped onto another. The metaphor that Derek uses is "Emotion is Hot Fluid in a Container" — the emotion constitutes "pressure" in the head (the container) that then can "erupt" when it "overflows." Emotion isn't actually hot fluid in a container, but we map the idea of emotions onto the domain of a container.

There have actually been several papers written on this topic with regard to comics, usually describing Anger. The common visual sign of smoke coming out of an angry character's ears directly links into this "Anger is Hot Fluid in a Container" metaphor. But, here Derek uses it just for an emotional overload. A similar usage was done years ago in Journal Comic by Drew Weing.

As has been argued by many, using these sort of cross-domain metaphors is a great way for the graphic form to visually portray things (like emotions) that aren't otherwise visible.

Monday, April 05, 2010


I'm very excited to say that, after working on this project for 2.5 years, I'll finally be defending my Master's project — "Balancing Grammar and Semantics in 'Comics': Global Structure in Sequential Image Processing" this coming Monday April 12th here at Tufts. The presentation will describe two experiments that together show converging evidence that the comprehension of sequential images — as in comics — uses a grammar, similar to the way that sequential words use a grammar. Here is my abstract in Haiku:

Image sequences
Grammar, Meaning — separate?
RTs, ERPs.

It is a public defense, so if you actually want to come, you're more than welcome to email me for more info. A shortened version of this presentation will be what my talk is about at Comic-Con this year...