Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Savage Chickens never seems to fail to give me a laugh. This one especially had me chuckling...

The reason I liked this one so much is that it plays on a common convention where certain symbols (like hearts) replace the eyes of a character. I've likened this type of substitution to a kind of morphological change in words when a word changes in meaning through an internal change of the sounds. For example, to make the past tense of jump we add -ed to make jumped. But, to make the past tense of run we change the sound of the vowel to make ran. This internal change is called "umlaut."

In a sense, substituting a sign for the eyes or pupils of a character is similar to umlaut, since it makes an internal change in the face of a character to change its meaning. This creates a whole class of "eye-umlauts" that include hearts, stars, dollar signs (or any money signs), spirals, X's, and others. Indeed, we could even make new eye-umlauts too, such as using "+" plus signs in the eyes to insinuate someone is lying (for instance).

In this way, the morphology of images uses a similar strategy as the construction of words in language.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Language and culture development

I've been a big fan of Jorge Cham's comic PhD Comics for a long time, and I've really been impressed with his recent foray into short educational videos. I found this one to be particularly fun, and since it overlaps with my research interests, I figured I'd share it here too:

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Big year behind, big year ahead

Happy New Year! Between finally finishing my PhD, moving back to California to start at research fellowship at UCSD, and being featured in a Discover Magazine article, 2012 was a big year. However, 2013 looks to be even bigger...

First off, this Fall will see the release of my book, The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images, by Bloomsbury. I'm very excited about it, because it finally lays out the full foundation of my theories of visual language.

The other main event is that later this year I plan to fully relaunch my website and blog, including a new web address. If you want to plan ahead, the new url for will become (currently a redirect). The blog will maintain it's main url (, and I will retain the RSS feed via feedburner. The new site will better reflect the changes that have occurred in my research over the last few years, and prep the site for when I set up a real lab as a professor, hopefully in a few years.