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words and images: class notes 3/30/10

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Class Notes

TPB1988's summary

We opened with the introduction of aseidman's friend Dave Joria, who writes comics as part of the group Tangent Artists.

We looked at an image from the Dream Suite; Anne thought it was interesting to see visuals generating other visuals.

Anne also brought up Restless—it's based on data on diversity issues at BMC, and featured a professor character who had a second-self subconscious/private self/“electric subconscious”.

Our papers were good even though most of us didn’t talk to Anne beforehand; Anne catalogued the issues raised by everyone’s papers in order to invite us to look at each others’ papers.

Talking about responses to papers: “written discourse” vs the “interruptive” (to Anne) method of responding paragraph by paragraph—how do we feel about forms of online response? rachelr liked the paragraph-by-paragraph method better, as she said she would; Anne mentioned some alternative forms of commenting used on other sites that Serendip could explore.

Also, we looked at the different ways of posting on Serendip  used in the Genres class vs. Anne's James family class— the James method seems more oriented towards tracking one’s own developing thoughts/contributions (though this can also be done in the Genres format by looking up a user's posting history).

As part of transitioning from novel to graphic narrative, we looked at the relation between text & image in Alice in Wonderland. Online rmeyers posted about a stage play with scenes based on Tenniel’s sketches; the class's thoughts about the pictures in Alice and their effect on us included:

-Carroll came first, then Tenniel tried to interpret him
- the pictures helped imagine Carroll's images better
- some skipped over them
- I wanted to come up with my own mental pictures
- I’m more interested in the language than in making my own pictures, so the Alice sketches are helpful
- the pictures helped keep everything straight w/in the nonsense (made it less nonsensical, anchored the text?)
- some pictures highlighted the nonsense (especially the mock turtle, walrus & carpenter)

Anne mentioned an example of Tenniel’s influence on the text: his suggestion to drop a chapter about a wasp in a wig because he couldn't draw it. We haven't looked much yet, as a class, at the pictures in Alice; Anne suggests that we think perhaps about the pictures for our next essay.

What was the relation between text and image in our own essays? What was the function of the images we used?
- One person offered a soundtrack for their paper.
- Another presented their paper in audiobook form.
- Some images used in papers backed up what was being said, while others were there to be aesthetically pleasing/provide symmetry.
- Did they advance the argument?
- Some accompanied quoted passages (and/or served as an image quote).
- Tried to find pics that fit what was being said.

Anne asked that we think harder about the effect of using pictures in our papers, and think of them as critical commentary.

We looked at Scott McCloud's explanation/comparison of how we understand words and images—do we agree that when you look at something visual, the message is instantaneous and you don’t need to be educated to understand it (i.e., it is "received information")? Many who study the history of art would strongly disagree. Images and words can be more or less abstract, requiring more or less engagement in order to understand them.

aseidman voiced her concern online about the exclusiveness of graphic novels, because they are visual; her friend Dave of Tangent Comics (who is a big fan of Scott McCloud) comes up to speak.

Dave writes 3 comics, which we looked at briefly in class. He described two methods of scriptwriting (and two different interactions/systems of influence between text and pictures): one which resembles a movie script, in which the writer dictates "camera" shots, story, dialogue, etc. before the art is created; and another, "the Marvel way," in which a writer outlines a story and sends it to an artist, who draws the story and writes/paces the dialogue based on the summary provided.

The format of some webcomics is different (more computer screen-shaped) because they are not print-based, which could affect the pacing of the story. Dave mentioned Scott McCloud on the passage of space and time in comics, which makes use of the time it takes a reader's eye to travel across/absorb a page to manipulate the sense of scale/time.

Dave claims that the more stylized (less well-defined) a picture is, the more we identify with it—we associate well-defined images with other people.

What genre is sandman? Some horror, some fairy tales (the two of which aren’t so different); Dave's point being that genre is more useful for thinking of how to interpret a text than is medium.

Dave mentioned the death of the thought bubble (and with it the omniscient 3rd-person narrative) in comics, and its replacement with interior-monologue caption boxes, usually only for one character?

Our reactions to A Game of You:

- many of us were really drawn into the story.
- thrown off by the materiality and pictures (can’t write on it--  no margins)—similar to reading online.
- Do we own the text less because of this?
- Some of us paid more attention to words than images; images were distracting or easy to overlook.
- how do you read an image?
- could this story have been "done" as a text novel?
- felt captivated & trapped by arresting, disturbing images
- are images more arresting than words?
- reading both text and images was difficult for some of us
- going back to get everything
- the effect of images is more psychological than that of words; images convey/force emotions & comprehension of characters' experiences (and are thus more effective)
- sometimes when I accidentally read backwards conversations still made sense
- lots of speech in one frame;  what to read first?
- v. violent
- much like a movie
- sense of missing out on storyline because we're starting in the middle of series (although this story stands pretty much alone)
- hurricanes don’t work that way
- old stories seem new, new ones seem old
- enjoyed echoes to alice in wonderland
- story offered no conclusion, didn’t stick in mind
- mixed feelings, still figuring it out
- don’t like having pictures but they’re necessary here



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