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Neil Cohn's blog

New Essay: Navigating Comics

I'm very happy to announce that I have a new essay online: Navigating Comics: Reading Strategies of Page Layouts (pdf). This paper reports the findings of an experiment I conducted looking at how people navigate through comic pages.

The big finding: people don't just mimic text going left-to-right and down.

Click here to read more.

Time and The Torch

On this page I found another great example of a page by Jae Lee that defies the "temporal mapping" idea that successive panels are successive moments:

I'm unaware of the full context of the page, but the Human Torch is flying around some big monster of sorts and creates the number "4" (for Fantastic Four no doubt) in his path. Doing so, his path begins by violating a constraint of page layout,

Some links and whatnots

Steven Seagle has a decent piece up at the First Second blog about visual storytelling. He nicely taps into a simplified version of some of the same things that I've been pushing for my theory of visual grammar. The exercise he uses to rearrange panels is very reminiscent of linguistics methods, and is also a good one that shows how a broader structure exists above and beyond the so-called '

Thoughts on Language Evolution

In my TA class this semester we've just entered talking about Language Evolution, and combined with the recent discovery of this blog the topic has been on my mind a bit lately. Some general thoughts on reframing the overall discussion...Some theories of language evolution postulate that ‘gestural language’ evolved prior to verbal language. While I am in support of the multimodal sentiment, parts of this rub me the wrong way.

Art, Language, and "Cognitive Equivalence"

When I usually speak about the Art versus Language Perspectives, I usually couch it in a view that there are "different potential ways our society treats graphic images." As I just realized, stating it in this way maybe obscures the true intent of the distinctions.

Really, this is a hypothesis about cognition.

At the heart of my theory of visual language is the observation that we have three

Closure's assumptions

Patric continues his defining of "comics" with a discussion of "closure." I've talked before about the problems with the idea of closure, but it strikes me that there are a few underlying issues that people run into when addressing these issues:

1. They assume that time passes between panels, despite there being no evidence that each panel represents a "moment in time." With this assumption in

Double Standards in Style

I had an interesting realization the other day about the way people judge the quality of realistic versus cartoony drawing styles. It seems to me that the more someone tries to maintain a realistic style, the more harshly criticized they will be when they don't "fully achieve" it. Cartoony styles get no critique like this.

As I've done before, perhaps Rob Liefeld will be a good example. Liefeld

America vs. Japan: Brains and Comic/Manga Panels

Via the TCJ message board, Nathan has pointed to an article in the Boston Globe that discusses the differences in brain activation between "Eastern and Western" perceptual processing. The study claims that "Westerners tend to focus on central objects more than on their surroundings" while Easterners "tend to focus more on the context as well as the object." From the article:
To use a camera

The Art of Visual Language

As much as I stress how the Art and Language perspectives/paradigms of viewing graphic communication are opposed to each other, I do think that they can be reconciled. Just to recap, I believe that a cultural force, what I call the "Art Perspective" suppresses the visual-graphic form of expression, which is closer to a "Language Perspective." Some of the things that differ in these paradigms'

The Invisible Middle Ground

A friend of mine and I had a really interesting discussion the other day about how difficult it is for a reasonable, mediating, middle-ground type of theory to survive in the scientific landscape. Within linguistics, there are a lot of debates I think a middle ground position serves the most efficient explanation.

However, there are several things holding back the success of such views. For one