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A Ph.D. in comic book form.
March 5, 2012 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Nick Sousanis has been approved to write and submit what may be the first ever Ph.D. dissertation in comic book form. See here (PDF) for a taste of the style and content.
posted by Rumple (39 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
A long way since comics were irretrievably corrupting our youth, leaving them slack-jawed hooligans fit only for dock labor, motor-car crashes and consorting with floozies.

And yet, you still hear people on about those newfangled video games that can't be art or teach us things. Also lots of corrupting going on there.

History, doomed to repeat, mumble mumble.

Anyway, this looks really cool. It's very dense, of course, but I like it so far. Reminding me of Understanding Comics, which it references on page 4.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2012


I'm astonished it's taken until 2012 for somebody to get approval for this.

I might be biased in that I'm studying the way artistic mediums convey information differently (and publishing my findings as a hypertext document), but haven't we known for a very long time that text is a highly inefficient medium for communicating certain kinds of data? It makes perfect sense to match it up with either sensory (audio/visual) or systematic (programming/playing) information to ensure that people are exposed to the message as directly as possible.

Sigh, academia! You're so bureaucratic and slow and you've trained at least two generations to be wary of deep thought and intellectuality! I can't wait until a system comes along to replace you.

That all said: The writing in that sample was kind of crufty and the comic-ness (though I am not a comic fan) seemed similarly sloppy. Though possibly I'm biased because the only comic I've read in a month is Understanding Comics which is insanely disciplined and well-organized. This still reads way better than the average Ph.D. dissertation.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2012


I would like to submit mine in the medium of interpretive dance, but it would probably take about a week to perform.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


A long way since comics were irretrievably corrupting our youth, leaving them slack-jawed hooligans fit only for dock labor, motor-car crashes and consorting with floozies.

Yeah. I miss the corruption and floozies.
posted by cmoj at 3:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Impossible.

He'd never be able to make the comic sufficiently unreadable.
posted by gerryblog at 3:00 PM on March 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I would like to submit mine in the medium of interpretive dance, but it would probably take about a week to perform.

This was done (sort of).
posted by degoao at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


O synchronicity! Just today, a student evaluation of my course suggested I replace all the old outdated texts with comic books. The course is Western Monotheisms. On the upside, I was praised for my "intellectualness."
posted by reverend cuttle at 3:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


The course is Western Monotheisms

Promethia might work, as would Miracleman and probably some stuff by Grant Morrison....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2012


I had a teacher in high school who let me submit book reports as albums. Thank god for my dad giving me a four-track at a young age.
posted by mykescipark at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2012


I also submitted all my papers in my Philsophy Of Science class as comic chapbooks. I won some kind of award on my history of Opiates and how they effect the body and no I don't know what this was doing in a Philsophy class, we were very...free form.
posted by The Whelk at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too much telling, not enough showing. I haven't seen a comics page that text-dense since John Byrne finished his Superman run.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:24 PM on March 5, 2012


This is beautiful.
posted by gadha at 3:24 PM on March 5, 2012


Is there no piece of comic book scholarship that is not a panegyric to Scott McCloud?
posted by Nomyte at 3:25 PM on March 5, 2012


There must have been completely illustrated doctoral work for thousands of years. Who were those doctors who produced masterpieces such as this?
posted by parmanparman at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2012


Not quite the same thing, but here's someone who wrote a dissertation and subsequently distilled it into a comic for 24 Hour Comics Day.
posted by the_bone at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2012


A friend of mine did a comic for his dissertation way back in 2000, but Sousanis' might be the first one done entirely in comic form.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:34 PM on March 5, 2012


> A long way since comics were irretrievably corrupting our youth, leaving them slack-jawed hooligans
> fit only for dock labor, motor-car crashes and consorting with floozies.

Today's comics aren't trashy enough by half, QED.
posted by jfuller at 3:36 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if they had to print it out on 100% cotton paper.
posted by KHAAAN! at 3:37 PM on March 5, 2012


It's a very text heavy comic. There are complete, connected paragraphs all over the place.

If the text boxes didn't have borders, and all of the illustrations did, I think it would just be an illuminated manuscript.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:37 PM on March 5, 2012


Yes, a bit text heavy for my tastes, but it's cool to see this being done on the PhD level.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:45 PM on March 5, 2012


I'm insanely jealous of him, but he is really smart and talented.
posted by Tesseractive at 3:58 PM on March 5, 2012


Yeah. I miss the corruption and floozies.

He's not going to be the first PhD to be disappointed by the post doc employment market.
posted by biffa at 4:01 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Creative. Yes. Scholarly. No.
posted by Postroad at 4:02 PM on March 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


I liked the bunny page example.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:04 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Text-heavy is sort of inevitable, I think. Still, there are conventional ways of formatting long stretches of text in a comic, and he appears to be following those conventions.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2012


I'm genuinely surprised and a little saddened by how bad the sample is, both as comic and as thought. "Whose inherent multimodality approaches the complexity of our thinking more fully than text alone"? It'd take a lot better drawing to sell that garbled line of nonsense — comics are interesting because they are a form, not because they somehow win the content sweepstakes.
posted by RogerB at 4:32 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Promethia might work, as would Miracleman and probably some stuff by Grant Morrison....

Pfah. As if I would consider adapting my delivery to fit the needs of my students. *throws another bundle of tuition dollars in the hearth*
posted by reverend cuttle at 4:32 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Still, there are conventional ways of formatting long stretches of text in a comic, and he appears to be following those conventions.

Here's Miller doing it.

Here's John Byrne parodying the late-Golden Age/early-Silver Age "wall of text" style. (And by extension, himself)

Here's Scott McCloud parodying Keith Giffen.

And, for a sterling example of how comics can be used to enlighten the reader on even complex and technical subjects, I strongly recommend Japan Inc, Vol. 2. It explains a number of differing viewpoints on the origin of Japan's "Long Recession" in depth and with great detail, while still making it engaging and accessible to laymen and experts alike. (I loaned it to the Chief Economist of a major forex exchange floor. Not certain if he read it or not... he seemed far too happy and optimistic about the dot-com boom, even after he returned it a week later.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm looking forward to 20 years from now when future Metas bemoan the replacement of all our Manga text books and Manga research papers with VR MMO equivalents...

"Students these days, just can't focus enough to read the comics, they say they learn better from immersive simulations...we just think they're lazy"
posted by Chekhovian at 4:48 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I wasn't objecting. Actually, it's brought up early on that it wasn't so long ago that illuminated manuscripts were the classy way to present your history.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:49 PM on March 5, 2012


But illuminated manuscripts were not submitted for PhD, I believe
posted by Postroad at 5:54 PM on March 5, 2012


It's a very text heavy comic. There are complete, connected paragraphs all over the place.

but what are his margins?
posted by ennui.bz at 6:33 PM on March 5, 2012


$20 same as in town.
posted by Splunge at 6:38 PM on March 5, 2012


LastOfHisKind: "I would like to submit mine in the medium of interpretive dance, but it would probably take about a week to perform."

And I want to present mine as a sampling of modern pr0n, but I am not sure I can get through all the research...
posted by Samizdata at 11:09 PM on March 5, 2012


He'd never be able to make the comic sufficiently unreadable.

It will be machine unreadable which will count as the same thing in about now seconds.
posted by srboisvert at 12:44 AM on March 6, 2012


That sample looks awful.
posted by mary8nne at 6:07 AM on March 6, 2012


To be fair, the sample is from a conference talk and might not reflect the degree of care and attention (and revision!) which will go into the Ph.D. itself.
posted by Rumple at 10:02 AM on March 6, 2012


I'm looking forward to the first Live Journal submitted as a Thesis.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:14 AM on March 6, 2012


I am a bit late to the show here, but back in 2000 Troy Lovata submitted a comic dissertation at the University of Texas. Not that I've seen it, but I know about it because he discussed it in the middle of the Society for American Archaeology's November 2005 newsletter. So let's roll back that claim of being the first comic dissertation; that's not true by at least 12 years – and I suspect we could find even earlier examples if we did a serious examination.

While Sousanis' artwork is better, I bet Lovata's dissertation is a lot more readable. Dogs! Everyone likes reading about dogs. Even long-dead ones.
posted by barnacles at 12:20 AM on March 8, 2012


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