20 February 2023
Reading Along with Readers Reading Digital Comics
This is a guest post by Linda Berube, an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student based at the British Library and City, University of London. If you would like to know more about Linda's research, please email her at [email protected].
In my last blog post, I spoke of my PhD research into UK digital comics creation to consumption practices. I have interviewed comics creators about the creative process and the extent to which digital technology has informed it, as well as with publishers who discussed the impact of digital technology on workflows producing both print and digital.
I also talked about a UK comics mapping exercise that revealed “the visibility of digital comics across sectors including health, economics, education [for example Figure 1 on legal deposit], literacy, and even the hard sciences”, as well as autobiography (see Figure 2), superheroes, horror, and science fiction.
In publisher and creator interviews for this research, it has to be admitted that print comics loomed large in discussions. This attachment to print even extended to some webcomics creators who, while firmly grounded in the digital environment, harboured aspirations of print versions somewhere down the line.
Still, one webcomic creator interviewed presented a rather balanced view:
“There are things digital can do that print can't do…Hyper linking I think is interesting. There's different things that you can do with page layouts and the way that information is presented on the page. Where it's something that goes in a new direction or different direction from print, I think that's interesting, there's strong potential there”.
Readers Reading Digital Comics
What kind of impact do different page layouts and hypertext have on readers reading digital comics? To understand whether these “new directions” are truly unique affordances that only digital comics can provide requires extending the research to the another major participant in the creation to consumption process: the consumer or digital comics reader.
For the third phase of data collection, UK-based digital comics readers will be consulted through semi-structured interviews, reading observations and think aloud sessions. Emphasis will be placed on determining not just how readers find and consume comics, but what their response is, how it can be defined, from passive to transactional to performative. Aims and objectives include:
- To understand the reader role in the publishing and communication process of UK digital comics, their response to digital comics, and how that response contributes to digital comics narratives.
- To learn about how readers discover new comics and share their reading preferences and experiences with others.
- To understand how comics portals, devices etc. contribute to the reader’s experience of and response to the text.
- To use HCI/HII methods and understand the value of these approaches in collecting data about readers of digital comics.
It is important to note that the research is not about assessing the useability of digital comics platforms (although readers will not be discouraged from talking about them), but how readers read digital comics, which can include the devices they use, the platforms they use to read from, and their transactional behaviour with the texts themselves.
Calling All UK-Based Digital Comics Readers
Of course, in order to achieve these aims, I need readers to talk to me about their reading. If you are a UK-based digital comics reader, I’d like to speak to you whether you read comics via apps or web platforms on your phone, laptop, tablet etc., or even through PDF downloads. I would also like to hear about how you learn about new comics and share the comics you love with others.
Right now, I am looking for expressions of interest. If you would like to participate in this research, please contact me at [email protected].