Peace for the Immortal Sock Monkey

My friend Stevie made the sock monkey – a placid purple chap with chubby limbs and buttons for eyes. He seemed pretty satisfied with existence, but his deeper woes had gone unseen.

Two Student Occupational Therapists from Griffith University pose with their client, an immortal sock monkey

It turned out that the sock monkey was cursed to live forever, and as the centuries rolled by, he was succumbing to despair. Two students from the Occupational Therapy course at Australia’s Griffith University decided to help, using their professional skills to explore ways of reconciling him to a happier immortality.

Read more

Losing control in digital space: Liberact 2016

Last month I spoke at the Liberact conference of digital interactive experiences.

My paper was ‘Play, Chance, and Comics: Losing Control In Digital Space’.

Annotated whiteboard at a Brisbane gym

We explored comics, creativity…and what digital designers could learn from the noticeboard at a gym.

You can see an annotated PDF download of my presentation here.

What are you playing at? Digital comics at the Writing Platform

Why would an Aussie library get its designers to build a drag and drop comics website?

Aren’t there already plenty of free comic makers online?

What are you even playing at?

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The Writing Platform, a joint venture by Bath Spa University in the UK and QUT in Australia, has my latest piece, on the new remixable comic maker from State Library of Queensland.

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Read more about the State Library’s Comic Maker at The Writing Platform.

Comic Makers at Brisbane Parking Day

Yesterday I took a team of staff from the State Library of Queensland to run a pop-up comic making stand in Brisbane’s West End.

Brisbane Parking Day - Comic Maker Stall

Drawing on previous experiences with comic book dice at Bermondsey Street Festival, we took over a car parking space to let Brisbane locals tell their own sidewalk stories using simple three-dimensional cartoons. Read more

A Speaky Week

On Tuesday, I’ll be over at the University of Southern Queensland, giving talks and workshops to staff and students across faculties. You can follow them online via this livestreaming link – the fun kicks off at 11am Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Then on Thursday I’m joining the Broadband for the Bush Conference on rural and regional access to digital technology and communications, running a presenterless workshop session on planning for the future. I’ll be drawing on science fiction, Afrofuturism, and comics alongside debates around copyright, government policy, and the presentation of financial data.

You can follow via the hashtag #BushBroadband on social media. I feel like non-Aussies are going to think that’s something far more salacious than it actually is…

Dulwich Picture Gallery – 3D biographical comics

You can now see video from last month’s event “Your Mind Is The Scene Of The Crime” at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

Inspired by the work of M.C. Escher, the event saw teens exploring comics and biography through thirty boxes containing text and images from the life of a mysterious woman.

Teens discuss biographical comics at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Over the course of a two-hour session, participants transformed the thirty boxes into individual artworks which together formed a biographical installation: a three-dimensional comic book which used perspective and storytelling to respond to the facts and feelings of a stranger’s life.

Read more about Escher, Dulwich, and Your Mind Is The Scene Of The Crime here.

Fun Palaces Comic Maker at Electricomics

I’m presenting today at the University of Hertfordshire’s Electricomics Symposium, “The Comic Electric.”

I’ll be talking about digital comics projects including the Fun Palaces Comic Maker and a new version of Comic Book Dice from Manila’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, plus my game for The Lifted Brow, “A Tear in Flatland“.

You can read an interview about the philosophy & design of the Comic Maker here (PDF download).

You can read an annotated PDF based on my slides for the conference presentation here.

An example of a Fun Palaces comic

Fun Palaces Comic Maker goes to Electricomics – Wednesday 14 October

The Fun Palaces Comic Maker is up and running over at comic.funpalaces.co.uk – you can see what people have made so far at funpalaces.tumblr.com/archive.

Ernesto Priego interviewed me about the project for the Comics Grid, and there was a great write-up from Kevin Hodgson over at his blog Dogtrax.

The Comic Maker is inspired by the Comic Book Dice activity I originally created for Manila’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD). The team at MCAD have created their own digital riff off Comic Book Dice which will be released soon.

I’ll be talking about both projects, plus my choose-your-own comics review A Tear in Flatland, at the Electricomics Symposium hosted by the University of Hertfordshire next Wednesday.

Fun Palaces Online Comic Maker by State Library of Queensland

I’m really pleased to announce the launch of the online Fun Palaces Comic Maker.

A Fun Palaces comic

The Comic Maker lets you drag and drop characters inspired by Emily Medley’s original Fun Palaces illustration into a comic-book story of your own devising.

We’ve been working on this behind the scenes for a long time, ever since I pitched the idea of an online version of Comic Book Dice for Fun Palaces 2015.

Talia Yat and Phil Gullberg of the State Library of Queensland have run with this idea and developed it into an amazing online game, as part of the Queenslanders’ contribution to Fun Palaces 2015.

Comics created at the site will be curated and shared at funpalaces.tumblr.com

It’s been a huge team effort and thanks must go to: Fun Palaces’ Stella Duffy, Sarah-Jane Rawlings, Hannah Lambert, and Kirsty Lothian; Zoey Dixon of Lambeth Libraries; Daniel Flood of State Library of Queensland; our web host Simon Appleby of Bookswarm, plus Sandy Mahal who put us in touch with him; and last but not least our digital Brains Trust of Ed Bishop, Martin Feher, Barney Lockwood, and Steven Moschidis (“I’m tempted to say I will host it just to stop the funky emails!”).

Other Fun Palaces comics events include a workshop at Waterloo Library with Chris Thompson of Orbital Comics, and Amanda Lilywhite’s giant collaborative comic for Carnegie Library.

Go make a Fun Palaces comic online – and then check out the Fun Palace nearest to you!

Holes in maps look through to nowhere: Games as criticism

Australian arts journal The Lifted Brow has just published my review of Nick Sousanis’ doctoral-thesis-as-comic-book, Unflattening.

Unflattening by Nick Sousanis

The review is a little different – it’s an online choose your own adventure, which sees the reader trapped in a mysterious library, trying to locate Nick’s book and escape in one piece.

I built the adventure using Twine, the same piece of free software which we used at Auckland Libraries to create our online zombie game City of Souls.

The game marks the culmination of a long period I’ve spent exploring what it means to write criticism of other people’s work.

In recent months, I’ve reviewed comics for academic journal The Comics Grid and New York art paper Brooklyn Rail; I’ve written about Hasbro’s Transformers for The Cultural Gutter, a Canadian site devoted to “disreputable art in all its forms”, and I’ve explored the world of fan criticism together with James David Patrick from The James Bond Social Media Project. 

The Lifted Brow piece is something special to me, though. It comes from being persuaded of Nick Sousanis’ case, in Unflattening, that the traditional priority of words over illustrations is wrong: words and images cannot be explored separately from one another.

Reading the book, it becomes difficult to feel satisfied with comics criticism that deals in words alone. Alternatives like Terry Elliot’s experiments with digital annotation of Unflattening look increasingly appealing; therefore I decided to create my response to Unflattening in the form of a game: a set of sequential incidents which the reader can navigate at will – rather like the panels of a comic book.

See my review of Unflattening over at the Lifted Brow website.