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.

Matt takes on the modern cowboy in TV’s “Justified”

When I ran workshops for high schoolers at the University of London, I always encouraged the students to discuss gender roles. Whenever possible, I included sessions on Angela Carter, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, and the great Leonora Carrington.

Timothy Olyphant and Erica Tazel star in TV's Justified
Two different faces of the US Marshals in Justified

This week, I’ve got a new piece up at the culture and gender site Role/Reboot, discussing the TV show Justified.

In ‘The Marshal and His Women’, I ask if this sharply written show will have a positive impact on definitions of masculinity, or merely perpetuate the same old stereotypes.

You can read my thoughts on Justified at http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2012-01-the-marshal-and-his-women-can-tvs-justified-reboot-t

For more on Angela Carter, see my review of a 2010 youth theatre adaptation of her collection The Bloody Chamber, at http://thefairytalecupboard.blogspot.com/2010/05/guest-post-matthew-finch-on-playbox.html