Thoughts from our London Meet-up – 2

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We’re continuing to gather thoughts from our meet-up in London. Next is Ian Horton:

The day started with our introduction to the topic of Applied Comics as organisers of the event. We had not conferred in advance and on these introductions an there were many similarities but also some key differences in emphasis. John started with an overview of the different combinations of sequential narrative, illustration and text in his own practice highlighting the relationship to traditional illustration and information design practices. Lydia told us that comics are awesume focused on the activity of making and process with a focus on participation as a key aspect of the field in terms of her own practice. She also noted the role of individual voices in the conveying of information. I tried to categorize some of the different sub-genres such as instructional, public relations and political/journalistic providing examples of each area.

This was followed by introductions by the attendees which show the great range of expertise in the room including undergraduate and postgraduate students, educators, facilitators, artists and writers all working in the field. There was then an applied comic making activity where the group selected a random Wikipedia entry (for Drake Ward in Plymouth) and individually made an info-comic based on the information. We then discussed the process and results in small groups and this raised many issues such as authorship and identity; audience engagement, the problem of selective histories, image versus text led solutions etc. etc.

We then had a series of talks by invited practitioners. Lizzie Boyle showed us her work with Disconnected Press and the newly released Cross about current political debates. Selina Lock gave an account of the role of applied comics in the PhD process both as research tool and form of presentation. Lydia presented her work with Applied Comics etc., the use of workshops and the importance of audience engagement. In these talks we learnt much about the forces driving the creators of these applied comics, whatever form they take or subject they tackle, and the discussions that followed allowed us to examine issues such as funding, self-publishing and the payment (hopefully) of artists for commissioned work. Ian William presented his latest work in the field of Graphic Medicine which included a more reflective section on the value of this work for the practitioners themselves and ideas of therapy. Steve Marchant from the Cartoon Museum showed us a wide range of projects he has worked on, mainly with children, and emphasised the role of humour within applied comics.

Overall many new connections were made and old ones reaffirmed. There is clearly scope for a network of this sort to share good practice, enable collaboration and to stimulate debate on the key themes emerging in this area. Future events are a priority as it the production of a newsletter to promote the network.

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Dr. Ian Horton is Coordinator for Contextual and Theoretical Studies at London College of Communication. His research interests include text-based public art, information design, and – of course – comics. He regularly presents at conferences on the history of British comics and British informational comics.

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