Digital Portrait Project – Part One [Practical Media]

Our first week’s task requires the making of a ‘Digital Portrait’, centred on personal identities, and how technology transforms that identity in the digital landscape. The question posed to us as a starting point was, ‘What is the relationship between the media you use and your own sense of self’? This in itself poses a question. What is my own sense of self? What am I? Well, I’m a comic book fan, I love films, and I’m a Masters student in Digital Media. I’m a researcher at heart, an Illustrator and podcaster. To a lesser extent, I am a gamer, though I spend more time looking through the history of games and working at conventions rather than playing them, a musician, a martial artist and, biologically speaking, I am a woman. With at least a surface Idea of what I am, I have to now review how each of these aspects relate to my digital self, and how that relates to my physical being.

A lot of my interests and subjects that I use to classify myself, are influenced by the World Wide Web. While most of them were cultivated in the physical world, with books, comics, VHS cassettes, DVD’s and cartridges littering my library (A physical collection of shelves that has stayed with me and feels to reflect myself, as a library should for any owner), the advent of the internet allowed for these passions and defining qualities to be shared with a much wider audience and be expanded upon with the freedom and infinite spread of knowledge the web allows. According to McLuhan’s theories of ‘The Extension of Man’, the infinite supply of information the web provides, is an extension of our own central nerve system. [McLuhan. 1964] The expansion of our own interests in real life through the internet, does provide a way for us to expand our thinking to an almost infinite space and share our thoughts.

Some interests, such as occasionally gaming and at times the temporary escape of films, books and comics, can allow the individual to live the life of another vicariously through the medium. Rather than extending one’s self, the individual can reinvent or inhabit another, while still expanding that experience through the global net.

The infinite nature for these expansions could be explored using an infinite canvas lay out. More research and planning required..

  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man. Routledge Classics. Oxon.

Digital Comics: Infinite Canvas meets Infinite Time.

The idea of a comic book would most likely bring to mind the image of dog eared magazine, decorated in the garb of colourful superhero action, such as Superman or Spider-man, or comical animal strips, including the likes of Garfield, found in your everyday newspaper, due to the image that the mainstream media has perpetuated. With this image in mind, the general public can view the comic book medium as a playground tailored for children and the immature, a notion once shared by the creators themselves [Howe. 2012], this can put off some creators, as they “have a very limited audience and little chance of seeing any returns for their efforts” [Shedd. 2005:05]. The advent and ease of access of the World Wide Web, allows for creators to share their own comics with a wide audience without the fear of distribution costs, the freedom of genre, and complete creative control over their work. With that freedom in mind and the implementation of web only features, such as HTML and Flash, the medium itself could be played with and experimented upon, creating interactive experiences and motion sequences.

However, the creation of motion and interactive comics, according to Scott McCloud, could fall into the same trap as the traditional printed medium, using the screen in the same manner as a standard page. Unlike a sheet of paper, which has defined dimensions and can be ripped and ruined, a screen can be viewed as a window, an infinite space. “The goal is to use the infinite nature of the web to the advantage of the medium, rather than be constrained by panels and pages” [Booker, 2014:1825]. The expansion of a comic beyond its original dimensions, allows for a creator to experiment with what we traditionally see as a comic, and take “advantage of the medium to a much higher degree” [Shedd, 2005:09], using the added space and flexibility to complement the story being told.

The implementation of an infinite X and Y axis can add a sense of time to the work, as information is being revelled to the audience in a controlled setting. A practice McCloud refers to as “gradualism – slowly gaining information by slowly scrolling through an image or sequence of images” [McCloud, 2007]. This practice can, theoretically, expand on an idea of Marshall McLuhan, and the notion of time between panels. That the space in between comic book panels is infinite and can only be determined by what comes before and after. “The viewer, or reader, is compelled to participate in completing and interpreting the few hints provided by the bounding lines” [McLuhan, 1964:174]. An idea also expounded upon by McCloud, with the example of an off panel death, “To kill a man between Panels is to condemn him to a thousand deaths” [McCloud, 1993:68].

  • Blake, C. (2013) The digital evolution: from infinite canvas to infinite comics. [Online] Comic Book Resources. Available from: [Last accessed: 28/09/2016]
  • Booker, M. (2014) Comics through Time. A History of Icons, Idols and Ideas. Greenwood
  • Howe, S. (2012) Marvel Comics. The Untold Story. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McCloud, S. (2007) Reinventing Comics. Harper Collins, New York.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media. Routledge, Oxon.
  • Shedd, A. (2005) No Borders, No Limits: The Infinite Canvas as a Storytelling Tool in Online Comics. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Idaho.

Electricomics – The Digital Revolution of Comics.

ElectricomicsWhat we know as comic books have existed since the 1930’s. They have been described as “a technology all its own”, “that [have] been accumulating and progressing”[Kamen. 2015] ever since. Longer if you consider early cave paintings a form of comic. But, as the mediums of television and film have evolved with the ever changing abilities of modern technology, Comics seem to have remained engraved purely in ink and paper. Even with the ubiquitous use of e-readers and e-book apps, comic apps have been content to simply “replicate the experience of the printed page” [Barnett. 2015].

Fuelled, while developing a small film, by a disdain that when you “create a film these days””you’re expected to ‘realise it’ upon multiple platforms” [Kamen. 2015]. Alan Moore, a noted comic book writer, together with other writers and academics, such as Leah Moore, John Reppion and Daniel Goodbrey, began to “create something within the imaginary world and see if it could be imported to the non-imaginary world” [Kamen. 2015]. The original idea eventually evolved into the ‘Electricomics App’, an attempt to “[take] digital comics to a whole new level” [Barnett.2015].

W69d61c82-610c-4f6b-893e-9b5e88885b88-620x372hile most would point to the likes of Marvels own comic app as a pre-existing expansion of this idea, the only thing unique the app would offer would be the ability to zoom in and out of panels for a somewhat better look (depending on the quality of the image). To many this would be the obvious use, while neglecting to incorporate anything else that the medium such as a mobile tablet can offer. In an interview with Wired, Alan Moore described wanting to “show the possibilities of this new medium, beyond the obvious idea[s]” [Kamen. 2015] and using this as a way to “redefine what comics are in the 21st century” [Kamen. 2015].

Allowing creators to integrate the abilities a tablet can offer, has created not only an evolution in comics but a “final product [that] blends influences from traditional comics, animation, games and film into something that almost defies categorisation” [Kamen. 2015] to the point that Moore himself has stated that he’s “not sure what we’re doing is even comics” [Kamen. 2015].

marvel1The general shape of the tablet itself, a rectangle, could even be used in this manner as an extension of what Will Eisner, creator of the 1940’s comic ‘The Spirit’, described as the ‘meta-panel’, “in which the whole page is a panel into which the other panels have been inserted” [Kamen. 2015]. Following on from Eisner’s work and style, Moore has stated that the obvious ideas of adding sound and slight motion to a comic have already been done, in the likes of motion comics or the audio options that Marvel and DC apps have come to offer, “Eisner already gives you sound and motion. To realize it in a high-tech manner is redundant” [Kamen. 2015]. The interactivity a tablet can offer, such as touch screen capabilities, gyroscope sensors and brightness adjustments hold a whole new host of possibilities ready to be taken advantage of. Since its release in September of 2015, the app as well as its companion generator, have been downloaded and used by several third parties and industry professionals, all trying to reinvent what we view as a digital comic. Though the app itself may be seen by some as unnecessary and “the novelty of the interaction [may] threaten to dump the reader out of the story as well, but perhaps that’s the price of innovation.” [Barnett. 2015], others, including myself, see it as “the first glimpse of a new beginning for digital comics” [Barnett. 2015]