Estranging Comics - Towards a novel comics praxeology

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
Degree programme
48 + app. 46
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL THESES, 40/2022
The industry-wide adoption of digital and network technologies has produced long-lasting and unevenly distributed effects in all the sectors of the comics industry. The globalization of markets and services has profoundly reshaped comics labor. Its effects are economic (the precarization of craftsmanship traditions), social (the rise of entrepreneurial fan culture and the consolidation of increasingly diversified communities with novel forms of amateur and semi-professional activity), technical (the introduction of digital tools for the distribution, the archival and retrieval of media artefacts) and aesthetic (the gradual integration in the production pipeline of AI and synthetic media). As is demonstrated by the recent emergence of radical forms of experimentation documented in the Conceptual Comics media collections of Ubuweb and Monoskop, comic artists are often able to leverage the dependencies of the ever-growing network infrastructure of the comics industry. Nevertheless, these disruptions foreground an epistemic crisis in the understanding of contemporary comics, both in academia and in more traditionally established professional spheres. This thesis embraces an attitude of productive estrangement towards the medium’s forms, material qualities and operations, and constructs comics as a “contemporary object”. According to philosopher Anne-Françoise Schmid, a contemporary object is an extra-disciplinary entity that is massively distributed in space and time. Understanding such an object depends on the increasingly aggregate nature of knowledge production and dissemination in the computational age. Both in theory, with a series of papers in peer-review journals, and in artistic practice, by way of published comics and commissioned curatorial projects, this thesis examines the mutations of the comics ecology as an expansion of the scope of knowledge. It embraces the cumulative impact of digital transformation and articulates a novel comics praxeology predicated on two conditions. First, the thesis appeals for a systematic exploration of comics outside of narrow media purviews, the implicitly disciplinary conceptions, and the dominant historical perspectives in Comics Studies. It aims to develop a conception that embraces a rigorous application ofa non-hegemonic interdisciplinarity in comics research. Second, and most importantly, the thesis argues for the expansion of operational agency on the part of comics professionals. This agency is described as a heightened contextual appreciation of the industry’s infrastructural backend, an awareness of its imbricated institutions and a diversification of the professional toolbox. I argue that a novel comics praxeology is a necessary attribute in order to embrace future, speculative,unclaimed or hitherto impossible forms in comics expression.
Supervising professor
El Baroni, Bassam, Dr., Aalto University, Department of Art and Media, Finland
Thesis advisor
Dworkin, Craig, Dr., University of Utah, USA
media, comics, digitalization, networks
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Ilan Manouach: Outlining Conceptual Practices in Comics. European Comic Art Journal (10/2021).
    DOI: 10.3167/eca.2021.140206 View at publisher
  • [Publication 2]: Ilan Manouach: Comic books as Ontographs: The composition process of Abrégé de Bande Dessinée Franco-Belge. Cuadernos del Centro de Estudios de Diseño y Comunicación, No 125, "La Historieta Desbordada y Estallada. Un Lenguaje Mutante", University of Palermo, Argentina (03/2021)
  • [Publication 3]: Ilan Manouach: The tactile comics of Shapereader. Leonardo Journal, for the "Transcreation" thematic issue, (passed peer-review, to be published in Q2 2022).
    DOI: 0.1162/leon_a_02202 View at publisher
  • [Publication 4]: Ilan Manouach: Distributed Labor as a Compositional Practice. Comics Grid Open Scholarship Journal (09/2019).
    Full text in Acris/Aaltodoc:
    DOI: 10.16995/cg.139 View at publisher
  • [Publication 5]: Thomas Melistas, Yannis Siglidis, Fivos Kalogiannis, Ilan Manouach: A Deep Learning Pipeline for the Synthesis of Graphic Novels, in International Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC), passed peer-review to be published in (Q4 2021)