January 14, 2015
Over break I became a reading machine, hopeful that if I ingested enough of other people’s brilliance I’d finally be able to give legs to all the amorphous thesis ideas that have been floating around my head this fall. Turns out, there aren’t quite legs to but I have sent out enough tentative shoots and connections that I’m fairly confident at some point in the near future I’ll have enough courage to write an email to my adviser saying summarizing my thoughts and seeing how they check out by someone with a larger vantage point. (By “near future” I most likely mean probably that I’ll write my ideas in my 2015 Christmas card as every time I think I have reached something that feels right a new tweet appears, I serendipitously encounter a new article, or I lose a few weeks of my life to whatever the flavor of the day work crises happens to be afoot. : )
But anyways, over break I did a lot of investigating on arts-based research, remixed dissertations, and generally people who were doing things that were a little fringe and a lot awesome. I really really want to follow in this pathway with what I do and the only thing stopping me (well, apart from the whole topic thing) is that deep down, I kind of love writing. Like really love it and think in some perverse way spending a long time writing something massive would be terrible and magnificent at the same time. So, I want to follow the arts-based pathway but there’s a pretty solid chance I’ll still be writing lots but hopefully can integrate some other stuff in as well.
One person I found particularly interesting in this journey was Nick Sousanis. Nick is probably the first person ever to do his total dissertation in comic format and….it. is. amazing. His premise is that the world of academia/education has become very flat because it’s so focused on the written word and so divorced from the visual/embodied experience of being a human. His thesis is a look at visual literacy and even more a call to re-evaluate people as actual people whose perceptions, senses, etc require a holistic approach rather than the continued deification of word only. It’s provocative and I think very timely as with so much technology now and people “becoming their own designers” and images being seen worldwide, those who know how to use words are powerful but true power lies in the cohesive and considered pairing of words and images. Much like graphic design….hahaaa….not that I’m biased or anything.
Nick’s dissertation is being published by Harvard University Press in the spring which is crazy amazing. I think his work has opened and will continue to open so many new doors to people with excellent ideas but who may have formerly been outside of academia or at most on its fringe. I know for me I’m ready to write him into my acknowledgements page because, though I’ve not yet read his book, from what I’ve seen its a total discipline-bending piece, equally academic treatise/coffee table marvel/hipster philosophical book club. Best of all it ennobles comics and shows that yes indeed, this is important work.
So…my new goal is to figure out how I can craft a unique discipline-bending flow of my own into my work. I already kind of want to appropriate his “unflattening” idea into my own piece and since we’re now Twitter pals I’m sure he will be cool with it. Now to find just what will populate this discipline-bending work of genius……