Comic books in the digital age: Understanding technological co-existence through post-medium specificity
McGarry, Cormac Michael
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Comic books, a rarefied pastime in Western countries, have increasingly become content providers and narrative links in wide transmedia enterprises and have found new audiences through digital channels. This places the comic book in a far more prominent position wherein it can become remediated in a number of directions. Indeed, the range of digital comics varietals from guided-view to the infinite canvas bears this out. Comics as a medium have thus become uniquely visible across two discrete technological infrastructures – print and digital. From here, a question arises as to how comics can continue to maintain and promote its medial identity under such variegated conditions? This research project investigates the extent to which these many digital comics remediations might be considered examples of ‘post-media.’ As Rosalind Krauss outlines, the post-medium condition consists in a ‘specificity which never simply collapses into the physicality of [its] support’ (2000; 53). Such a specificity, this project proposes, would take the form of a perceptual regime – a polymedial system of attention that adds up to a medium’s ability to be uniquely identified and consumed. For comics, this perceptual regime would take the form of a reading/watching dialectic – a multi-modal form of address that comic books have uniquely constructed through conventional-institutional (social), communicative-semiotic (formal), and material-technological (tactile) means. This research project uses this reading/watching dialectic as a marker of post-medium specificity for the comic book and traces it through the comic books’ three most prominent digital remediations: guided-view comics, motion comics, and the infinite canvas. By conceptualising and analysing comics’ perceptual regime in social, formal, and tactile terms, this project aims to provide a fuller understanding how our relationship with comic books (and media more broadly) continues and changes according to its digital re-shapings and its technological co-existence.
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