[Humanist] 30.477 cartoons to comics, model to modelling

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Nov 10 08:54:31 CET 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 477.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2016 06:20:06 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: cartoons to comics

Thanks to Norman Gray for distinguishing

> a cartoon, which is impressionistic and expository, from a model,
> which operationalises an understanding of the 'important' aspects of
> a system. Thus a model is concrete enough (mathematically) that it
> can be simulated or calculated with, and indeed is capable of being
> shown to be inadequate in a particular context.

My understanding is that a mathematical model states a relationship, 
which then can be operationalised by making the calculation, if by 
computer then requiring a translation into software (which is a kind of 
mathematics?) or, if using an analogical machine, into some kind of 
mechanical or electronic setup. I like to distinguish that sort of thing 
from modelling, in which the modeller uses and reuses the model as an 
exploratory instrument.

McCloud distinguishes a cartoon from comics, a series laid out and 
enacted by the reader in time. Could we say that a cartoon 
operationalises a story? This would require reading understood as enactment.

We're dealing with an analogy, of course. So it breaks down, and one 
does have to probe for the weaknesses. But my earlier point was that 
McCloud's "amplification through simplification" suggests a parallel, 
analogous dilation of modelling, its use as a way of imagining and reasoning. 
Sousanis' Unflattening, which I wrote briefly about a while ago, makes 
the enactment visceral-cognitive -- the reader is immersed in the model -- 
as an experimenter is in the experiment? Trim the wild thoughts if you 


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney

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