[Humanist] 30.482 cartoons, comics, models, modelling

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Nov 11 07:21:37 CET 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 482.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2016 08:17:24 +0000
        From: "Priego, Ernesto" <Ernesto.Priego.1 at city.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  30.477 cartoons to comics, model to modelling
        In-Reply-To: <20161110075432.0FD448243 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Willard,

Thank you again for introducing comics into the thought-provoking discussions here.

Regarding the difference between 'cartoons' and 'comics', a key factor is time and layout. The differences between cartoons and comic strips get more blurry (many famous comic strip series have often had single-panel cartoons, which gather additional meaning from their inclusion within a temporal series of multi-panel comic strips).

Many in comics studies tend to see cartoons and therefore cartooning as a component of comics (though one can have comics without cartoons- as in photo comics or 'abstract' comics). Robert Fiore has an interested essay on 'cartoony' as an adjective to describe some comics artists' graphic style that might help expand the modelling comparison http://classic.tcj.com/blog/adventures-in-nomenclature-literal-liberal-and-freestyle/.

The 'definitional' debate in comics is long and, as in DH, it can become tiresome, and distinctions between cartoons, comics and 'graphic novels' tend to both excite and irritate aficionados, artists and scholars alike.

For a conversation about Unflattening between two comics scholars who also make comics (and the other way around), readers might be interested in

Wilkins, P. & Herd, D., (2015). Unpacking Unflattening: A Conversation. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship. 5(1), p.Art. 11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cg.bi

All the best,


Dr Ernesto Priego
Lecturer in Library Science
School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering
City, University of London
<mailto:Rita.Kaur.1 at city.ac.uk>

> From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
> Sent: 10 November 2016 07:54
> To: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> Subject: [Humanist] 30.477 cartoons to comics, model to modelling

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

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