Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unflattening Harvard UPress

I'm pleased to announce that my comics dissertation will be published by Harvard University Press in March of 2015! Check out HUP's catalog here to see all the specifics about Unflattening.

This has been in the works for over a year now and I'm thrilled to be able to officially share the news! I've been extremely fortunate to work with a wonderful editor in Sharmila Sen and just a great team at HUP all around. Since defending and handing in the dissertation back in May, with their input I've been plugging away on prepping the book version. The most prominent addition to the dissertation version is the cover - displayed here. (The full cover wraps around the back and onto the flaps as well.) The cover is based on the interior pages that emerged from the "put your feet in my dissertation" invitation and features the outlines of feet from people around the world.

One of the most exciting things for me in seeing this come to fruition is to look back over all my sketches (I've been scanning them as something that will be shared in the notes section) and look at the genesis of ideas scrawled out onto sheets of newsprint as early as 2011 and see how much of what the final work looks like was present in those earliest notes, what changed along the way, never made it in, and only came about much later on. I see it a bit as revealing that our ideas don't emerge like Athena, fully formed from Zeus's brow, rather our thinking coalesces from initial inklings and may take on many forms before the finished appearance in which most people encounter it. Many of these will be in the book, and I plan to share more on my site in the coming months. (The page shown here is the very first page of notes when I started on the project.) 

(Upcoming: I'll be a featured speaker at the International Visual Literacy conference at the Toledo Museum of Art November 7th and all the keynote talks will be open to the public. New to this work? The Chronicle's recent profile is a good way to get up to speed quickly, or click the dissertation label on the upper right for excerpts.) 

Thanks to all for the support over the last several years - it's been a great privilege to develop this work in public conversations - both in person and virtual. Looking forward to being able to share the complete work in just a few short months! - Nick 

From the jacket copy on Harvard University Press's website:

The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking. Nick Sousanis defies conventional forms of scholarly discourse to offer readers both a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry into the ways humans construct knowledge.
Unflattening is an insurrection against the fixed viewpoint. Weaving together diverse ways of seeing drawn from science, philosophy, art, literature, and mythology, it uses the collage-like capacity of comics to show that perception is always an active process of incorporating and reevaluating different vantage points. While its vibrant, constantly morphing images occasionally serve as illustrations of text, they more often connect in nonlinear fashion to other visual references throughout the book. They become allusions, allegories, and motifs, pitting realism against abstraction and making us aware that more meets the eye than is presented on the page.
In its graphic innovations and restless shape-shifting, Unflattening is meant to counteract the type of narrow, rigid thinking that Sousanis calls “flatness.” Just as the two-dimensional inhabitants of Edwin A. Abbott’s novella Flatland could not fathom the concept of “upwards,” Sousanis says, we are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind. Fusing words and images to produce new forms of knowledge, Unflattening teaches us how to access modes of understanding beyond what we normally apprehend.
Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening is a complex, beautiful, delirious meditation on just about everything under the sun; a unique and bracing read.”—Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics and Making Comics
“An important book, Unflattening is consistently innovative, using abstraction alongside realism, using framing and the (dis)organization of the page to represent different modes of thought. The words and images speak for themselves and succeed on their own terms. I couldn’t stop reading it.”—Henry Jenkins, author of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Society

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Upcoming Talks & Process Sketches (Multimodality)

Last week (10/10/14), I participated in the #remixthediss event on New Dissertation Models at the CUNY Graduate Center here in NYC. It was a terrific gathering, invigorated live audience, and it was live-streamed to audiences around the country and the globe - and in many sites they hosted their own parallel discussions. Primary organizer, Professor Cathy Davidson now of CUNY called it not an event but the start of a movement. And as part of that, a publicly editable document was made available for listeners to ask questions and presenters answered them live and have continued to build on the document since. You can see that document here, and watch the recorded video of it right here. (If you came to here me, I'm around the 50 minute mark). Reflections and resources from it are posted on HASTAC's site here. Cathy Davidson was featured in Inside Higher Ed this week and speaks about the event movement in the interview. (This resonates with previous panels on new forms of scholarship that i've been involved in from Expanding Forms of Scholarship to Beyond the Protomonograph).

This week, I'm off to Michigan State University to present at the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies annual conference. I've been fortunate to participate with this inclusive organization for about six years now, and this time around I've been invited to give a few remarks about my work at the opening, as well as my individual session, which will also include a comics-making workshop! 

And in early November, I've been invited to give a keynote talk/workshop at the International Visual Literacy Association's conference at the Toledo Museum of Art. Looks like a fascinating gathering and I'm honored to be partaking in it. You can get a little sense of some of the things I'll be talking on from this poster I made for the Oxford Illustration Symposium last year. The Chronicle's feature on my work is another good way for those unfamiliar to get up to speed. 

I want to close this post by sharing some process sketches. I've been scanning all the sketches that went into the dissertation (for inclusion in the book version!), and that's led me to reflect further on my process and how ideas emerge between the collaboration of thoughts in our heads and sketches on paper. It's something i find that makes my work in comics smarter than I am on my own. Anyhow, what follows are a slew of sketches that went into making a page on comics and multi modality from the third chapter of the dissertation, which sets out to theorize on how comics do their work. I posted them here in what in pretty close to the order they were made. You can see that my initial idea was going in a totally different direction (though i still like the idea of talking about omelets as a kind of multimodal process). I then came up with a concept that is more or less what i went with, but then you see all the attempts to get the composition to flow correctly. This culminates in transforming the large hand on the "keyboard" into an arrow of sorts that helps move the reading eye back up after going down for the initial content. Anyhow, I think this offers a sense of the thinking that goes into a page. I'm frequently asked how long pages take to make - and while the drawing in many cases can take a long time - for me, it's always the thinking, how to orchestrate the page to embody the ideas. It's a journey of wrong turns and surprising discoveries. Which is what I feel research always ought to be. - Nick