Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/201650
Title: ENTERING THE PANELLED UNIVERSE: IMPACT OF INTERACTIVITY ON STORYTELLING DEVICES AND TECHNIQUES IN COMICS
Authors: NEO YU HAN
ORCID iD:   orcid.org/0000-0002-4945-755X
Keywords: comics theory, interactive comics, interactive storytelling, agency, reader response, reader fluency
Issue Date: 20-Jan-2021
Citation: NEO YU HAN (2021-01-20). ENTERING THE PANELLED UNIVERSE: IMPACT OF INTERACTIVITY ON STORYTELLING DEVICES AND TECHNIQUES IN COMICS. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Comics are a medium distinct from and yet tied to other forms of storytelling. A rich body of theory exists on the nature of the medium, its narrative techniques and the visual language unique to it. In light of the increasing interest in digital interactive technologies, however, there is a need to examine how the current theoretical understanding of comics is complicated by interactivity, as has been studied for other media such as text-based stories and games. This thesis begins to build a foundation for addressing this gap, by focusing on the impact of relatively simple standalone interactions—reminiscent of the Quick-Time Events sometimes found in games—on storytelling in linear comics. Three cumulative studies were conducted as part of this endeavour. The first two studies involved exposing participants to short experimental prototypes, followed by qualitative interviews and retrospective protocol analysis. These studies begin to highlight various ways in which the inclusion of interactivity, even in the absence of branching choices, expands on and alters our current theoretical understanding of the comic form, including: how interactivity functions within the interconnected multiframe; the relative hierarchy between the iconic drawn image and interactive elements; meaning-making functions of interactivity within the comic form; the impact of challenge and potential failure; and the role of fluency and reader learning. A preliminary framework was developed based on these findings, and a third and final study uses this framework as guiding analytical lenses to examine three existing interactive comic works that fall within the scope of having significant interactions without branching choices. Through this process of close reading, the framework was fleshed out with reference to the more complex, organic context of published comics. The studies have found support for the notion of interactivity as a separate but intertwined channel alongside the drawn image and text. Some of the storytelling functions served by interactions overlap with those served by text in traditional comics, while others are new possibilities brought about by the introduction of interactivity. On the whole, interactivity complements, complicates, and adds new dimensions to how comics tell stories in various ways; for instance, interactions often force a more concrete, real-world sense of time on comics and tends to erode the more abstract, reader-dependent sense of time that comics usually have, but also allow for the use of interesting temporal devices and distortions. Similarly, while interactions that are challenging to some extent may interfere with the reader’s ability to pay attention to and parse the other channels of information, well-designed challenges can also aid storytelling in many ways, such as communicating the nuances of the situation being portrayed and eliciting readers’ empathy for characters in the story. In systematically identifying these and many other tensions and areas of potential, the final proposed framework serves as a starting point for a theory of interactive comics, and a foundation for future theory-building.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/201650
Appears in Collections:Ph.D Theses (Open)

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