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Ernesto Priego – On Collaborative Blogging as Scholarly Activity. The Case of The Comics Grid. Part I.

This week we are exploring different types of publishing with posts from Dr. Ernesto Priego. Dr Ernesto Priego is an editor, journalist, translator, poet, curator and researcher. He has been writing and teaching about comics since 1994. He lives in London. You can follow him on twitter here

“If collaboration and team working are going to be expected more of humanities researchers in future, then we need to think about how to make it seem more normal.”

Claire Warwick, 15 June 2011

One of the most satisfying and challenging projects I’ve been involved with recently is The Comics Grid. When people ask me what it is all about, I say “collaboration.” After I submitted the final draft of my PhD dissertation (ambitiously titled “The Comic Book in the Age of Digital Reproduction”), I couldn’t wait any longer to to create an actual platform, a research and teaching tool, something concrete (online resources are very much concrete and not “virtual” in the sense of “unreal”) with which to address a lack I perceived in the field.

This field is actually a multiplicity of fields. Since what has been called “comics scholarship” studies multimodal texts the methodologies employed to study them should equally be multmodal, i.e., combining different disciplines until not too long ago perceived (and in some cases still perceived) as essentially different. Media studies, communication studies, information studies, cultural studies, film studies, archeology, library science, history, geography, you name it: people studying comics within and outside academia have always employed a combination of approaches and terminologies produced and transmitted from these disciplinary areas.

What I wanted was to develop an open online platform to foster collaboration between scholars based in different parts of the world, to empower them to self-edit and self-publish original research online in tight collaboration with their peers, and to help make a contribution towards the acceptance of

a) comics scholarship as a valid academic activity and

b) online scholarship/academic blogging and social media as a valid expression of scholarly publishing and scholarly communications.

In spite of efforts like the Modern Language Association’s “Short Guide to Evaluation of Digital Work (2010)“, evaluation, appreciation and referencing of online scholarship still has a long way to go. Teachers all over the world still request their students not to “cite from the Internet”, but often fail at developing digital research literacy strategies to address this problem (and often, when they do, they replicate old paradigms which digital publishing debunks in practice).

In comics scholarship, proper attribution of sources (as Martin Barker noticed back in 1989) is equally troubled by a lack of standards, notwithstanding the existence of resources like Allen Ellis’ Comic Art in Scholarly Writing. A Citation Guide” (1998). Moreover, the humanities have a long tradition of employing visual material to illustrate research and teaching, but have traditionally failed to see these sources as worthy of citation (as it keeps happening today).

So I knew that the obstacles were multiple: if non-funded, open online research faces plenty of resistance (accused of complacency and lack of academic rigour, persistence, “impact”, authenticity and authority), comics scholarship faced similar deeply-rooted prejudices, based on unfounded notions of what is worthy of academic study and what is not. In brief, the obstacles seemed insurmountable, but this was what, precisely, made them irresistible to challenge consistently and systematically. In order to do it, the only logical option was to do it as a coordinated front.

(To be continued in part II).

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