Call for Papers: The Empirical Study of Comics

7-9 February 2017
Bremen University, Germany

Organized by Dr. Janina Wildfeuer (Bremen) and the Early-Career Research Group “Hybrid Narrativity: Digital and Cognitive Approaches to Graphic Literature”

This conference aims to advance empirical research on comics, broadly understood as ranging from comic strips and series to mangas, graphic novels, and web comics. The study of this medium has witnessed an unprecedented surge of interest over the last two decades and now constitutes an established field of research in its own right. More recently, hermeneutic approaches to comics within literary and cultural studies have been complemented by a wider range of perspectives: from linguistics to computer science, and from psychology to art history. These projects share a willingness to go beyond thematic and qualitative studies of modern and contemporary culture and bring with them a multitude of empirical methodologies drawn from their respective disciplines. Currently, large corpora of comics and graphic novels are in the process of being collected, digitalized, and annotated in Canada and Germany; computer scientists, including in the US and France, are working on annotation schemes that will allow for comprehensive digital description and analysis; and ground-breaking work in experimental psychology is giving us an opportunity to understand how readers process this multimodal art form. Meanwhile, historical studies of circulation, consumption patterns, and interdependences between comics, animation, and illustration, are gaining track as research on comics diversifies and feeds back into formal description.

However, sustained collaboration across research groups and countries remains scarce. It is the aim of this conference to facilitate further collaboration between scholars across disciplines and countries. Empirical comics research offers the chance to transform our understanding of the medium in the coming years. If shared and disseminated widely, digital corpora will provide a representative overview of the form for the first time. Rigorous classification schemes for page layouts are now being proposed that will benefit from critical input, as will mark-up languages and annotation software. Cognitive approaches challenge some of the most dearly-held convictions about comics, and a huge gap remains between narratologists and cognitive scientists with an interest in the study of culture. The empirical study of comics thus promises to generate remarkable synergies if the ideals of open scholarship are embraced.

Please direct enquiries and send 300-word paper proposals to Janina Wildfeuer ( and Alexander Dunst ( Presentations may take the form of 20-minute papers in the case of projects that have been completed or are nearing completion; or A3 posters for preliminary results, software applications, and projects currently in the initial phase. The deadline for submissions is 31 May 2016.

Confirmed Speakers:           

John Bateman, Bremen University, Germany

Bart Beaty, University of Calgary, Canada

Neil Cohn, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Lester Loschky, Kansas State University, USA

Joe Magliano, Northern Illinois University, USA

Christophe Rigaud, La Rochelle University, France

Tim Smith, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

Ben Tatler, University of Aberdeen, UK

John Walsh, Indiana University, USA


CfP The Empirical Study of Comics

Paper Accepted for DH Conference 2016 in Cracow

Our jointly-authored talk „Corpus Analysis of Multimodal Narrative: The Example of Graphic Novels“ has now officially been accepted as a long paper at the 2016 Digital Humanities Conference in Cracow. We received some excellent feedback from a total of five peer reviewers, so we’re very happy about this initial response, and now look forward to stimulating discussions in July.

Upcoming Talks

Here’s an update on some of our up-coming talks. More to follow soon, hopefully, when we hear back from the organizers of the DH-conference in Cracow in July 2016:

  • Our two abstract for the annual meeting of the German-speaking DH association in Leipzig (7-12 March) have just been accepted, and we’re looking forward to discussions and feedback, as well as meeting up with colleagues and friends. Alexander Dunst and Rita Hartel will be speaking about „The Corpus Analysis of Multimodal Narratives: The Example of Graphic Novels“ („Die Corpusanalyse multimodaler Erzählungen am Beispiel graphischer Romane“), and  Jochen Laubrock, Sven Hohenstein and our student helper Alexander Thoß will give a paper titled „Moving around the City of Glass“. See the conference website at:
  • Alexander Dunst will also be speaking at the „Digital American Studies Meeting,“ organized by Marc Priewe, which will take place at the University of Stuttgart on 24-25 February and intends to promote the – so far somewhat slow – uptake of the digital humanities within American Studies in Germany; and at the joint Irish and British American Studies Association (IAAS/BAAS, 7-9 April) conference at Queen’s University, Belfast, as part of a panel titled „Digital Scholarship in American Studies“. Here’s the link to that conference:
  • Jochen Laubrock will be teaching a graduate course in eye tracking in Athens (4-6 April), and speaking at the Institutskolloquium Psychologie in Würzburg (18 January), the International Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Granada (5-8 May), and the workshop „Using eye movements to study literacy development“ in Southampton (18 August).

Interview with German Comics-Website

Here, somewhat belatedly, is the link to an interview that Alexander Dunst gave a few months ago to the German comics website The website is run by Christian Maiwald, who works in publishing, and is a wonderful source of news for all things related to comics. Here’s the link to the interview (in German), which explains some of the methodological approaches of our research group and how the project relates to the digital humanities and comics scholarship more broadly:

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Pictures from Masterclass with Lev Manovich

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Here are a few pictures from the masterclass on „Cultural Analytics“ that Lev Manovich (CUNY) gave on 23 September at the University of Potsdam. The workshop, which was attended by academics and activists from all over Germany, was the second such organized as part of our research group, a series of events we hope to continue next year. Manovich’s presentation focused on visualization techniques for large cultural collections of visual data, among them paintings, photographs, and comics, as well as the principles underlying his approach. The slides for his presentation can be found at: Thanks to Lev for an inspiring talk and everyone for questions and discussion!

Masterclass on Cultural Analytics with Lev Manovich

Date: 23 September 2015, 10am-5pm, University of Potsdam

To sign up for the workshop, please contact Jochen Laubrock at: Participation is free but will be limited to 20 seats, so please register early.

Lev Manovich is Professor of Computer Science at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and founder and director of the Software Studies Initiative. In 2014 he was included in The Verge’s list of the 50 “most interesting people building the future”. He is well known for the automated exploration, analysis, and visualization of big image data, as exemplified in the “One million manga pages” or “Selfiecity” projects. Manovich is the author of Software Takes Command (Bloomsbury, 2013), Black Box – White Cube (Merve, 2005), Soft Cinema (MIT Press, 2005), The Language of the New Media (MIT Press, 2001), Metamediji (Belgrade, 2001), Tekstura: Russian Essays on Visual Culture (Chicago University Press, 1993) as well as over 120 articles which have been published in 30 countries and reprinted over 450 times. He is also one of the editors of the Software Studies book series (MIT Press) and Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Science (Springer).

Digitale und kognitive Methoden zur Erforschung grafischer Literatur