Conference Program: The Empirical Study of Comics (7-9 February 2017)

We’re excited to post the program for our upcoming conference, which we’re organizing together with Janina Wildfeuer and which will take place in Bremen in February. It’s a great lineup, featuring some cutting-edge research in what is a growing and increasingly diverse field, and we’re looking forward to meeting colleagues from across Europe and North America. We do have limited seating at the venue, however, so if you want to participate in the conference please get in touch with Svitlana Zarytska at to reserve a spot.


The Empirical Study of Comics

7-9 February 2017
Bremen University, Germany

 Venue: Bremen University, Guesthouse Teerhof (Auf dem Teerhof 58, 28199 Bremen)


Tuesday, 7 February 2017:

09:30-10:00:    Introductory Statement

10:00-12:00:    Multimodal Analysis and Linguistics I

John Bateman (Bremen): From Creative Freedom to Empirical Studies via Qualitative Descriptions: Annotation Schemes for Comics and Graphic Novels

Christoph Wolf (Bremen): Culturally Motivated Layout Choices – A Comparative Study of Japanese Mangas and Western Comics

Pascal Lefèvre & Gert Meesters (Brussels/Lille): The Interpretation of an Evolving Line Drawing

12:00-13:30:    Lunch Break

13:30-15:30:    Multimodal Analysis and Linguistics II

 Neil Cohn (Tilburg): Visual Language Theory and the Scientific Study of Comics

Chiao-I Tseng (Bremen): Tracking Character Developments and Events in Graphic Novels

Anna Lena Rodewald (Bremen): The Representation of Superhero(in)es in Comics

15:30-16:00:    Coffee Break

16:00-17:30:    Digital Approaches to Comics I

Bart Beaty (Calgary): What Were ‘Golden Age’ Comics: Formal Strategies at the Origin of the American Comic Book

Christophe Rigaud, Jean-Pierre Burie & Karell Bertet (La Rochelle): Computer Vision Applied to Comic Book Images

19.30               Dinner


Wednesday, 8 February 2017:

 10:30-12:00:    Digital Approaches to Comics II

Mihnea Tufis & Jean-Pierre Ganascia (Paris): Crowdsourcing Annotations for Comics Corpora

Alexander Dunst & Rita Hartel (Paderborn): From Canon to Corpus: The Quantitative Study of Graphic Narrative

12:00-13:30:    Lunch Break

 13:30-15:30:    Cognitive Processing and Comprehension I

 Ben Tatler (Aberdeen): Eye Movements and Image-Text Integration

Olli Philippe Lautenbacher, Kai Mikkonen & Maarit Koponen (Helsinki): Reading Comics – Tracking the Process

Hans-Jürgen Bucher (Trier): How Informative Are Information Comics? Results from Empirical Audience Research Including an Eyetracking Study

15:30-16:30:    Poster Presentations

 Linda Knief (Bremen): Text and Moving Images: Relations between Media

Oliver Moisich (Paderborn): Focalization in Comics as a Cognitive Concept

Julia Round & Paul Fisher Davies (Bournemouth/Sussex): Visual and Verbal Analysis of Misty

Marina Ruiz Tada & Olena Vasylets (Barcelona): The Role of the Reading Path for Learning from and the Perception of Manga

Janina Wildfeuer & Nancy Guo (Bremen): Exploring the Narrative Representation of Inset Panels in Comic Books

Francisco Veloso, Janina Wildfeuer, John Bateman & Felix Cheung (Bremen): An Empirical Investigation of the Semiotic Potential of Comic Book Page Layout: from the 1930s to 2010s.

16:30-18:30     Cognitive Processing and Comprehension II

Joe Magliano (Chicago): What Do We Need to Understand about How We Process and Comprehend Sequential Narratives?

Lester Loschky (Kansas State): Understanding the Moment-to-Moment Processing of Sequential Narratives

Olivia Rohan & Ryoko Sasamoto (Dublin): Sound Effects in Japanese Comics: An Empirical Eyetracking Study in Multimodal Reading

19.30               Conference Dinner @ Ratskeller Bremen


Thursday, 9 February 2017:

 10:00-12:00     Cognitive Processing and Comprehension III

Jochen Laubrock, Sven Hohenstein & Eike Richter (Potsdam): Cognitive Processing of Text and Image During Comics Reading           

Tom Foulsham (Essex): Eye-Tracking, Comics, and the ‘Reading’ of a Scene

 12:00-13.00     Concluding Remarks

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!

Digitale und kognitive Methoden zur Erforschung grafischer Literatur