Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Comics and the Multimodal World conference takes interactive approach to engage wider audience

From left: Douglas instructors and comics fans Peter Wilkins, David N. Wright and Brenna Clarke Gray have created a conference with a twist.

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor


Presenting a dry academic paper while an audience passively listens is so passé.

Yes, the scholarly conference is evolving, and three Douglas College instructors – Brenna Clarke Gray, David N. Wright and Peter Wilkins – have found the perfect platform on which to build a new-school style conference that is both interactive and has wide appeal to a broad audience: comics.

From June 13-16 Douglas College will host Comics and the Multimodal World, an event that will see scholars from a variety of disciplines from around the globe come together to discuss their research on comics and digital culture.

The conference will include interactive seminars where the audience – the public is welcome and encouraged to attend – will be invited to participate in making, testing and using comics, while the first day of the conference has been designated Student Day and will feature roundtable conversations, a hands-on seminar/teach-in, film screenings and a special forum.

Wright says this approach falls in line with what’s happening with scholarly conferences nowadays.

“They’re becoming un-conferences,” he says. “Paper presentation is part of it, but conferences are opening up to include seminars and workshops, for example. They’re becoming more interactive.”

Clarke Gray says one of the things this conference aims to do is bring together the academic side of comics and the actual practice of making comics in one space.

“Sarah Leavitt, who’s giving our keynote, is doing a whole workshop session on creating comics from memoir, so you actually get to sit down with her and work through the process,” she says.

Conventional paper sessions – which will be more academic – will have their place at this conference. But Wilkins says it doesn’t matter if you’re a comics scholar or just a huge comics fan; it’s easy to find common ground.

“I was at a big comics conference in Spain,” he recalls, “where everybody was talking highfalutin theory about abstraction in comics and things like that. But at the end, they were all talking about X-Men.”

Comics and the Multimodal World runs June 13-16 at Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus, 700 Royal Ave. For more information or to register, visit the conference website.