Category Archives: Webcomics

Hatfield Response

I thought that it was both interesting and productive that this reading not only presented a problem that I had not previously considered – the marginality and lack of representation in information sciences – as well as attempting to provide a potential solution to that problem. By starting the article with showing how the marginalization of information caused difficulty in representing the lgbtq experience and created a distrust of the system by the community was, to me, a very apt way for illustrating a real problem I and others have seen within other instances. Furthermore, I was worried with the way some of the proposed solutions seemed to be going that this article would place the whole burden of obtaining representation on the marginalized people. I was pleased, however, to read the author argue for proactivity on the part of information sciences, and to do so by looking at the spaces lgbtq people have already worked on creating for themselves. If the goal of the information sciences is to further community involvement and participation in their work, what better way to get to that point that looking at communities where active participation in story creation and preservation is already taking place. 

In terms of this setting being webcomics, I was very intrigued. While I do read comics, webcomics are not really a form I am particularly familiar with. Reading about how “Jocelyn Samara, creator of Rain, has clearly inserted her own experiences into the comic, as well as reached out to fans and asked them to share their experiences in order to shape the direction of the series” to me harked a little back to some of the fiction-ish autobiographies we read in class. However, I think that the community involvement is a truly unique development. The article did mention that this type of participatory community art thing did exist in part before the internet, and is stronger in many different types of media now because of the internet. However, I have yet to see something like what seems to be happening in Rain. To include the personal experiences of readers within the story, as well as personal stories of the writer, may not be striving for authenticity in the same way as the autobiography stories we read — they strove to achieve an authentic self-story — but rather seems to be trying to achieve an authentic story of a people. In taking the different experiences of these people and putting them into one story seems to me to almost reference the idea of an oral history more than traditional comics, in the way that it becomes a preservation of ideas and events in the way fiction and simple autobiography cannot do. I guess this is why the participatory story telling of the webcomic is of such value to information sciences — it has become, to a degree, and information science in itself. 

TRANSforming Spaces

When I first started reading TRANSforming Spaces, I was surprised because I had never thought about the library and archives as being a space that caused for an underrepresentation of transgender-based material. The statements that Hatfield makes in TRANSforming Spaces such as “libraries and archives need to proactively include community voices and challenge normative practices that have disenfranchised transgender users.” make me wonder about our own library and archives. I have never searched the archives or the library to even see if they have content that represents transgender users but if they do not have any source material that is representative of transgender people, I feel like they are doing a disservice to not only Whitman but Walla Walla as the entire community that have access to the library and the archives.

Another fascinating statement that Hatfield makes is “the transgender community has yet to achieve the visibility that gay and lesbian communities have, and has been said to be twenty years behind gays and lesbians in terms of rights.” This statement really struck me because I feel as if I have been blind in attempting to incorporate the transgender community as well as the gay and lesbian communities. I noticed that at moments such as the pride parade, my mind is focused on the acceptance of gay and lesbian communities but for some reason when I am there celebrating acceptance, the thought of incorporating transgender communities separate from the other LGBTQ communities did not cross my mind for some reason. However, reading this article has made me realize that I need to think more about how transgender people are being represented in our community, whether that is through the library and the archives or just through daily life in general.

This article also reminded me of the comic book presentation that Megan, Shana, and Katherine did on The Prince And The Dressmaker because it parallels to the comic the Hatfield refers to, Mahou Shonen FIGHT! Because both of the main characters in the comic are very gender fluid and even though they cross dress in order to transform into someone else, their gender is never defined, leaving it open to the reader to interpret it as they wish. I believe that these sorts of comics that purposefully make a point to incorporate all genders, ethnicities, and sexualities, etc. are very scarce in Whitman’s library and archives. However, I did not really look at this as such a pressing issue until I read Hatfields argument. But now, after reading TRANSforming Spaces, I am going to be aware of how libraries, archives, and community spaces incorporate the transgender community.

When Hatfield discussed how the internet opened up a whole new world to consumers through participatory culture, it reminded me of the web comics that we have read and also of some of the fanfiction that I have read online. I really enjoy reading these works because the consumers are able to comment on the post and therefore the author is able to take the consumers feedback and possibly add that into their next work that they publish.

Here is the comic from Alyssa that I liked the best: https://www.autostraddle.com/oh-hey-its-alyssa-49-pride-423221/

The usefulness of stories

We all define ourselves a certain way, and for better or worse who we think we are is often who we become. I have seen friends become addicts and organizers, crazy hermits and inventors, stick with sports, relationships, ideas, dreams, personality traits long past they had outgrown them or were helpful, or long after everyone else had told them to give them up all because they became a part of how they defined themselves. There is a lot of power in self-definition, it can move you past otherwise insurmountable barriers, in how you think and what you expect of yourself; but self-definition can also be a way to make a habit out of negativity, to hold on to the parts of you that are harmful, it’s a tricky tool and one often best wielded in the presence of good friends. Likewise we often fail to see other people past our immediate perceptions of who they are. It’s how we other others, putting them into a place where we can only see them making decisions for a few motives we prescribe to them. I’m sure none of this is news to you, but I wanted to start by thinking about these things.
I was working in a lab at the UW the summer Michael Brown was shot, I was working with this guy from the Midwest who believed that the protesters were wrong and that the police were justified in their actions. You might expect that someone who held strong opinions about a controversial and polarizing issue would be hard to sway, this was not the case. The PhD student had never really met any people of color growing up, he had never heard the statistics on police shootings of black men in America, I showed him one pew fact sheet and it completely changed his mind within an hour. I think this speaks to the power of stories and statistics. My mom has worked in organizing for a long time and she has a very simple (and successful) approach for talking about controversial issues, open with stories, follow with facts. Stories break down the definitions that we build for others and lets us move them and re-evaluate. Stories build a new normal, an expectation and a path, shaping our conscious and unconscious biases. We are only really effected by the stories we hear, look no further than the increase in public same sex couples and the changing opinions of Americans on same sex couples (http://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/.) Having access to these stories is important and I feel like that is the sort of thing Nami was talking about in their piece, that transgender stories don’t have a place in the modern academic discourse, or really much of the modern public discussion, web comics give other trans identifying people an opportunity for validation and solidarity in a world not built around them but also allows these stories to be shared in an easily digestible and very human way with the rest of the population who doesn’t have a friend or family member who is trans. This wider readership is really important to wider acceptance, and there is a lot more I would like to say, but it is past midnight and I am tired so hopefully this gives some interesting thoughts.

Webcomics and Archives

Webcomics shatter so many of the barriers presented by traditional form web comics. As we discussed with Bitch Planet and Orange is the New Black, while they are bringing representation to mainstream media, they are operating within the capitalist system. Their ultimate goal is profit, popularity, entertainment and appealing to the masses. Webcomics are not screened through editors and do not need to be censored in the same way that publishing companies may censor author’s work.

The direct link the creator has to the public is also powerful. Not only does the creator have more power, but the audience does as well. As Nami Hatfield points out in “Transforming Spaces: Transgender Webcomics as a Model for Transgender Empowerment and Representation within Library within Library and Archive Spaces” there is power in representation.

Accessibility is a key strength of the webcomic medium. Hatfield draws attention to the importance of accessibility in that as a child there was no way to find information or representation in media at the library as a transgender person. Libraries and information spaces are one way that people can access media with limited means; it is therefore critical that people can find representation in these spaces. Not only this, but even when representation exists it is often misrepresentation.

Webcomics are one space in which all types of people have been able to have the platform to express their voices and their stories. In “Oh, Hey! It’s Alyssa” Alyssa Alexander creates an autobiographical webcomic that speaks to an experience with disability as well as being gay. These experience are both distinct and intersecting, personal and relatable. This webcomic could serve as a source of representation to someone with a similar experience. This webcomic also serves as an underrepresented voice in media to create awareness or increase empathy and understanding.

Furthermore, Alexander’s platform is also a strong example of Hatfield’s argument that webcomics foster community and participation. Not only this, but they “do away with the strict distinction between mediators and users” (67). These internet communities can create connections between both the creator and the readership creating a two-way stream of influence. Further, they can create fandoms and bonds between the readers themselves. Webcomics allow for these niche groups to be born and exist regardless of if there is mass appeal or a small group which finds one another. Webcomics also defy physical distance and build national and international groups.

Ultimately, Hatfield’s argument that similar methodology to the “South Asian American Digital Archives” could be applied to webcomics is a powerful one. Creating a space which is democratic and available to all to share, create and interact with diverse stories could influence so many people. Though webcomics have a lot of perks by being on the internet, excluding these forms of representation from information and archive spaces as well of libraries is exclusionary. The transgender community in particular, as Hatfield points out, is severely underrepresented in media. The webcomic medium is a great medium for freedom of individuals to represent their experiences and tell their stories but entry into information spaces would be greatly impactful next step.

who is representation and diversity for?

Hatfield examines and criticizes the ways in which archival institutions and systems ritually exclude transgender voices, even in LGBTQ spheres. Hatfield attributes this to the lack of transgender input that archival institutions often disregard. In order to responsibly represent a large community of people, Hatfield suggests that a member of said marginalized community is the one that creates the media and information that is exported. Looking at webcomics as a medium that engages participatory and convergence culture, Hatfield suggests that archival and library communities should engage in similar ways that center marginalized voices. I see this need for representation in many areas of my life.

I attended a Students of Color Conference at Gonzaga University, for example, where I heard a woman present on “Decolonizing Your Syllabus.” Decolonize Your Syllabus is a movement that was started by Dr. Yvette de Chavez, a professor of American Literature at the University of Texas, Austin. When teaching Introduction to American literature, De Chavez created a syllabus entirely highlighting black, indigenous, and people of color voices. She was told that she needed to “diversify” her syllabus with white writers, the true American authors. De Chavez and other professors joining her movement understand that there is a greater need to not only diversify our syllabi, but decolonize it. Diversification is simply adding in marginalized voices as alternative view-points to a dominant ideology. Decolonization is when we begin to use BIPOC (black, indigenous, POC) scholarship as the lenses in which to read the world through. This adopts their language and viewpoints as valid and important within academic discourse. Programs like Encounters seek to only showcase BIPOC authors as texts to address a checkbox of racism and sexism, through texts like Souls of Black Folk and The Second Sex. They do not use their thinking to analyze the Whitman bubble or the larger global community. What kind of first year experience is Encounters trying to provide? These texts and their lose interpretations that are entertained in classes are simply used as checkboxes that Whitman can use to say that all students engage with global issues, to comprise a liberal arts education.

Sad.

I must push further to question, when we center marginalized voices in these spaces, in the name of education, who is the group in question? Although I understand that education is the first step to engaging with issues of social justice, we must question who the burden of education is on. I felt as if the need for dominant groups to educate themselves without looking to marginalized peoples to teach them was missing. There seems to be a lack of accountability on the end of individuals to educate themselves. If I’ve learned something at Whitman, it’s that my learning here didn’t come from the institution; my learning came from finding ways to deal with this institution. Whitman won’t be the ones to teach you how to be “woke” or socially engaged. It is a personal responsibility that we all have to work towards collective liberation. When one in our global community is harmed, we all are.

 

my fav comic from Alyssa: https://www.autostraddle.com/oh-hey-its-alyssa-53-accommodations-428670/

Online Community vs. IRL Community

I feel like I can definitely see the ways in which Graphic Medicine and Hatfield speak to each other. Just as graphic medicine rejects the objective-case-study “universal patient” and embraces the unique subjectivity of individuals, so does Hatfield embrace the subjective experience of individual trans people. There is neither a “universal patient” nor a “universal trans person,” so efforts to document the experiences of these populations (or any population) in an objective manner inevitably erase facets of truth.

I think Hatfield’s argument to merge the library with the people it serves is a really fascinating and potentially very beneficial idea. My one concern is that real-life meetings and forums are inevitably, inherently different from communities that form online. For starters, will people want to attend a meeting at their local library at eight-o’clock on a Thursday, leaving their own warm homes and driving maybe thirty minutes in the dark? The Internet does not require us to put on clothes or leave our homes. It also provides relative anonymity and allows us to duck out of a conversation at any time without anyone noticing. Time, in fact, works differently on the Internet – there is no such thing as an awkward silence, a gap of time that we feel we must fill with conversation. We can easily converse with someone who is not present right now, but who happens to see our post or comment later. People can contribute from anywhere in the world, and thus the community forms without geographic limitations.

Because of these differences, creating a participatory community at a library or archive will inherently be a different animal from creating such a community on the web. Envision for a moment the small, classroom-esque library room, fluorescently lit and a little chilly, with a circle of wooden, straight-backed chairs. Everyone has dragged themselves out their door uncertain who else would be here. Someone coughs.

This is a different environment from the Internet. Hugely. It is local, it is personal, it is face-to-face, and it is grounded in time. I wonder if it is possible for the unreserved sharing of personal details that we see on the Internet to occur in a setting like this. For instance, the author of “I Do Not Have an Eating Disorder,” who struggled over whether to publish several pages of her comic, would likely not have done so if she were confronted with a half-circle of faces, waiting expectantly to hear her story.

I think the medium is the key here. Graphic medicine empowers patients not just by welcoming their comments and opinions, but by inviting them to draw comics. Patients contribute to the archive of information on their illness and patient experience by producing comics themselves. This, I suspect, is a superior medium to the verbal-exchange forum proposed by Hatfield. Conversation requires us to hurry – we have to collect our thoughts to match the rhythm of the conversation. If someone talks too much, others can’t speak; if you don’t speak up fast enough, someone has already taken the stage. What if trans people were invited to add their stories to library archives through comics? Or, short stories or poetry or memoirs – whatever their choice of medium. This at least enables each individual to collect their thoughts in the privacy of their own lives, and share what they ultimately want to share. It would be interesting to formulate a system by which library readers could then comment upon the materials contributors had submitted, creating a kind of community that more closely resembles what we would find online.

Favorite Ayssa comic:

Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa #16: The Gelders (Part Two)

The impact of inclusive webcomics and safe spaces

Webcomics like “The Disabled Life” and “Oh Hey, it’s Alyssa” that highlight marginalized communities such as the disabled community and lgbtq community are extremely important for the communities that they create and foster. These comics that are on a smaller scale are able to gain attention from people all over the world who are looking for these kinds comics that may be difficult to find hard copies of. I think the online aspect of them is unique due to its universal accessibility and the communication that can take place between both readers and the creators and the readers with other readers. As Nami Kitsune Hatfield said in “TRANSforming Spaces: Transgender Webcomics as a Model for Transgender Empowerment and Representation within Library and Archive Spaces, webcomics are able to take away the barrier and distinction between mediators and users and the audiences input can even shape the direction of the comics, it’s a two-way street. This online space is also a place where marginalized people can feel welcome and safe, which as Hatfield makes clear, is not the case for many public spaces. It’s a place where they needn’t feel as isolated and can identity and support one another. While reading the “Oh Hey, it’s Alyssa” comic titled “Venn Diagram” I noticed both the important subject matter of the comic and the positive response to it. The comic (which is attached to this post) deals with Alyssa being a “disgaybled” person, someone who is both gay and disabled. She talks about the difficulties she has experienced growing up with this identity. It’s brutally honest and was extremely eye opening for me to read. Because of the community importance we’ve talked about regarding webcomics, I decided to read the comments and was overwhelmed with the amount of “thank you’s” directed to Alyssa. Here is one that stood out:

“I am disabled and bisexual, and I can’t honestly thank you enough for this. I’m going through a bit of tough time and you comics are helping me immensely.”

This quote highlights how much comics that represent these groups of people can mean. They are a method of support and inspiration. While reading Hatfield’s piece I was interested in the idea that webcomics, while incredibly helpful and progressive, are not enough. It’s great that marginalized groups have online resources where they can feel safe, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to make public institutions safe places as well. People need to feel welcomed and safe when they’re out of their house, and to do so these public institutions need to progress. Like Hatfield said, these institutions can’t remain apolitical when there are so many existing prejudices in the world, they have to take action and modeling their actions after the webcomics communities is a great way to start.

alyssa4-1

alyssa4-2

“TRANSforming” a Good Model and a Good Pun

The first thing that came to mind when reading this article was my experience with queer representation and inclusion in library spaces. I’m a big user of public libraries, in middle school and high school I spent most afternoons at branches of the Seattle Public Library. Walking up to the teen section and seeing a display of LGBTQ+ books had a big impact on me. Being able to checkout and read books about queer people helped me realize my queer identity and eventually come out. The majority of the books available were about gay men which is a bit disappointing, looking back, but at least there was some representation. Libraries including queer material can make users feel actively included. This summer when I was working in Juneau, AK, I went to the public library there, and much to my surprise there was a display of LGBTQ+ books out for Pride month. Not only did I get to read a really good anthology of queer short stories by Alaskan authors, but I also felt included in the library space. While these are just a few examples of libraries promoting queer books, there is still a long way to go for libraries acquiring and promoting queer content, and trans content in particular.

In “TRANSforming Spaces” Hatfield argues that trans webcomics and the online communities that surround them can be used as a model for trans involvement and representation in libraries. Using Rain and Mahou Shonen FIGHT! as examples Hatfield explains how complex trans identities can be represented in comics. The article also focuses of the fandom communities that surround these comics and how people are able to comment and even participate in the comics by deciding how the plot will progress. This brings together trans readers and allies to form supportive communities based on common interests. Hatfield emphasizes participation as a great strength of webcomics that should transfer to archive spaces.

I agree with Hatfield’s conclusions about the power expanding the model of these trans webcomics to other spaces, but I think that it could go a step further. The elements that Hatfield emphasizes are not just good values and behaviors for library spaces – but are actually just things that make positive and trans-inclusive community spaces and institutions in general. Hatfield mentions the importance of emotional investment, which, I would argue, it’s a goal we should work for across different spaces. Similarly, convergent culture, where content flows across a variety of media is an important tool in community building. Whether it is a Facebook group or a Snapchat filter, or an entire website, these other forms of media can serve to enhance and support existing communities. Being able to participate and have a voice is essential to forming a community. We need to think about how we can actively include trans voices in all spaces, from queer organizations, to businesses, to academic institution. I realize that this is calling for larger change than what the article is referring to, but I think that we need larger change, even if it just starts in smaller places like library and archive collections.

Yet again my reader response is a kinda all over the place and not focused on relating this text to our webcomics in particular, sorry!

Here‘s a “Oh Hey, It’s Alyssa” comic I particularly enjoyed. Though, let’s be real, I freaking loved all of them …I may or may not have procrastinated from doing other work by reading them all.

Impact of Webcomics

Throughout this past unit on graphic medicine, I cannot help but to think about the powerful role that the medium of webcomics plays within this fascinating genre. We have read three outstanding webcomics this week, including “The Disabled Life,” “I Do Not Have An Eating Disorder,” and “Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa”.  All three of these webcomics deal with a variety of mental and physical illnesses through the same medium.  The fact that these authors chose webcomics is no coincidence and actually helps them to make a statement.

According to MK Czerweic in the “Graphic Medicine Manifesto,” the genre of graphic medicine incorporates three key things: a resistance of the idea of a ‘universal patient’, multiple subjects, and conflicting beliefs, values, and experiences.  Through the genre of graphic medicine, people who suffer from illnesses, whether mental or physical, can empower themselves by speaking about their experiences through their own voices.  They can creatively portray their disabilities in an empathetic and humanizing light.  They have the power to share their story and touch individuals who may be going through similar experiences or even educate those who don’t know anything about what it’s like to live with a particular condition.

The best way to put these stories out there and directly connect with others is through the medium of webcomics.  With no formal publishing or printing process necessary, authors and artists can simply release their works to the public for a worldwide audience.  Individuals from all around can find these comics for free, meaning these stories are accessible to anyone who can get their hands on an electronic device with internet.  Suddenly an author or artist can be connected with a global audience in a shockingly intimate way.  The readers can like and comment on the comics, offering opinions, anecdotes, or even ideas for future comics.

This global audience was a focal point in Nami Kitsune Hatfield’s work, “TRANSforming Spaces”.  In this piece, she argues that webcomics offer a participatory discourse that allows the author to directly converse with readers.  Hatfield believes that this exchange is incredibly valuable for both parties.  Authors can receive insight into potential ideas or changes that should be made to the comic, while readers feel empowered to provide their own voices and experiences to further broaden whatever the focus of the comic is.

What I gleaned from Hatfield and Czerweic is that this participatory culture that is so unique to webcomics can be impactful for marginalized communities across the board, especially for the trans community and those with mental or physical disabilities.  Webcomics allow individuals in these communities to feel that they’re not alone, participate in an online community of like-minded individuals, and even share their personal experiences. To offer a better idea of webcomics, I pulled this image from a comic in “Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa.”

It would seem to me that any of her readers could relate to this kind of content, whether they had gone through similar experiences as this author or not.  Of course, if a reader had gone through a similar life path, they may find content like this to be particularly relatable and touching. Powerful content like this can be found in the other two webcomics we read as well.  Each comic can find a nuanced way to impact its audience, touching people across the globe.

It would seem that the accessibility and participatory nature of webcomics allows them a special ability to touch individuals around the world.  The impact of webcomics must not be undervalued, particularly when considering the intersection of this medium with impactful, rare, and representative genres like graphic medicine or trans narratives.