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2019 Research and Practice: Reflections

2019 has been busy with research and creative projects. On the verge of a new decade, join me for a recap of my year’s outputs.

How to have better arguments about the environment (or anything else)

Communication-comic cover

This comic was my first creative work published by The Conversation, which you can find here. Big thanks to Wes Mountain and Madeline DeGabriele for their editing assistance and guidance throughout the process. To date it has been read just under 30 thousand times in The Conversation, and republished by Swinburne University, University of Queensland, Australian News Bulletin, Modern Australian, MENAFN, among others. I have collated it into a handy comic which you can buy here.

Reinterpreting Polytheistic Gods

The International Graphic Novel and Comic Conference (IGNCC19) in Manchester was my first international conference unpacking and presenting my own creative work. I wrote about the experience here. The research led me to discoveries about the processes of my creative practice and distinct approaches including Practice Based Research, Practice Led Research, and Practice As Research. You can find the presentation slides here. I’ll be continuing this thread with a 2020 paper submission. This was an eye-opener for me in the importance of initiating creative works with a clearly defined research focus, something that will shape my future practice.

Entwined: A Recurrent Romance

Entwined is a collaboration with Dr Mike Cooper which launched in October after a successful Kickstarter. Please enjoy our video debut here. This project began in 2017 with a month of Inktober drawings researching Aztec character designs, and the comic itself saw a major shift in my drawing approach which I wrote about here. Since then we’ve debuted at the reinvigorating Papercuts Comic Festival in Adelaide where Mike Cooper aka Dr Mike 200 gave a splendid reading of a few pages to a live audience. It was an absolute pleasure working with Mike and a creative partnership that will continue long into the future. You can buy the comic here or contact me directly for a copy for review.

The Rural Outreach Program Digital Story

A collaboration with Swinburne University’s Social Innovation Research Institute led by Professor Jane Farmer. This project allowed me to work closely with Senior Research Fellow Dr. Hilary Davis, developing a case study from their work with the Rural Outreach Program into a digital story. This was an amazing experience that allowed creative autonomy, guided by a co-design feedback cycle of iteration. You can view the digital story here. We are developing this into a paper for 2020 submission focusing on the development process, with funding secured for further projects. I’m quite excited about this partnership and looking forward to further collaboration opportunities with the Institute.

The ABC Top 5 Media Residency

In September I undertook a two week residency at the ABC as a Top 5 Humanities and Social Science Scholar. I’ve written a reflection on the experience here. While there I undertook a number of projects, some of which are yet to be published. This was an introduction to the world of broader media production and I learned a lot about communication outside the academic sphere, and media production more broadly. My online article From Batman to Watchmen, the masks superheroes wear tell us a lot about ourselves debuted on ABC online, looking at the connection between the Superhero Secret Identity and concepts of selfhood.

Death of Duality

The article is a brief overview of a research paper in development in collaboration with feature film scriptwriter, producer and director Darren Paul Fisher. Yes we have the same name. Death of Duality examines the trajectory of the Secret Identity trope over time across comics and screen, and aligns it with Thomas Schatz’s Cycle of Genre framework. We have found some interesting parallels with the convention and shifts in society and culture, and are on the verge of an early 2020 journal submission. More to come.

Indie Comic Voices of Australia

In October I curated an exhibition for The Australian Short Story Festival held in Hawthorn, organised by Dr Julia Prendergast. Indie Comic Voices of Australia served as a showcase of some of Australia’s premiere creators working in independent comics today. The exhibition served as a visual accompaniment to two days of panels and readings by a collection of Australia’s finest short fiction writers. I wrote about it here and we look forward to continuing this tradition at future iterations of the Festival.

Fractured Narratives Workshops

I’ve been working on a workshop program with Dr. Prendergast incorporating our combined research interests of fractured/pluralistic identity across narrative and drawing. We have had our Research Ethics application provisionally approved subject to minor changes and will be launching with industry partners Access HC in 2020. This will see a range of outputs across conference presentations (we already gave on at the Fan Studies Conference this month), paper submissions, creative anthology collections and exhibitions. This project will continue for the next few years at least and is the beginning of another fruitful collaboration.

Looking forward

I’m still finding my ‘place’ as an academic and angling toward a stronger intersection between research, practice, and teaching, having noticed that many effective academics are able to combine all areas to maximise their efficiency. They make use of ‘every part of the buffalo’, an American Indian Proverb that I first heard from Brad Bird in the making of The Incredibles. Ideally, my traditional research and writing will inform my creative practice, and both research and practice will inform my teaching and reflection towards further research. 2019 has been a great year for me, and I hope you are having similar successes in your own endeavours.