Book Review: Graphic Encounters- Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy

Graphic Encounters: Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy by Dale Jacobs

Graphic Encounters: Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy by Dale Jacobs

I reviewed Dale Jacobs’ book Graphic Encounters: Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy for The Comics Grid last month. The review is Open Access, is available in both PDF and full-text form, and includes a far greater works cited list than a book review really should.

The cover of the book is amusing to me, as it calls to mind both Clark Kent’s quick-change transformation to Superman, and, perhaps unintentionally, a trenchcoat ‘flasher’ — a very ‘graphic’ encounter indeed!

Early on in the book, Jacobs plays with the notion that comics are, as Wertham long-ago suggested, a ‘seductive’ medium, and that audiences are changed irrevocably by these ‘graphic encounters’ — but it’s not just comics that are seductive in this way, but literacy in general. Just riffing off of the cover of the book, I think applying the trenchcoat flasher metaphor to the idea of literacy sponsorship is … intriguing, if more than a little disturbing! Jacobs book doesn’t proceed in that direction, though.

I was very familiar with the idea of multimodality before picking up Graphic Encounters, but knew very little about Literacy Sponsorship. Fortunatly, it’s the second aspect which Jacobs explores the most in depth, so I got a lot out of this volume.

This was the second academic book review I’ve done, although it is the first to be published. It was also my first experience with Open Access Publication. I’m becoming more and more of a supporter of Open Access scholarship, but that’s probably the topic for another blog post. The bottom line is that only a small group of academics will have access to that other book review when it is published, but I was able to share my review of Graphic Encounters over social media with friends, family, colleagues, and anyone who is interested. So if you are interested — go check it out!


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This past March, I attended the 2014 Social Media and Critical Care conference held on Queensland’s Gold Coast (aka SMACC GOLD) to present some of my research on using Graphic Medicine to improve the wellbeing of junior doctors. It was an interesting conference which covered a lot of ground — from surgical techniques, to research ethics, to social media strategies, to everything in between.

My presentation was a simple “digital poster” coauthored with Kimberly Humphrey. Digital posters can mean different things at different conferences — here it meant a Power Point presentation of eight slides or less. The posters all lived on a bank of computers in the corner of the exhibition hall. You could walk up to a computer, scroll through the titles of various digital posters, and then pick one to watch. At SMACC GOLD, you could also vote on the posters (out of five starts), and leave public comments. To give you an idea of the set-up, here’s some covert pictures I took of people looking at OUR poster:

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We got some nice, encouraging comments about our work from strangers with this system, and a pretty good, and a pretty good star ranking. I missed being able to talk to people in person though — at traditional poster sessions, you can stand near your poster and have people ask questions or discuss your research with you. The digital set-up makes it a little bit more anonymous. Overall, though, it was a great experience.

So far, SMACC has not put any of the digital posters online, but that won’t stop me from sharing my work with YOU! You can take a look at our digital poster from SMACC below:

I’ve become a bit addicted to using Prezi, a different slideware system which uses a scrollable, zoomable canvas instead of individual slides, so it was a unique challenge going back to PowerPoint. I think changing formats like that helps you to stretch communication muscles, which is always a good thing!

A Comic Book Handbook for Medical Interns

As part of my research into how comics can work as educational tools for post-secondary education, late last year I put together a comic book-style handbook for new doctors starting their internship at Mackay Base Hospital in Queensland.

Interns are a great group to focus on, since they occupy a liminal space where they no longer students, but not yet professionals. Part of their “job” is to learn, and there are scheduled teaching sessions built into the internships curriculum, but most of their learning comes from their experiences working on the frontlines of the hospital.

Transitioning from student to professional

Internship is essentially a year-long transition from student to professional, and it comes with its share of challenges. Intern medical education curriculums help provide interns practical and theoretical knowledge, and many of these programs are excellent. However, there are other aspects of being a doctor that intern training programs don’t always address.

A recent study by Beyond Blue shows that young doctors report much higher levels of burn-out, cynicism and mental health problems than their older colleagues. This suggests that hospitals may be strapped for the time and resources to address the emotional and interpersonal challenges of being a new doctor.

The staff of the Medical Education Unit at Mackay Base Hospital saw a comic book as a potentially high-quality/low-cost way to delve into these personal and interpersonal challenges. Their input, as well as that of many young doctors, formed the basis of the curriculum that I developed for the Intern Comic Book Handbook.

Read the comic for yourself!

In the coming days and weeks, I will discuss the decisions and processes that went into each page in the comic. In the meantime, though, here is the comic itself! Click below to make it large, and have a flip through.

I’d love to hear what you think about this comic, and your feedback on how comics might work in medical education or other fields of teaching and learning. I’ll be back with more soon!

Welcome to the world of my blog


My name is Aaron, and I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Adelaide. This is my blog about comics, research, and teaching. I’ll be posting a lot more in the future, as well as working to make this site look a lot nicer.

But I’m going to get this first awkward post out of the way now, so that I can put more interesting things up on here later.