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Graphic facilitation, sketchnoting, journalism and ‘The Doodle Revolution’: New dimensions in comics scholarship

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‘Live visual recording’ refers to the act of drawing a visual record in real time, combining words with imagery, in order to represent the content (and sometimes the visual characteristics) of an event, discussion or process. The most notable examples of this are sketchnoting and graphic facilitation. Graphic facilitation, which seeks to promote active participation, is mostly a professional field, and has been practised for decades within the corporate, independent and public sectors, whereas ‘sketchnoting’ is a relatively new term, describing an increasingly popular method, typically undertaken largely on an amateur basis. Context is crucial for understanding. While the outputs from different live visual recording practices can look similar visually, the environment in which they are produced, and the method used to create them, may differ significantly. For example, because there is a certain appeal that comes with watching people draw by hand, or with seeing a large, colourful, witty poster suddenly appear, it is tempting to think that a recording represents ‘quality’, when in fact its content may not reflect the key ideas discussed. Likewise an apparently ‘poorly drawn’ live visual record may in fact represent careful listening, and include highly sophisticated processing, art and design. Complexity and skill can be missed, or misunderstood: therefore, it is necessary to go beyond aesthetic or formal analysis, and consider the conditions under which work is produced and, if relevant, commissioned. This article will consider the benefits and disadvantages of sketchnoting, and contrast these with the more methodologically grounded field of graphic facilitation. It will refer to examples of both emanating from UK comics scholarship and public sector contexts, and conclude by offering thoughts regarding future opportunities and challenges. In so doing, the hope is to deepen our understanding of what is, in the academy, a relatively under-examined area. (Note: The author is a professional graphic facilitator, and some examples will refer to her work.) (This discussion will be of relevance to graphic facilitators, visual practitioners, sketchnoting enthusiasts, artists, cartoonists and comics scholars: however, it may also be of interest to other researchers and artists, and those who seek to employ creative, visual methodologies in order to successfully engage groups of people, communities, organizations and partnerships).
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Keywords: cartooning; comics; graphic facilitation; graphic recording; sketchnoting; visual

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: 01 July 2016

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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