Below you’ll find introductory writings on visual language theory by Neil Cohn related to visual language. Topics range from creative aspects of visual language structure to concise graphic summaries of research projects and the basics of visual language theory.
For several years I wrote a periodic column called "Comic Theory 101" for the online magazine Comixtalk which featured short, sometimes quirky articles looking at the intersection between comics and linguistics.
Loopy Framing (March 2007) - Examines the similarities between word balloons, thought bubbles, and panel borders to reveal an essential part of human cognition. With illustrations by Tym Godek.
Visual Poetry (November 2006) - Theorizes what formal "native" visual language poetry would be like, without connections to patterns from verbal poetry.
Seeing Rhymes (June 2006) - Looks at the potential of visual rhymes and their practical application for visual poetry.
Too Many Twos (March 2006) - Uses the "Problem of Two"— how the brain can understand two identical signals in the same context—as a springboard for some creative pondering.
Passing Judgment (January 2006) - Shows how intuitions can be used to formulate theory, and poses some examples for the reader to experiment with.
In place of another (October 2005) - Discusses metonymy in visual narrative, when one thing is expressed by showing a related thing.
Conference posters often provide a succinct and (hopefully) accessible summary of a research project. Plus, most of our research posters are usually written in the visual language itself. Pdfs open in new window.
Brains • Reviews of articles • Art vs. Language • Theory • Cognition • Cross-Cultural Comparisons
Revisiting "visual language" - Just what do I mean by "visual language"? How is this notion different than "comics" and from other ideas about visual communication?
Basic structures of visual language - This post reviews the basic components of visual language and how they combine together.
The Principle of Equivalence - This post looks at the ideas underlying the theory of visual language and how it connects to other languages and other aspects of cognition.
A Caveat: misunderstanding comics and the brain - Oftentimes scholarship about comics invokes how the "brain" processes information, despite the fact that much of this research has nothing to do with the brain and makes misleading statements about the brain. This post dissects one such example and offers reasons for avoiding such pitfalls.
Science and Eddie Campbell's rules of comics comprehension - Eddie Campbell wrote an article describing several potential "rhetorical rules" that authors of comics can follow in order to make them more understandable to inexperienced readers. Here, I discuss what scientific research tells us about his actual stated rules.
animation VL— In 2005 there was the rather striking discovery out of Tehran of a 5000 year old "animation" of a goat found on an earthenware bowl. Through examination of the animation released by the researchers and photos of the original bowl, I show how the claims of it being an ancient "animation" are false, misleading, and scholarly irresponsible.
are not Mythology—Superheroes are not modern myths in any real sense comparable to the cultural functions that myths serve.
Making Comics by Scott McCloud—A review of Scott McCloud's latest non-fiction
The System of Comics by Thierry Groensteen—A review Thierry Groensteen's translated book on comic theory (pdf version).