Visual Language Research Corpus (VLRC)

How do the drawing systems and sequential images of cultures around the world differ? Do these differences tie into deeper aspects of cognition? Is there systematicity underlying the diversity of structures in these different visual languages? Answering these questions is a fundamental part of the study of visual language. To do this, we have engaged in an ongoing corpus analysis of comics from around the world.

The Visual Language Research Corpus (VLRC) is a corpus of annotated comics analyzing the structures in visual languages of the world. This research began in 2013 with individual corpus studies on select fields of visual language structure, before growing to include a range of cross-cultural comparisons. At present, the VLRC is made up of ~35,000 coded panels from roughly 300 comics from several places (America, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Sweden), different time periods (1940-present), and various genres. It includes coding of panel framing, semantic relations between panels, external compositional structure (page layout), multimodality, and a variety of other structures of visual languages.

It is our intention to make the VLRC accessible to other researchers at this web-address along with documentation.

We are continuing corpus research with the project Visual narratives as a window into language and cognition (TINTIN) funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant. This project will include downloadable open software annotation tools and an openly searchable cross-cultural corpus.

Publications using the VLRC

These publications report patterns found in the VLRC.

Cohn, Neil. 2020. Who Understands Comics?:Questioning the Universality of Visual Language Comprehension. London: Bloomsbury.

Cohn, Neil. 2019. Structural complexity in visual narratives: Theory, brains, and cross-cultural diversity. In Grishakova, Marina and Maria Poulaki (Ed.). Narrative Complexity and Media: Experiential and Cognitive Interfaces. (pp. 174-199). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. (PDF)

Cohn, Neil, Jessika Axnér, Michaela Diercks, Rebecca Yeh, and Kaitlin Pederson. 2019. The cultural pages of comics: Cross-cultural variation in page layouts. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 10(1): 67-86 (PDF)

Cohn, Neil, Ryan Taylor, and Kaitlin Pederson. 2017. A picture is worth more words over time: Multimodality and narrative structure across eight decades of American superhero comics. Multimodal Communication. 6(1): 19-37. (PDF, Video Presentation)

Cohn, Neil, Vivian Wong, Kaitlin Pederson & Ryan Taylor. 2017. Path salience in motion events from verbal and visual languages. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. J. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1794-1799). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. (PDF, Poster PDF)

Pederson, Kaitlin and Neil Cohn. 2016. The changing pages of comics: Page layouts across eight decades of American superhero comics. Studies in Comics. 7(1): 7-28. (PDF, Video Presentation)