Drucker on Interface Theory (and comics!)

In her article, Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory, Johanna Drucker argues that scholarship is in transition; no longer limited to print, scholarly work is starting to become equally (if not more) accessible online—to the “multi-faceted modes of digital media” (Drucker 11). Due to this shift, the humanities need a theory of interface, and this theory would include what are currently the less familiar elements of analytic tools, such as: “graphical reading, frame analysis, and constructivist theories of perception” (Druckers 11).

To support her argument, Drucker looks at the graphic novel as a kind of interface, drawing on Scott McCloud’s article, Understanding Comics. McCloud claims that the graphic novel uses different styles of panels to help generate a specific reading of the text. For example, there is panel-to-panel (which describes moment by moment activity), action-to-action (which helps narrate the progression of story), and non-sequitur panels (which don’t immediately seem to connect or make sense, creating confusion rather than comprehension).

Drucker argues that a “tremendous number of connections in electronic space fall into the non-sequitur category” (Drucker 12). For example, when we are reading a text online we find ourselves being drawn out of the text and distracted by advertisements, embedded videos, images, etc. In this way, the web seems to be a place of infinite distractions, unless we are in a controlled environment, such as a library database (Druckers 12). Although we have the cognitive ability to understand these distracting texts through graphical readings, it is evident that the reader is “constituted in a codependent relation to interface as experience” (Drucker 12).

I found it really interesting that the graphic novel was discussed as a kind of interface, and I think it works well with the argument that we have to be weary of distractions when dealing with digital texts. Online, we are required to read carefully in order to process a multitude of information, make connections, and distinguish between essential and non-essential features of a text. I wanted to include an example of a non-sequitur comic strip, but had trouble because once a sequence is separated from the text as a whole it doesn’t seem to have the same effect. Below is what I think is a non-sequitur from Craig Thompson’s Blankets  (sorry for the quality!):


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