Rob Vollmar has an ongoing essay up about “narrative art” on his blog, currently serialized in three parts:
It seems like he might be going somewhere with it, but as someone who has studied a little of cognitive neuroscience (and hopefully will be doing direct research on it very soon) I am a bit put off by his continued invocation of right/left brain distinctions. So little of the brain’s functioning is known that it is easy to make broad sweeping claims about it and hard to say anything truly substantial. It might seem like a picky thing, but it struck a nerve for me…
It is easy to be enticed by the desire to discuss the brain. After all, it is the hidden key to understanding human activity, and I can see how mentioning it lends a feeling of legitimacy totalks of “narrative art.” However, in most discussions (like here), it is largely irrelevant. “Word, images, and writing” can adequately be described and interestingly discussed as human behavior without invoking vague pop-psychological discussions of the brain, especially for his “historical” aims.
It is very hard to make claims about neurological activity (like that “narrative art” involves right or left brain activity and/or their interactions) without some sort of experimentation. Hell, it’s hard to make conclusive claims about the brain even with experimentation! (…which is partially what makes it so intriguing to study)
At this point in studies about “narrative art,” (as Vollmar calls it) just discussing the functions, of how image and text work together is enough to provide fascinating reading. Vollmar clearly has intuitions that can lend to interesting observations about this topic. I hope that his future writings can tap more directly into them.
In both scholarly and public avenues, I often get asked about “comics” and the brain. The fact of the matter is, no one knows anything (yet). I know of no studies addressing it at all (yet). At this point it is wholly conjecture, and a big blank white page on which to paint any number of discoveries (or tabulate data, as the case may be).
With that I will now turn to sleep, so I can wake tomorrow, begin this adventure called “grad school,” and aim to hopefullly build some contributions to this neuro-comics discussion before too long.