Comics have a wonderful ability to ‘invite’ the reader into a visual space and see how others experience life. The often uncomplicated illustrations and the gaps (known as ‘gutters’) between the panels encourage the reader to use their imagination and fill in the gaps, creating a depth of engagement that is not always experienced when simply reading a narrative. Many have said that reading a book is a ‘sit back’ experience whereas reading a comic is a ‘sit forward’ experience!
Local researchers will be trained to collect the type of data that is required to produce a narrative script, that in turn can be adapted into a comic or animation. Working with local researchers helps to navigate many of the specific nuances and details that an outsider might miss. Cultural nuances such as the way a woman might wear a headscarf, or the subtle way a father might rest his hand on a son’s shoulder, can be captured in a comic in a way that only adds to the sense of realism and thus enhances the reader’s depth of understanding. Where possible, local artists will be commissioned to produce the comics. Again, local artists have a stronger understanding of the visual culture of research locations, and are able to illustrate details that an international artist might miss.
Comics have been widely used in focus groups for research projects. Researchers have found that the inviting and disarming nature of a comic can assist in helping groups of people to open up and discuss sensitive topics by ‘seeing themselves’ in the story of the comic. Moreover, by sharing the comics on social media platforms, wider communities are able to see and comment on the comics. It is often the case that people realise that the experiences of a community on the other side of the world are, in many respects, very similar to their own.
Comics may be used in the classroom to help students understand complex and sensitive topics such as migration, climate change and violence. For example, reading a single, illustrated narrative of a refugee’s experience fleeing their home and making a frequently perilous journey to a country of sanctuary has helped students to build empathy and question some of the media bias in circulation.
Similarly, this project will support marginalised communities in the cities being explored in this project to work with local artists to illustrate their precarious life experiences and struggles. In facilitating the creative expression of marginalised people’s stories, this project will help audiences across the world to better understand how infrastructure can reduce or increase exclusion, including in relation to evictability and security of tenure.