asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
If you wish to contribute to Asiacape Vistas, please send an email using the form on the contact page.

Asiascape announces new Manga Competition 'First Contact'

Following on the success of Asiascape’s first manga competition, which led to the creation of the ‘Manga in/as Essay-’magazine, is proud to announce its second competition in collaboration with the Political Arts Initiative.

As before, we seek contributions from manga artists, cartoonists, students, and scholars for an anthology and also for an exhibition (in real and virtual space). Contributions should take the form of a graphic essay; they should interrogate the theme of ‘First Contact,’ be this between humans and aliens, self and other, man and god, lovers, material and spirit. Contributors may interpret this task as creatively, expansively, or parsimoniously as they like: style, genre, and length may all be freely chosen.


Preference will be given to contributions that seek to explore the impact of First Contact on the politics of knowledge. But any treatment of First Contact will be considered.

Text may be used if desired (in any language, as appropriate – but please provide English translations), but text is not required. The purpose is to explore the expressive potential of manga. Entries can be accompanied by a textual narration/interpretation, but need not be. Winning contributors will be asked to provide such a transcript ahead of publication.

Euro 1000 in prizes will be awarded for the best entries.

Deadline: 31 March 2013

More information is on the Asiascape website

Clive Thompson: The Folding Game

From Guernica Magazine

The info-sharing of early arcade game enthusiasts mimicked the scientific method. Now, video games and collective intelligence could change the way we approach science, shared problems, and school.

On a Thursday night in September, I raced from Midtown to Bushwick for an impromptu conference organized by Arikia Millikan in what was dubbed a mansion, but I understood to be a large house. I sat on a wooden floor as ten people talked for ten minutes each, all speaking about secrets. One such person was Wired columnist Clive Thompson, who told us how gamers had solved a decade-long scientific mystery in a single month. As a suspicious non-gamer, I was amazed to find altruism within the World of Warcraft. Weeks later, we met at a café in Park Slope to discuss how the increasing complexity of video games led to groupthink, and how groupthink has been harnessed by researchers for scientific gain.
—Erika Anderson for Guernica

more here

The Digital Comic in an Increasingly Portable World

Back in 2000, comics artist Scott McCloud wrote Reinventing Comics, wherein he gave ideas for where comics could go and would go as technology improved and the means for both creating and distributing comics changed. Taking the computer into account, McCloud proposed the concept of an "infinite canvas," stating that the screen could act like a piece of paper without borders, and thus the conventional dimensional restriction of the comics page need not apply. In practice, the truly infinite canvas turned out to be extremely unwieldy and impractical in most instances, and the act of putting comics on computer screens turns out to be not so much a matter of "unlimited potential" but of understanding the screen as something with its own restrictions and particulars that have to be overcome. Nevertheless, as more and more people use electronic devices to look at images and comics, the adaptation of comics to screens, especially portable ones, becomes increasingly relevant.

There are two rough categories when it comes to the adapting of comics for digital screens: converting a paper comic to a digital form, or drawing the comic from the start with the intent of having it viewed on a screen. In both cases, part of the challenge comes from the fact that, even as visual clarity continues to improve, there is a limit to physical dimensions of the device itself, as there will likely people who prefer to view things on their phone, rather than a larger tablet or something similar.

For the once-paper comic, one of the most prominent ways of handling the physical dimensions of smaller devices is through what is called "guided view," shown above. Utilized on sites such as the digital comics distributor Comixology, guided view zooms in on one panel or element (certain faces in a large crowd shot for example) at a time, and removes or cuts away anything deemed at that point in the comic "irrelevant." Essentially, the view moves your eyes for you, telling you what you should be looking at. The drawback of the guided view, in turn, is that it mostly relies on comics which do not prioritize the panel so heavily, and therefore becomes a problem for comics where whole-page composition is especially important, such as most manga.

Indeed, digital manga sites such as jmanga or j-comi do not even try to provide a guided view, despite the option being supposedly available on jmanga. Just the same, however, by keeping the page intact and whole, the act of having to drag and pull through the comic is itself a different and awkward experience. At some point, the physical dimensions of the device become too much, and such whole-page comics will most likely forever require a certain minimum size + visual clarity combination. Even putting computers aside, attempts to convert paper manga to tiny, thumb-sized books, such as the example of Tezuka's Black Jack below, have been an eye-straining novelty at best.

That leaves us with the other route, that of creating the comic for the screen, and the area which McCloud was trying to address the most. Again, however, the "infinite canvas" turns out to be almost anything but, because of a combination of the existing habits of users and different priorities for comics in how they present themselves. The full-range infinite canvas is, perhaps ironically, best suited for images that are more murals of visual information. In "Click and Drag" from the webcomic xkcd for example, the infinite canvas acts as a way of exploring that space where a reader can discover small details on characters or get a sense of how visually dense the image is, but for comics that are visually less dense or less vast, it becomes a potential hindrance.

One effective compromise between the finite screen and the infinite canvas has been to restrict the image horizontally to the sides of the screen while allowing the comic to progress vertically. This takes into account the fact that horizontal scrolling is much more unwieldy on screens compared to vertical scrolling, at least for horizontally written languages such as English or Korean, and it is actually in digital manhwa, Korean comics, where this appears to be utilized most readily. In these digital manhwa, such as the title Tower of God seen left, there are at most two panels horizontally adjacent, making the progression somewhat like seeing a scroll or a film strip continuously unravel, and panel composition takes this into account. These comics thus become easier to read on phones and tablets, and I would suspect that the fact that South Korea is one of the most wired (and wireless) nations on Earth means that this is probably not a coincidence.

At least, that is what we see at this point. If ever physical media disappears entirely and the tablet or similar devices (or perhaps even a "tablet" without a physical presence itself) becomes the primary method for reading comics, then I would have to think that the form of comics would change accordingly, just maybe not as quickly or as drastically as one might expect