How Comics Promote Delayed Gratification

Image Comics. Used for non-commercial purposes.

I just finished reading Volume 2 of Lazarus, the excellent Image Comics series from Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, and Santi Arcas. Let me be honest right up front; I am no serious comic book fan. I bought a few random issues of super hero stuff (mostly Batman) when I was kid in the early 90s, because that was what people were doing, before quickly losing interest. My recent interest in comics is mostly through The Walking Dead (which I don’t actually own), two issues of The Wicked and the Divine (which I didn’t actually like) and the Lazarus series. Not to mention that I am buying these things in “volumes” on Amazon, not actual comic books, which I know seriously hurts my street creed. I just don’t have a comic book store anywhere close to where I live, and I enjoy reading them this way for now. Essentially, reading and following comic series is a fresh, new experience for me at the age of 29.

What struck me today was the intense feeling that I needed to read the next installment of Lazarus immediately. Unfortunately for me, Volume 3 does not exist yet, and will not for at least another 3 months. 3 months?! Even if I was able to shop for the individual comics, there are only two new issues out now, with just one new issue every month. If we think about comic books as episodes, that would be like waiting a month between episodes of Game of Thrones. When I have to wait a week for a new episode of Boardwalk Empire, I absolutely lose my mind! How I am going to wait months for Lazarus?

Comics are a unique medium. Reading a good one resembles reading a novel, looking at a painting, and watching an episode of a TV show, but at the same time is nothing like any of those things. The visual sequences feel like watching a movie in slow motion, giving the reader an opportunity to really absorb and enjoy the art. The unraveling of the story, character development, and cultural relevance can rival some of our best literature.

Yet, comics are almost more unique in their distribution. I think it goes without saying (since you are reading this on the internet) that we live in a world of instant media access. When I want to read or watch something, I don’t have to wait for it. I don’t want to ever have to wait. And if I do have to wait more than 20 seconds for something, I am going to fill that time with a quick look at Twitter or Instagram. I love this world. But it frightens me to think of what it may be doing to our psyche. We may be too quick to lump comics in with this category of fast media since they are so popular and engrained in our culture through Hollywood movies. However, comics demand that you wait for them. Even if you are reading them electronically, you still wait the month for the next issue. And when they’re really great, you are brought right back into the story, the world that has been created by the artists. When we are forced to wait, different things happen in our brain.

Perhaps this delayed gratification for comic books is a good thing, a counter balance to the overwhelmingly rapid pace of information. I often cite reading a novel as an opportunity to slow down, but I will be adding the experience of waiting for comic book releases to that list. It is an important list, even though it is a short list. For now, I will embrace this long period of waiting for the next volume of Lazarus. Will it get any less painful? I don’t know, but I think that pain is good for my health.

What is your experience of following a comic series? Is there any value to this delayed gratification? Discuss in the comments.

Being a Better Online Reader, Reading Online vs. On Paper, from The @NewYorker

Maria Konnikova at The New Yorker discusses the differences between reading online and reading on paper:

One of her main hypotheses is that the physical presence of a book—its heft, its feel, the weight and order of its pages—may have more than a purely emotional or nostalgic significance. People prefer physical books, not out of old-fashioned attachment but because the nature of the object itself has deeper repercussions for reading and comprehension. “Anecdotally, I’ve heard some say it’s like they haven’t read anything properly if they’ve read it on a Kindle. The reading has left more of an ephemeral experience,” she told me. Her hunch is that the physicality of a printed page may matter for those reading experiences when you need a firmer grounding in the material. The text you read on a Kindle or computer simply doesn’t have the same tangibility.

Read the full article here.

The Circle by Dave Eggers – Book Review Part 2

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Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Andrew Currie

Yesterday I posted my impressions of the first half of Dave Eggers’ new novel The Circle. I initially intended to write a final post at the end of the book, but I am feeling inspired to write more today, because there are more things that Eggers got right that I left out of the first post.

I love the juxtaposition that the author sets up between nature (kayaking in the story) and modern technology. There is a parallel conflict at work between privacy and sharing. Whenever Mae gets into a kayak (which is rarely ever planned) she does not talk about it to anyone, she does not post about it, she does not take pictures – nothing. She never even considers documenting the experience or inviting someone along. Despite how great she feels as part of this community and the excitement she feels from sharing online, she stills desires some private moments, even if she does not realize it at this point. Eggers also conveniently locates the kayak drop between Mae’s parents house (her old life) and The Circle.

The story is becoming a cautionary tale of connectedness and powerful technology. We are starting to see what would happen if data tracking, online sharing, and digital transparency are followed out to the extreme. Instead of community, Eggers shows us surveillance, power, and control. There is an overall sense that this is not a desirable outcome, though we don’t yet know exactly why.

As much as I share online and enjoy using products from the biggest technology companies, I appreciate the way the novel is making me think a bit more critically about those dynamics.

Part 1 of this book review – initial impressions

The Circle – The New Novel by Dave Eggers

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Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Johan Larsson

I am about halfway through Dave Eggers new novel The Circle, which follows a young female professional as she starts her career with the number one technology company in the world. The company is basically a mix between Google, Apple, and Facebook.

Dave Eggers is one of my favorite authors, and I was intrigued by the idea of him tackling the topic of technology and our relationship with social media. I have seen some backlash, saying the author got it all wrong, but I don’t think that is totally true.

It is difficult to judge a book – a story – until the ending, but I do have some impressions so far.

There is one thing he got wrong that has been bothering me, and that is the use of the term “cloud,” as in cloud storage. This metaphor has become popular to describe data storage outside of your local computer. I suppose the term may make it easier for some people to understand the concept of where is all that stuff. Yet many of us understand there is no cloud, per se. There are many, many intricate networks of many, many, many servers storing data that are access from devices around the world. The way characters in the story use the term (characters that should know better) describe things as being saved on the company’s cloud. That is linguistically, and technologically awkward, because they may be in the metaphorical cloud, but they are stored on the companies network of servers. Am I nitpicking here? I don’t know. I am an English teacher and a tech-nerd, so I guess this is the result of the combination.

I think many people are taking issue with his portrayal of a large tech company, but really it is all allegory. One thing he got very right, is our relationship to our gadgets and the way we engage through social media. The urgency of notifications, and the excitement of “likes” and “retweets” is well represented by the systems and employees within The Circle. At times, the company feels futuristic, and then there are many other times when you feel like you are looking into a mirror.

I look forward to the second half of the book, after which I will share my final thoughts. Anyone else read the book? What are your thoughts?

Must Reads: Common Core, Credit Card Fraud, and One Incredible Game of Fetch

What were the best, most fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring things I read or watched this week? Some will be about technology, photography, or education. Some will not. Catch up on things you missed. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and share alike…here’s the Must Read list:

Text Dependency is Too Low a Standard

by Timothy Shanahan

Excellent, concise argument for why the “text dependent question” requirement of Common Core standards is redundant and too low a standard for rigorous reading and thinking.

Little Dog Playing Fetch With a River

via 22words

A cute video displaying some impressive dog intelligence!

Won’t Get Fooled Again

by Andy Welch

An alarming account (amusingly told) of a credit card hack using a loophole of old landline phone technology.

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See more of my Must Reads.