CDP students at the British Library. Image courtesy British Library

British Library offers opportunity to study for a PhD in British Digital Comics

CDP students at the British Library. Image courtesy British Library
CDP students at the British Library. Image courtesy British Library

The British Library has opened its new round of applications for funded collaborative PhD studentships, and this year there is an opportunity to study for a PhD in British Digital Comics.

Academics at UK universities are being invited to submit proposals for AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships with the British Library, which will support up to four co-supervised PhD projects, to start in October 2019, developing their specially selected research themes.

AHRC CDPs provide funding for PhD research drawing on our collections, resources or expertise. The research is co-supervised by the Library and selected academic partners at a UK universities or Higher Education Institutes (HEIs).

Each year, the Library selects a limited number of strategic research themes around which to develop these partnerships. For CDPs starting in October 2019, the selected research themes are:

(Click on the links for more details about each theme and the BL co-supervisor)

The Digital Comics project will investigate online comics publishing in the UK, focusing on how digital comics are created, distributed and read. The Library is interested in collaborative research that will help them to understand how new technologies are enabling the creation of new works, and changing the ways in which UK comics are defined and experienced.

What are the collection management challenges for a memory organisation, to ensure that the changing landscape of digital comics publishing is preserved and available for research?

As downthetubes readers know, the UK is world-leading in the creation and publishing of comics, both in print and online. In the digital sphere, UK comics and publishing platforms include: Aces Weekly – an anthology comic, including writers and artists from around the world published by V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd; the Comichaus app – providing access to independent UK comics (Comichaus also publish an anthology of new British comic art and writing); and Madefire – a tool for creating and sharing comics online, developed by British comics enthusiasts including Green Lantern and Wonder Woman artist Liam Sharp, and is available and used internationally.

Other examples include the hyper-comics and infinite canvas techniques used by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, the extensive use of social media platforms such as Tumblr and Webtoon to post comics, and experiments using Virtual Reality platforms.

The British Library’s printed UK comics collections are among the most comprehensive in the world. Although some comics are collected in PDF and EPUB formats, this is still an emerging field for the Library and there are challenges to be addressed in terms of discovery and playback viewing technologies. This project will help the Library provide a more complete collection of UK comics and to better understand the technical challenges in collection and preservation. It will enable new opportunities for future research in the way that digital and print techniques and technologies interact in a medium that strongly combines text and visual elements.

Recent research placements at the Library have provided some details of the UK digital comics landscape and created a web archive collection of Web Comics. This work is described in a recent journal article by Jen Aggleton, ‘Defining digital comics: a British Library perspective’, published in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics in July 2018).

Following this project, a round-table and Digital Conversations public event was held in partnership with downthetubes, to explore the cultural, social, technological and economic aspects, which featured Kate AshwinYomi Ayeni, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Bryan Talbot and John Freeman as speakers.

Comichaus - British Library Team Up Banner

The Library has also recently announced a partnership with Comichaus to facilitate easier submission of digital comics to the Library for archive purposes.

If you’re an interested academic, note the British Library has an allocation of four studentships from the AHRC for this round of the CDP programme. Consequently, not all of the six themes above will be developed into CDPs. In January 2019 the Library will select one HEI partner for each of the four CDP studentships that they are able to allocate.

• The application deadline is 23 November 2018. Full details of the applications process and more information about the can be found through here on the British Library web site

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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