An Agenda for Graphic Social Science

On November 24th at the Open University in Camden, we hosted the first event of the Graphic Social Science Network, seeking to developing an agenda for the field. This was the schedule for the day:

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It was a fascinating series of discussions. This post is a brief attempt to summarise the ideas which were presented about how to develop Graphic Social Science. One crucial aspect is building a platform which can be used to further consolidate the work which is taking place. This might include:

  • An Instagram account for sharing work
  • A tweeter feed for sharing announcements
  • A Medium blog for long form discussion
  • A web comic which can host work in progress
  • A graphic novel book series for publishing work
  • A journal special issue for reflecting on the field

We talked about future events, including a networking session for social scientists keen to meet artists and vice versa. This could be hosted at a comics shop or a festival event. Other events could focus on developing the resources we need (see below) or addressing some of the conceptual and methodological issues which Graphic Social Science raises. Much of the discussion concerned the former, with suggestions including:

  • Resource lists (for annotated links)
  • Proposal bank (for grant applications)
  • Checklists (for collaborations) e.g. copyright, risks of representation, ethics
  • Graphic tip sheets
  • Outcomes from graphic records and events

There was much discussion about publishing. The consensus from the journal editor and publisher who attended was that there was a great deal of openness to graphic publication but it would be necessary to make a case for the value of the output. There are also particular problems which graphic material poses for the peer review process, including the difficulty of making revisions to complete work. Perhaps therefore an initial focus for traditional publications would be reflections on the development of the field and the questions it poses? One particularly fascinating discussion concerned the politics of representation, as some raised the possibility that visual representation carries inherent risks of simplification with important political and ethical consequences.

How do we take this forward? I’d suggest five areas of activity:

  • Crafting a call for contributions for the Medium blog, inviting reflections on an expansive list of topics related to the theory, methodology, practicality and politics of Graphic Social Science.
  • Making arrangements for a networking event in which artists and social sciences can meet each other in order to discuss potential collaborations.
  • Active curation of available resources within the field, shared through @GraphicSocSci and (where suitably visual) an Instagram feed for the network. This would provide the impetus for building the broader online platform for Graphic Social Science.
  • Arranging an academic event for mid/late 2018 in which we can reflect on progress, draw new people into the network and plan the further agenda.
  • Sharing expertise from those already involved in the field and recording different accounts of emerging issues (e.g. peer review) in a way which stimulates debate. This could be undertaken with podcasts and/or blog posts.

We need volunteers to make this work. If you’d like to be involved in one of the activities above then please e-mail to discuss. Join the Facebook Group or get in touch via Twitter if you’d like to be involved without actively contributing to these specific activities.

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