Copyright and online artists

Content-sharing service

Chainsawsuit by Kris Straub. Image source.

I was recently contacted by the lovely people at Justis One, a legal research database and resource site, who were interested in a paper I published in May in the online journal First Monday called “How relevant is copyright to online artists? A qualitative study of understandings, coping strategies, and possible solutions“.

As a result a blog post ‘interview’ has now been published over on their site. I’m really please they found the paper and were interested enough to get in touch, and I hope it will lead to others looking into this important issue. In the meantime, you can read the article here.

I drew a Venn Diagram…

Websites used for webcomics

…It includes all of the websites that were identified by the respondents to my very first questionnaire for my thesis. It’s really hard to read because the writing has to be so small, so whilst I was planning on putting it in my thesis it may end up banished to the Appendices. I am quite pleased with it as it gives a much better idea of how people get their webcomics fix than writing about it which has become very convoluted and confusing.

Anyway, I like it, and I thought some people might be interested in it, and I didn’t want it to go to waste, so enjoy!

The questions that lead to these websites asked what people used to access or post either a) webcomics b) additional content related to a specific webcomic or c) additional content related to webcomics in general. I had 209 responses to the whole questionnaire including 92 creators. It was done in 2013.

Horizon CDT Conference Paper

As a requirement for one of my modules as I study for my PhD, I need to write up a reflection on a paper that I presented at a conference. This is a paper that I presented a year ago. I may do a similar thing for the paper that I will have published in May.

Dowthwaite, L., Houghton, R.J., and Mortier, R. Fame or Function? How webcomic artists choose where to share. Contemporary Issues in Ergonomics and Human Factors 2015, Taylor and Francis (2015), 355-362.

The paper was presented at Ergonomics and Human Factors 2015 which was held in Daventry between the 13th and 16th of April. It is the annual international conference of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF).


Online social networks are complex systems that can be variously construed as websites, platforms and communities but relatively rarely are they considered from the perspective of a goal-directed user. A mixed methods study consisting of questionnaires and in-depth interviews was carried out in order to examine the use of social networking within the online cartoonist community. We consider this subset of users, who rely on the use of social networking for specific work-related activities, because they form a group of motivated innovators who explore the uses and abuses of different services in terms of both feature set and community. A complex picture emerges of the strategic combination and interplay between platforms to co-optimise function and reach.

Motivation for the paper

The paper was based on the first and second studies that I carried out for my PhD. It was carried out in order to examine the use of social networking within the webcomics industry, before going on to research ways in which creators of webcomics made money. The first study was an online questionnaire to both readers and creators, which allowed me to confirm and expand upon my knowledge of the community. The second study was a series of interviews with creators and I was able to delve deeper into several areas to find the focus of my future research. The outcome from the questionnaire that almost everyone used three main social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr) led me to look further at what people said about those sites in the interviews. The creators turned out to have interesting ways of dealing with their online work, and so combining the two studies allowed me to form an interesting paper about social media for a relatively rare perspective.

Preparation of the Paper

The paper was interesting to write because it was not just a straightforward description of a single study, but a combination of two which had to be presented coherently. My co-authors, my PhD supervisors, were extremely helpful and offered valuable feedback on my writing. I was lucky enough not to have too many corrections to make after the paper was accepted, and the whole process went very smoothly.

Reception at the conference

The presentation was part of a session on Mobile Technologies, and was twenty-minutes long with time for questions afterwards. The questions tended to focus on discussion of wider points rather than clarifying the content of the paper. There were particularly good questions from one or two people who were interested in how creators actually were able to make money from their work.

This was a very positive experience for me because I was confident in what I was talking about, and because I was reassured from the questions that people were interested in my research, especially the aspects that I was most excited about. I was also told that it was interesting to hear about a topic which people knew almost nothing about.

Further steps within the PhD

The studies related to this paper allowed me to plan further studies and helped me to begin to clarify a direction for my research. The interviews discussed in the paper in particular gave me some wider avenues to explore, and the interest that I received about the money-making aspects of the industry encouraged me to continue with my main interests.

Discussions that I had at the conference also helped me to start to form the outline of my thesis. The studies from the paper will each make up a chapter: Chapters 6 and 7 which focus on community building. They lead well into two further studies which will become chapters on the use of crowdfunding, and the motivations of backers to crowdfund.

I aten’t dead

Happy New Year and suchlike! I just wanted to reassure everyone that I am still here and still running this blog and intend to update it soon with all sorts of fun and interesting comics and research related things!

I have returned from my wonderful internship at UEA, and my super-fun, too-short-and-gone-too-fast Christmas in Cornwall, and am back at my desk in Human Factors at Nottingham. I will be spending the next few days sorting out what I need to do in order to get on and write this thesis thingy I have been hearing rumours about, and collating my internship data into a document.


I now have an expiry date.

I have approximately 8 million things for Comics in the Wild (Three. I have three things), and also want to keep this blog up-to-date with my thesis (hereafter, the T-word) progress. I want to do a write-up of my time in Norwich too as the people there were awesome and I learnt a lot.

I plan to use the first week of each month to get on top of chores at home (and work) so that may well be when the longer posts appear.

Oh, and did you see that new Space film? Good, innit?


Granny Weatherwax, source of the title of this entry. (Terry Pratchett)

Comics in the Wild #15: Internship Edition

Trusty Dilbert

Trusty Dilbert

I am currently working away from Nottingham at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. I will be based in the Centre for Competition Policy until Christmas. Although it is a multidisciplinary group, which I am used to, the disciplines are Law, Economics, Politics and so forth. Not my areas at all, but I am thoroughly enjoying myself and my research. I am still looking at crowdfunding but for now I am focused on videogames and how it has affected that industry.

PhD Comics, standard fare in Universities

PhD Comics, standard fare in Universities

My nerves and worries of being in a new place and new group were somewhat dispelled when I showed up to the office for the first time and immediately spotted to comic printouts on the noticeboards.

The originals can be found here and here.

Short entry today despite the long gap, sorry.

Next time: I have some very interesting Japanese Tryptichs and want to look at their links to comics.

Electricomics 2015



Two posts in one day? What is happening?!?!?!?

Last week I went down to Hatfield to the University of East Anglia to present at the first ever UK symposium on digital comics – Electricomics, or The Comic Electric. I was very privileged to speak alongside some very interesting people.

The whole thing was streamed on You Tube, my talk is here, from 1:30 to 1:48 ish – not bad for a twenty minute talk! I also highly recommend looking at the Storify of the whole day here.

The Keynote Session with Leah Moore and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

The Keynote Session with Leah Moore and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

Electricomics itself is an app for iPad for reading innovative digital comics, with motion, interactivity, dynamic transitions, and infinite canvases, plus anything else you can imagine. More than that, it is a platform for creating the comics themselves. They launched with four amazing commissioned comics, and now have many more – they’ve only been live since September. The project was the brain-child of the legendary Alan Moore, and is a product of a lot of hard work from a great group of people. You can read a bit of what Alan Moore and Leah Moore envisage here.

My talk was an amalgamation of various aspects of my research, looking at the importance of the community surrounding webcomics (pretty sure you’ve heard me jabber on about this before), and how they can help support creators through good times and bad. For examples I used attribution and copyright violations (bad) and crowdfunding (good). I was the first to speak after the keynote, and was pretty nervous, but I got some great feedback and met a lot of lovely people that I hope to keep in touch with either personally or through my work. It was also the first time I have presented to a group of comics folk, and I hope I did the area justice.

Personal highlights were

  • Zak Waipara on his trans media comic project ‘Otea Rock of Ages’, bringing the Māori language, folklore and mythology into an original story aimed at engaging children of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Pablo Defendini on digital comics formats and creating dynamic canvases for different devices.
  • Matt Finch on Funpalaces, bringing together art and science, making and comics, and robots and fun!

I highly recommend you scan the Storify page to get an idea, and click through if anything strikes you. There’s lots of techy stuff too for my more computer science minded buddies.

There will be more posts in the near future – I have at least 3 comics in the wild, plus my tattoo sessions, to blog.

EMoTICON Postgraduate Workshop 2015

I might tell you.

I might tell you.

A much delayed blog post about a workshop I went to. Parts of this will appear as another blog on an EMoTICON website I hope at some point.

I recently attended a Postgraduate workshop as part of the EMoTICON Network, at Hinsley Hall in Leeds. EMoTICON stands for Empathy and Trust in Communicating Online (you see what they did there?) and so is very relevant to my research interests. It took place as part of the first day of a larger meeting for the group, so we got to meet all the project leaders and co-investigators. The RCUK’s Digital Economy programme, which is where the funding for my PhD comes from, are a partner in EMoTICON, which I didn’t actually know until the event. The head of the programme, John Baird, was at the meeting, although I unfortunately didn’t get to hear him speak as that was on the second day.

The evening before the workshop, many of us were able to meet for dinner and introduce ourselves, along with John Vine and Karen Salt who were running the workshop. This was brilliant as it made the next day a lot easier for a shy person like me. Familiar faces are always a help. The morning began with an overview of the EMoTICON Network and a brain storming session in which we categorised various issues and themes to do with trust and empathy online. A few weeks before the event we had all been asked to suggest issues, which had then been grouped into themes. The people from the Network had done the same and this was what we worked with first. I was very excited to hear that one of the projects revolved around crowdfunding.

On the wall by the female loos, opposite very grand oil paintings of former bishops of the  place.

A highlight of Hinsley Hall!

We then separated to have our workshop. We first introduced ourselves in groups of three, and as is normal with me, I found myself quite jealous of some of the PhDs being carried out. Then we were split into five teams, one for each of the groupings that had been found from our previous work. We discussed what linked the concepts into a theme, how that theme could be described, and three main research questions that emerged from it. I found this part really interesting, and between the three of us we decided our problems were to do with Gatekeepers, social media, and commercialisation. ‘Whose data is it anyway?’ seemed to link them all together, and we came up with problems around how data is collected online, how it is used, and who gets to use it. I am used to working in an interdisciplinary environment, but often my research is not at all linked to those around me; this time we found a lot of common ground, despite our disciplines being so different. I really love finding ways that my research is similar to others, especially when our topics seem so disparate at first. Later in the day we had some breakout groups based on the topics people were most interested in. Three of us again tackled the issue of trust in data sources, which is very tricky indeed!

After lunch, we heard summaries of the work being done on the main projects within EMoTICON. I found them all very interesting, but obviously most of my enthusiasm lay in the crowdfunding project. ‘A Taxonomy of UK Crowdfunding and Examination of the Potential of Trust and Empathy in Project Success’ was lead by Dr Jo Briggs at Northumbria University, with Dr Patrick McCole from Belfast. They looked at the state of the art of UK crowdfunding, through a literature review, speaking to platform owners, and questionnaires. They focussed on social enterprise (i.e. the voluntary sector) and the cultural industries, so I could easily reflect and link it to my own work. They had completed a questionnaire with both funders and founders (I really like these terms, I use creators and backers), looking at how trust plays out in crowdfunding, using the conditions of trust inventory. I was impressed that they managed to get data from so many people, particularly as they were selective about circulating the study. I would be extremely interested in the results and seeing how they may connect with my own work on reciprocity and altruism. They also spoke of the non-monetary benefits of crowdfunding, which again links into my own theories; improved communication, building a brand, engaging directly with an audience, and fostering a participatory ethos are all things I have also heard in my community.

I was particularly excited to hear throughout the day of a future call for some seed money to run pilot or small projects which help to address the main aims of the EMoTICON Network. Although the crowdfunding study is complete I am hoping I can work with them to run a further study which benefits us both.

My poster on display

My poster on display

The day ended with a postgraduate poster session. My poster has a lot of words on it because it was originally supposed to be printed twice that size, in A0. I was able to discuss crowdfunding with Jo Briggs, which was brilliant. This occurred in the bar, followed by dinner, which meant that the wine and conversation were both flowing. But you know what they say: what happens at the workshop social stays at the workshop social.

A terrible photo of some very interesting and lovely fellow postgrads.

A terrible photo of some very interesting and lovely fellow postgrads.