Why Comics Are More Important Than Ever

October 28, 2014 1:13 PM

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Why Comics Are More Important Than Ever

Seven years after the Kindle debuted and more than twenty since the web went public, the publishing field still contemplates a transition from print to digital, a change that seems inevitable every time a baby swipes an iPad on Youtube. But anyone whose attention span has been radically rewired by the internet intuitively knows what scientific voices like Professor Maryanne Wolf are beginning to suggest: our brains process print media and digital media very differently when we read. Both modes have their strengths: digital media may favor executive multitasking and multimodal information processing, whereas print promotes "deep reading," contemplation and the synthesis of new ideas -- foundational skills for our civilization. So what are we supposed to do with this information? Do we accept the loss of deep reading in exchange for skills that can keep pace with our accelerating technology? Speaking to PRI International recently, Wolf offers a third way. "What we're after is a discerning 'bi-literate' brain," she argues. "That's going to take some wisdom on our part." But a thrilling model for "bi-literacy" already exists. And you can find it in comics.

A graphic novel section probably appeared in your local bookstore some time after the year 2000, featuring a growing number of great, book-length comics including Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and Art Spiegelman's earlier breakthrough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus. Comics...

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