By Jason Helms
Elliott’s piece is really fantastic. Her subtle interactive delivery pulls viewers in, evoking the comic reading experience. There’s a really strange claim about the medium that resides just under the surface of this piece. Were Elliott to have created it as a video, the viewer would be passive, receiving information.
In the same way that Jason makes his readers accomplices to his comic crimes, Elliott implicates us click-by-click into her overall argument about comics as a medium. She writes in her reflection, “My favorite aspect of using Sophie was how well I could embody my own thesis. More than just write about Jason’s simplicity and flow, I was able to create an essay that operated in the same way. I wrote about Jason’s interactivity, while my readers must interact with my essay in order to read it. I wrote about the importance of his simplistic style, while also using a clean and organized layout. The reader can understand the essay on two separate bases: the argument I make in the prose, and the method by which my essay must be read.” Consciously or not, Elliott enacts Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow,” Scott McCloud’s “amplification through simplification,” and Marshall McLuhan’s claim that “the medium is the message.”
All this makes me wonder how Elliott theorizes “reading” here. Clicking from panel to panel reflects the comic reader’s participatory process fluidly, transparently. Everything here flows easily from info bite to the next. However, by the end of the piece, she has subversively forced her reader into reflection. For her, reading seems to be a gathering of information, a co-composition across multiple modes. Thierry Groensteen’s The System of Comics posits various terms for critiquing comics. Arthrology refers to the study of the articulation of the narrative, appearing in two forms: restricted (panel to panel) and general (an overall braiding across an entire work or body of work which he calls tressage). Elliott carefully explicates Jason’s use of each, while articulating her own argument on each page as well as across the work.