Understanding Media Psychology… err…

understandng comicsUnderstanding Comics (McCloud, 1994) presents comic readers with a comparatively comprehensive look at comics (e.g., how they’re formatted, what cognitive processes they depend on, reality vs. abstract, etc.). A variety of these principles can be generalized and applied to other forms of media (McCloud, 1994). Understanding these principles lays a foundation for understand the field of media psychology.

EgocentricThe Story– McCloud (1994) points out the more iconic the face, drawn in the comic, the more we as the audience are able to see ourselves in the story. Robert McKee (1997) explains that stories are powerful because they carry universal truths. We connect with stories (and media) that help us to make sense of the world (Jenkins, Li, Drasuskopf, & Green, 2009). We enjoy stories more if they carry a personal meaning to us; something of significance that helps us identify with the situation or the characters (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004). Additionally, media, such as social media, virtual communities, and role-playing games, allow users to uncover, verify, and even try on identities (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007; Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria, 2008). The story and universality of comics are true for any medium carrying a story, facilitating immersion, whether for enjoyment, emotional response, or seeking to convey a message.

The GutterThe Message– Comics, as well as mediums such as books, films, games, and television, allow concepts and feelings to be understood in personal ways even though they are iconic and representative delivery methods (McCloud, 1994). We experience things using senses that are not required for consumption of the message. For example, in a video game, you may be looking at a computer screen and physically touching a mouse and/or keyboard, but the content may remind you of smells and sounds that are not presented in the book. Our minds fill in blanks based on experiences we’ve had. These blanks are in the blank space in comics, in the scenes we don’t see in movies, and in the events that are eluded to but never described in books, just to name a few. Memories, actions, thoughts, and physical responses are often conditioned to be triggered by a variety of stimuli (e.g., media) (Anderson, 2000).

The Conclusion– There are many ways in which the theories behind comics may be generalized into theories about other media and mediums. Here, we briefly explored message content, the universality of stories, and identity. However, concepts such as transmedia storytelling, branding, the influence of graphic design, persuasion and marketing, and global media are all presented to us by Scott McCloud (1994), but are concepts which are transferable to a great deal of the media used today and in the past. These concepts are all components of media psychology. When we understand these concepts and how they affect us, we can use positive media psychology to facilitate educational, social, and global advancements.

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Anderson, J. R. (2000). Learning and memory : an integrated approach. New York: Wiley.

Bessière, K., Seay, A. F., & Kiesler, S. (2007). The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 530–535. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9994

Green, M., Brock, T., & Kaufman, G. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one):

Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: the invisible art. New York: William Morrow.

McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: Regan Books.

Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player


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