Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Comics, Evolution, the Brain, . . .

On the Origins of Comics: New York Double-take

Evolution lets us see comics, like almost anything human or even alive, in a panoramic context but also in extreme close-up, as close as a comics artist trying to grab readers’ attention in this frame or with that angle. And it can zoom smoothly between these two poles. Evolution offers a unified and naturalistic causal system from the general to the very particular. Far from reducing all to biology and then to chemistry and physics, it easily and eagerly plugs in more local factors—in a case like comics, historical, technological, social, artistic and individual factors, for instance—the closer we get to particulars. Evolution accepts multilevel explanations, from cells to societies, and allows full room for nature and culture, society and individuals. . . .

solutions are not final. They have costs, as well as benefits, and they themselves transform the problem landscape. The series of nutritional, hygiene, and medical solutions, for instance, that allowed us to lower human death rates over the last century has posed us unprecedented problems of overpopulation, resource depletion, and climate change. Benefits impose costs, and as in the solutions of natural selection, cultural traditions or individual inventions, benefits will always face trade-offs against costs.

Humans have evolved no special adaptation for reading comics. Comics on the other hand have been gradually designed, culturally, to appeal to evolved—gradually and naturally designed—cognitive preferences, and designed so well that they appeal across cultures, to Japanese and French, to Fijians and Americans. Comics appeal especially to our dominant sense, vision, including trichromatic color vision (a primate solution to the problem of object discrimination in the low light of an arboreal existence), to our capacity for language (a solution to problems of social communication), and our adaptive inclination for storytelling. Storytelling maximizes social cognition in a flexibly ultra-social species through a kind of play-training: compulsive, pleasurable, high-intensity, often-repeated, like all play, and therefore cumulatively highly effective as tuition in social understanding (Boyd, Origin). Since comics, like other arts, have been intricately designed by gifted designers to appeal to human minds, the comparative success of comics, against other narrative forms, other arts or entertainments, and other preferences for our disposable time, should offer rich data to psychology: evidence for what we find appealing and easy, for the proportionate strengths of human preferences.
Very cool article. You can learn a lot about learning and life and human beings by analyzing almost anything creatively.

No comments: