We look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of Dr. Nick Sousanis, an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University. Nick is the creator of Unflattening, which started as a dissertation in comics form, an experiment in making an argument through images, and went on to become a much-celebrated book published by Harvard University Press. Nick will be a participant in our second Next Gen PhD symposium, one that is focused on the footnote or, more generally, forms of citation, but Nick’s creative practice will also help us talk about the dissertation (the topic of our first symposium), and social media forms like the tweet and the blog post (topics of future symposia). Because Nick’s book argues that words and images are equal partners in meaning-making, he finds ways to cite images that influenced his argument as fundamentally as did the words of philosophers and theorists.
We planned for Dr. Sousanis’s visit through our regular series of planning meetings, but also through an Unflattening reading group composed of faculty, graduate students, and librarians. At all of these gatherings, we tossed around questions that we hope will fuel conversations when Nick hits campus on Friday (October 21, graduate student session in main library from 12:00 to 1:00; a conversation with Dr. Nick Sousanis in BCSB, 101, from 3:30 to 5). Here are some of the questions we posed:
Why did you choose academe? What was the utility of the PhD for you? Did you consider careers outside the academy?
What were the limitations of traditional modes of scholarship that led you to prefer the comics form? What new things did this format allow you to do? Were there kinds of information that exceeded the boundaries of a traditional dissertation?
Please talk about images as sources.
Who were your main artistic influences?
How do you manage your archive?
Are there moments when you rue the word limitations that are placed upon you by the comics form?
What’s the most challenging criticism your work has received?
Who did you see as your audience while you were working on your dissertation? on your book?
What were the most important aspects of the ways you were mentored as a graduate student?
Are there aspects of your graduate education that you would do differently if you were to start over again?
Does it matter whether or not conventional scholarship cites your work?
How would you mentor traditionalists? Do aspects of your creative practice translate to working with students who are writing in more conventional modes?