“In a sickly time”: Reading Pepys in 2020

Samuel Pepys, Image via Wikipedia. Image file by John Hayls - Walthamstow Weekender (file), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=210769


I have a little bookcase where I have books about London, short story collections and other brief volumes (such as Penguin’s Little Black Classics) thinking of visitors who might want a quick read. Lately this bookcase has been my go-to resource when I can’t sleep.

Last night, unable to go to bed early worrying about everything that’s happening in the world, at work and at home, nearby and faraway, I grabbed one of those Penguins, number 47, “The Great Fire of London”, containing entries from The Diary of Samuel Pepys dated May 1st to June 31st, 1665, and September 2nd to 15th, 1666.

It’s common-place now to think of Pepys as a 17th century protoblogger. I have, in the past, many a time recurred to the Diary in a second-hand two-volume Everyman edition I treasure. I like dipping in and out from it at random.


My copy of The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol I., Everyman's Classics

The first half of the little Penguin volume, May 1st to June 31st, 1665, contains many references to the plague. What’s striking to me is how contemporary the account feels- though Pepys was noticeably concerned about the “encrease” of the plague, he also continued his daily life as socially active as ever, kissing people’s hands and all.

Pepys keeps count of the increasing fatalities, and the safety he feels being in the “City” relatively diminishes as the plague gets very close home:

10 June 1665

In the evening home to supper, and there to my great trouble hear that the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour’s, Dr Burnett in Fanchurch-street – which in both points troubles me mightily.

15 June 1665

The town grows very sickly, and people to be afeared of it – there dying this last week of the plague 112, from 43 the week before – whereof, one in Fanchurch-street and one in Broadstreete by the Treasurer’s office.

26 June 1665

The plague encreases mightily- I this day, seeing a house, at a bittmakers over against St Clements church in the open street, shut up; which is a sad sight.

The last entry from 1665 in the Penguin edition I read last night is from 30 June, where Pepys writes:

Myself and family in good health, consisting of myself and wife – Mercer, her woman – Mary, Alice and Su, our maids; and Tom, my boy. In a sickly time, of the plague growing on.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys is online at https://www.pepysdiary.com/and selections from entries mentioning the plague can be found at http://www.pepys.info/1665/plague.html.


Stories of Designs Past: Narrative Design Transmedia Archaeology

I published the following text on the HCID Comics, Games & Media Research Group blog.

Star Trek Spider-man 7" records (front)

Star Trek Spider-man 7" records back

Star Trek Spider-man 7" records  (vinyl, labels)

[Provisional draft notes shared as a prompt for future research group discussion]

My interest in the sociology of texts, transmedia storytelling and the role of materiality in the reading/collecting/reception/user experience, particularly in the case of comic book cultures, originally found a welcoming conceptual framework within the digital humanities. Recently, my interest has been evolving towards exploring the role of media archaeology within human-computer interaction design.

Media archaeology, as discussed by Jussi Parikka (2011), is a branch of media history that studies contemporary media culture by looking into past (also called “residual”) media technologies and practices. Media archaeology takes a special interest in practices, devices and inventions that may be now otherwise forgotten. It addresses the rapid obsolescence of software and hardware, and poses that their collection, preservation, conservation and study can provide important context for multidisciplinary analysis and innovation.

In particular, I have been recently drafting arguments and potential methodological and domain approaches to critical narrative design and speculative design (sometimes also called “design fiction”, though both terms are not always used to mean the same thing). Needless to say, all these terms have specific meanings and require further clarification and discussion, even for the initiated, let alone those new to them. For an intro into the relationships between the terms “critical design” and “speculative design”, I recommend  Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby’s books, Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects (2001) and Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming (2013).

According to Henry Jenkins (2007), “transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.” Transmedia is a mainstream term within contemporary literary and cultural studies, but its application and study goes beyond the mainstream humanities.  Interaction designers are well aware that humans “are increasingly living their lives […] in multisensory, narrative driven ways” (Spaulding and Faste 2013).

I took the photos above of two items in my record collection. They are two 7″ vinyl records containing the audio recordings of two stories based on characters, situations and fictional worlds at the time (late 1970s) mostly developed through comic books (today it would probably be film, rather than comics). I played them the other day and I was once again amazed at how immersive and engaging (in spite of some unavoidable and fully expected silliness that hasn’t aged well). As storytelling, both recordings qualify as fully immersive devices that expand fictional universes beyond their original media and that stimulate the imagination via different senses in a media-specific way. (For more context on these records and the label that released them, see Ettelson 2015).

This brief note is meant to share my interest in continuing exploring how media archaeology approaches to examples like these audio comic books in 7″ vinyl,  can help us understand better how “residual media” could offer valuable context into the affordances of transmedia in both a pre-digital and in a fully networked, digital, cloud-based eras. This implies that “transmedia” is (of course) not only a 21st century phenomenon.

Within the field of HCI it is now well known that storytelling is a critical design tool in human-computer interaction, in particular by addressing how an exploration of potential futures can inform strategies around the problems of the present (see for example Dow et al 2006). How do form and content, materiality and information, inter-relate to participate in the user experience?  Storytelling can also be a powerful strategy to understand the designs of the past, and to understand how these designs always-already include future designs- what can we learn from the design of things past, what stories do these objects tell, and what kind of insights can we obtain from them to design the present and the future?

Hoping these brief notes help as a starting point for further discussions between members of this research group.


Scraps- Quick Drafts

Via Google/Oxford Lexico

Most of my personal journal writing, as well as many of my blog posts, tends to be self-reflective and self-referential, often musing on the nature and challenges of writing. It’s writing about writing, or, often, about being unable to write. Why do we write? Why do many of us feel like we need to write? What do we write about? Does it matter?

After more than two decades of blogging, I still believe I should blog more. I realise it’s perfectionism what often stops me from writing publicly more. I also know that becoming a full time academic also meant being in the crossfire between my ideals for the future of scholarly communications and the conventional expectations around academic “productivity”. When time is poor, it may seem as a waste of time and effort to spend time writing in a format that will not “count” nor satisfy others’ expectations.

However as I find some rare reflective time this Saturday I would like to say I still find it essential to be able to have different channels for expression, sandpits where ideas can be rehearsed and, why not, anxieties exorcised.

As usual (it’s not the first time I write this) I’d like to use this blog for more than making announcements, and to rehearse, to experiment, to “test the quality” of some rough ideas and intuitions. As a way, why not, to remain present and out there, but mainly as a way to train the writing and thinking muscles, and to remain motivated. We’ll see.

On the Aesthetic Education of Caregivers: Presentation Report from #GM2019 at the Parables of Care blog

This post was originally published on the Parables of Care project blog and the images are hosted there. Copying and pasting here for self-archiving purposes.

The City, University of London and Douglas College, Canada research team collaborating on comics and creativity for healthcare were present at the Graphic Medicine 2019 international conference in Brighton, UK, hosted by the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, 11-13 July 2019.

The title of this fully multidisciplinary conference this year was Queerying Graphic Medicine – Paradigms, Power and Practices.

A full report of the conference is outside the remit of this blog post. However, you can catch up with the conference hashtag on Twitter- to make that easier I created a searchable archive of the #GM2019 tweets here. There’s some excellent photos, sketches, comics, links and information that give a rich collective view of what went on.

Abi Roper (City)  Marie-Pier Caron (Douglas), Ruhina Rana (Douglas), Peter Wilkins (Douglas) and myself (City) presented in a panel in the Paradigms Panel at Room M2 on Friday 12 July 2019, from 4 to 5:30 pm. The title of the session was “On the Aesthetic Education of Caregivers. The Specificities of Form and Genre in Comics about Dementia Care”.

The presentation slides have been deposited on figshare and can be downloaded under a CC-By license as

Priego, E., Wilkins, P., Roper, A., Caron, M., et al. (2019) On the Aesthetic Education of Caregivers. The Specificities of Form and Genre in Comics about Dementia Care. Presentation. [Online]. Available from: doi: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8863448. [Accessed: 16 July 2019].

The audience included health care professionals, academics and artists also working on dementia, aphasia and mental care, with the conversation between audience and presenters extending beyond the Q&A and the session allocated time and offering a valuable networking opportunity to continuing or initiating further collaborations. We were all very grateful for the attentive and engaged audience who attended our session, and for their important questions and feedback.

The team also distributed free copies of both Parables of Care and the INCA Project‘s MakeWrite poetry booklet (in a limited and numbered edition handmade by Abi Roper specially for the conference). This happened both at the panel session itself and throughout the whole conference thanks to the generosity of the Waterstones table (Richard- if you read this, thank you!).

Table at conference panel room

Conference Waterstones table

The Brighton conference was a unique opportunity for the team to work together (for once not mediated by computers nor geographically separated by the 7,573 km distance between Vancouver and London, UK), to get to know each other better and strengthen our research ties. Though Simon Grennan was unfortunately unable to make it due to work commitments, he was in touch with us throughout and before the conference had ended he had already shared with us the proofs for the Parables of Care Spanish translation, which we will release before the end of the Summer. (We missed you, Simon!)

Priego, Roper, Caron, Rana, Wilkins at GM2019
Left to Right: Priego, Roper, Caron, Rana, Wilkins

The conference provided plenty of further evidence that our previous and ongoing work fits within a larger, fully international and multidisciplinary, dynamic and exciting network of individuals and organisations focused on advancing the case for the use of comics and other multimodal storytelling media within healthcare. I think it is fair to say that all of us had the most fantastic, nurturing, fun and thought-provoking time.

Thank you very much to all the GM2019 organisers, as well as all our fellow presenters and attendees, for an incredible conference.

The GM2019 conference organisers announced the Graphic Medicine will return to Toronto next year. See you in Toronto for GM2020 maybe?

Parables of Care can be downloaded as a PDF file, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, from

If you work in a library, hospital, GP practice or care home- or care for someone with dementia in the UK, you can order a free copy of Parables of Care here: in the UK you can request printed copies at no cost here.

On Taking the Time to Perceive, Think, Write, and Share as Self-Preservation

“Nostalgia is the critic’s heroin”

-Mark Fisher, k-punk, January 13 2005.

“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?”

-Audre Lorde, 1977

It must have been late 2003 when I first came across a blog titled ‘k-punk: Abstract Dynamics‘. At the time I did not know the author behind the blog was Mark Fisher. I was fascinated and intrigued by his interest in popular culture, hauntology, ‘the weird’, Joy Division, grime, science fiction. In retrospect, his early blogging, say, between 2003 and 2008, represents a golden age of blogging. It is not a coincidence that the 2008 financial crash would also see a systematic shift in the attention economy, microblogging taking the place that long-form blogging used to have.

I am brought back to k-punk because it helps me realise how privileged, and how necessary, was to have the time to think and to write in a personal-yet-public platform, not for the sake of academic assessment or pomotion, but as a public exercise of thinking as a work-in-progress, and, importantly, as a generous making public of  ways of reading and listening, of reading and listening as performative activities that required their own dedicated time and space. (Take, for example, this post about Ursula K Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, or the conversational approach he took by addressing other bloggers with whom there was an ongoing dialogue, as in this post).

Fisher was often unapologetically obscure, and could come across as intellectually arrogant, but he was passionately disciplined in his blogging, and obsessively committed to cultural critique in its widest-yet-specific sense. Some of his posts were very short, sometimes limited to photographs or hyperlinks, other posts were proper essays, or notes towards longer pieces, or the re-sharing or further discussion of writing he had published elsewhere.

Looking back at his blog I am infused by a sense of nostalgia for this time in which taking the time was possible– I envied Fisher’s courage to just post, post, post, and to articulate complex theoretical arguments about apparently contradictory cultural artifacts (what do Fugazi and Beyoncé have in common?). Reading Audre Lorde recently, for example her essay ‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action’ (1977), I have also been reminded of the importance of taking the time to perceive, think, write, and share as a political act.  This could be abridged to taking the time as self-care.

The relentless automation of experience (I tried to refer to this in my previous post) has different manifestations, one of them being the enhanced competitivity of the attention economy and the acceleration and reduction of time and form, as represented by both Twitter and the maxi-minimalist how-many-minutes-will-it-take-me-to-read-this culture of Medium posts. Another manifestation is the increased popularity of vlogging and of videos as a form of pervasive-reality-TV that takes the role of baby sitter, tutor, news anchor, and all-round entertainment platform. Music streaming services and playlisting have prioritised mobile consumption, implying that media (music, film, TV, even writing) is ‘consumed’, at least in urban areas, ‘on the go’,  i.e. while doing something else.

It is in this setting that sitting down to listen to an album/LP, or a 7″ single, or a CD, or a tape, in real time and for the time it takes to play becomes a rarity, a luxury, an extravagance and a privilege. The same for sitting down and just reading a book or a magazine without being interrupted or distracted to do other things. Like taking the time to do Yoga or napping or meditating, listening to music or reading print publications requires a conscious pause or interruption from the 24/7 demands of our accelerated, automated present and endless should-have-submitted-yesterday to-do lists.

Just in case the clarification is needed: I am not in any way advocating switching off completely or for smartphone-free retreats; I believe that either/or discourse only perpetuates stress and anxieties. My point is rather to recognise that certain processes such as listening, reading and writing in a focused and concentrated way, on specific media that imply and require specific spatiotemporal performative conditions, requires, indeed, from a singular time and space, and that time and space is increasingly rare and more and more precious, to the point of feeling revolutionary, precisely because it breaks with the pragmatism, speed, order and flow of currently expected behavioural patterns.

These reflections are not, of course, anything new. However it still feels to me important, now that I’ve had the opportunity to reflect again on the conditions required for thinking about what’s around us, to find the time to reassign priorities. I have written about this before in more than one place: publish-or-perish cultures in academia, hand in hand with the aggressive marketisation and metrication of academic activity, leave less and less time, and space, to perceive, to reflect, to write, and, importantly, to share. It’s become a famous meme now, but Lorde’s words remain urgently powerful: “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

It is indeed concerning that to take the time to do what is essential if one is in a profession that requires study, interpretation and analysis should become an act of self-preservation. But it is. Creating the circumstances in which taking the time to think, to write and to share for the sake of it and not for academic boxticking remains crucial if we want to remain not only motivated and inspired, but individually and socially healthy and therefore able to keep making contributions.

Mark Fisher is no longer with us, but his writing remains. I am not certain how long his blog will remain online– I am hoping it is preserved for future generations to consult. (Read Simon Reynolds about Fisher’s blogging here). After his passing, I wrote this. To me, at least, his blog remains as a reminder that in spite of changes in cultural perceptions, the importance of taking the time to focus on reading, on listening, on reflecting, on writing and sharing remains crucial: an act of self-preservation.

Update: Anthony Wilson has kindly compiled a list of blog posts and resources on the/posted during the USS Strike. Don’t miss it!

Recent Updates on the Parables of Care blog

We launched Parables of Care on the 5th of October 2017.

As I’ve shared here too we have had weekly updates on the Parables of Care blog.

This month we’ve had two posts so far:

It’s a privilege to have asked Neil some questions about the project, and great to hear from Peter that the Canada side of the project is moving along nicely!

Parables of Care can be downloaded as a PDF file, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, from City Research Online: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/18245/.

If you live in the UK you can request printed copies at no cost here.

On the Journals UNAM Gave Away to Elsevier, @Red_HD


My post at the Red de Humanidades Digitales blog: http://humanidadesdigitales.net/blog/2017/08/07/revistas-academicas-elsevier-sciencedirect/#RedHD

An update from 10 August 2017, including the resolution of UNAM’s Transparency Committee, further discussion and a list of references, here: http://humanidadesdigitales.net/blog/2017/08/09/contrato-unam-elsevier-resolucion-del-comite-de-transparencia-de-la-unam/

Version 2 of the source data:

Priego, Ernesto (2017): List of UNAM Journals Under Contract with Elsevier. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3976752.v2


Inauguration Day

Photo CC-BY Marc Nozell, Flick Commons
Photo CC-BY Marc Nozell, Flickr

One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself – that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is spimply incapable of giving.”

―James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

As in previous years, my unwritten new year resolution is to write here more. I started blogging 18 years ago, and about 7 or 8 years ago my ‘personal’ blogging was reduced drastically, no doubt related to the rise of microblogging and new chapters in my life with greater public pressures, workloads and responsibilities.

The sad news of the death of Mark Fisher last week shook me deeply and reminded me how important someone’s public writing can be for others, or at least how much his blogging influenced me and helped me shape my own work ethic and politics.

I have blogged about trying to blog more meaningfully, only to be defeated by heavy workloads and my inability to not sleep or sacrifice even more personal and family wellbeing, so my blogging has been in the past few years largely dominated by updates, announcements and data research related posts.

I look up to colleagues like Martin Eve (and others) who reliably and periodically contribute to meaningful, public intellectual debate through their blog posts. Some of the most thought-provoking writing today is written not to meet targets, not to fulfill mandates, not as part of job descriptions. It’s urgent writing; it works as an invitation for collective thought and discussion. A space of reflection, shared generously, despite constraints. Good writing brings down walls.

Today I cannot but exercise my right to write about what I consider important.

Later today the world will witness Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new President of the United States of America. This morning I cannot but make a pause in everything urgent that I am working on to write this brief blog post where I express my profound concern and total rejection of everything that this political figure represents, both for the US and the rest of the world.

I am a Mexican and British citizen. I have friends and family living and working around the world. I aspire to being a ‘citizen of the world’. I  grew up witnessing at different levels of personal proximity the effects of social polarisation, corruption, stark inequality, discrimination, poverty and even civil war. The level of civic disempowerment that we are experiencing at this stage of the 21st century seems unparalleled; the more access we seem to have to means of producing and disseminating information the more defenseless we seem to become. This contradiction is painful to those of us who grew up being told that information was power and that education would lead to greater equality and with it, greater chances of wellbeing if not peace.

I want to be optimistic, not succumb to paranoia and keep hoping that everything will be all right. However we must also not lie to ourselves and pretend that the ‘values’ (tropes and motifs would be better terms) of the extreme right are not mainstream now. ‘The Brexit Bad Boys’ (sic), Trump, the alt-right, the ‘post-truth’ media ecosystem are not mere multimedia simulacra. It’s not just a dystopian fiction. It’s very much a tangible reality already affecting directly the lives of millions, within and outside the United States.

Those of us who believe in humanism and liberal, democratic values, who crave and work for equality and justice, cannot sit in front of the TV, sigh and merely hope for the better. Politically, it cannot be business as usual. We cannot be shy about publicly expressing our rejection of the politics of division, bullying and hate.

The revolution won’t be blogged, it won’t be tweeted, it won’t happen either on the streets. The Angel of History won’t come for us. In an age of total surveillance (not just from the State, but from everyone around us, including ourselves) the temptation is to continue remaining silent, our heads down, keeping calm and carrying on. (Others opt for constant commentary, noise silencing the signal).

Saying what we feel and believe, however, leaves a testimony, albeit a limited and fragile one. Saying what we feel and believe, openly, also works as a greeting, an expression of friendship and solidarity. When we write we give ourselves, and as such writing (not as an administrative requirement or task, but as a human need to share) is a risk. The risks of remaining silent seem much worse.

One cannot but hope for peace, tolerance, equality, respect. The near future looks very challenging. Information literacy, critical thinking, education are our armory.  Resisting won’t be futile.

My 2014 Blogging in Review


An 2014 annual report for this blog courtesy of WordPress.com. Click here to see the complete report.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.”

Click here to see the complete report.

Some Tips for WordPress.com Beginners


wordpress.com logo

[Links open in new windows. Post updated 15/10/2014 at 9:02 PM GST]*

I have adapted the following from a longer, slightly different document I created for my Digital Information Technologies and Architectures (DITA) module at #citylis this year. It contains some tips for wordpress.com beginners and perhaps some for more advanced users.

Blogging is one of those online practices that apparently everyone and anyone can do but that in practice do pose various challenges particularly for beginners but also for more advanced users. If you are reading this already you are likely not to be completely alien to blogs, so I apologise if some of the suggestions are too basic.

I believe blogging is an essential element of any professional’s portfolio. I’d recommend this 2012 blog post by Ryan Cordell: “Creating and Maintaining a Professional Presence Online: A Roundup and ReflectionProfHacker, October 3, 2012.

Please take into account Ryan’s post is written from an USAmerican point of view and with an academic audience in mind. Also, some context in technologies might have changed since he published the post. However, it is possible to adapt his reflection, shared materials and suggestions to our own field and circumstances.

Below are some of the issues I consider important in blogging, and that can be sometimes overlooked:


  • “A blog” (short for web log) is a dynamic web site that is frequently updated. It should not be confused with “a blog post”.
  • “Blog posts” or simply “posts” are dated entries that are published in inverse chronological order; i.e. the latest one will appear on top and will push previous ones down.
  • Your blog has a web address or URL, and if you want to refer people to your whole site you should give them a link to that address (ending in our case in wordpress.com). If you want to refer people to an individual blog post, however, you must refer them to the “permalink”, i.e. the unique URL or web address for that particular entry.
  • URL vs Blog Name. Your blog’s URL is the the Web address of your site, for example https://epriego.wordpress.com/. Your blog’s name is a human-readable word or phrase, in my case “Ernesto Priego”.
  • It is good that at least one of the terms in your URL appears also in your blog name and/or tagline. The tagline is important: it must be a short phrase giving more information about what your blog is about.

Authorship: Bylines!

  • Your byline/username: Please make sure you have updated your User Profile section. Your username should be different from the name that will be displayed publicly as your byline: jdoe is not the same as Jonathan Doe. For clear instructions on how to update your Profile and byline, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-profile/.
  • If you have guest bloggers it’s easy to add them as contributors, and this way they can also get a byline. Do not type “by Joe Doe” in the body of the text and leave your own byline as owner/administrator of the blog, give the author its own byline! To learn more about the different user roles in a blog, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-roles/.


  • A WordPress “Theme” is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with a specific design for a blog. You can browse different free themes here https://theme.wordpress.com/.
  • Deciding what theme to choose depends on several factors. Deciding for whom you will be publishing and what you expect your site to achieve will help you decide what kind of impression you want to give.
  • Please choose a theme that will indicate your “byline” (your authorship) clearly– different themes display bylines differently (say at the top of a post under the title or at the bottom of the post). Also make sure you choose a theme that displays a post’s tags and categories. Not all themes do. For a forum discussion on how to find a theme that displays bylines, see http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/which- themes-automatically-display-bylines?replies=12.
  • For general help about themes, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/themes/. Bear in mind not all themes might look the same on all browsers. So keep trying. You can change themes several times. You won’t lose any content published or saved as draft, but you might lose any widgets you have customised. (On widgets: http://en.support.wordpress.com/widgets/ ).


  • Assuming your intention is to have a blog within a professional network, it’s advisable to keep the tone and the language professional. Do proofread your posts and pages carefully; just because it’s theoretically faster to publish online it does not mean you can be careless.
  • It’s online, so do hyperlink. Decide if you will set your links to open in the same or in another window. For accessibility opening links in the same window is advised, but that will mean that your readers will be expected to return to your site to continue reading. You decide.
  • Use your posts to learn some basic HTML tags: practice switching from the visual to the HTML (text) editor.
  • Include images in your posts, but make sure you have the legal right to use them. Upload any images to your media library, never embed images hosted elsewhere. Some good resources to search for images licensed for reuse are:
  • CILIP has some excellent guidelines on how to write a blog post for their own Blogger Challenge, (hint, hint!). Some of the excellent advise they give is the following:

Write for screen reading, bearing in mind that people read differently on a screen compared to reading on paper. For instance:

Use sub-headings to break the blog into meaningful chunks of information

Try the inverted pyramid structure – start with the conclusion, cover the most important and interesting information first and provide more detail later in the piece


  • Bear in mind that WordPress will automatically create an URL for your posts based on the text you provide in the ‘Title’ field of each post. If your Title is too long, it will create a very long permalink. Long permalinks are a bad idea as they break more easily, even when using URL shorteners for social media sharing (on URL shortening, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening).
  • WordPress allows you to edit your URL (just under the blog post title field) so it’s not as long even when your title is long (long titles are not a great idea either, but sometimes you just have to). Just make sure your URL contains enough keywords. You can get rid of stopwords (like conjunctions and prepositions for example) that alre also included in the title and body of your post.


  • Most professional blogs will have at least one ‘About’ or ‘Bio’ page where you describe who you are and what the purpose of your blog is.
  • It is important you say who is behind the blog: you can give away as much or as little as you want bearing in mind one of the intentions of asking you to set up and maintain the blog is for you to practice creating and keeping a professional presence online.
  • For support on Pages, go here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/. If you decide to have more than one page, think if what you need is another page or a category instead. (See below).

Categories and Tags

  • Think of Categories as the sections of a newspaper. I would suggest one main category for your blog, to be used for those posts that generally fit the description of your blog. You can create other categories if you want to use your blog to write about various, different topics.
  • Tags, on the other hand, are keywords describing the content of each of your posts.
  • Categories and tags can be the same term– but they fulfill different roles. Hierarchically cateogies are superior, at a web site level, and tags work at a lower, post-based level. For a simpler explanation go to http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/categories-vs-tags/.


  • If content is available on the Web people will always-already want to share it or do something with it. Creative Commons provides free legal tools for online creators so they can license their work for various uses.
  • Creative Commons licenses complement copyright, so you retain all your authorship rights, whilst deciding which rights you will be granting your audience. To choose a license, go to http://creativecommons.org/choose/.
  • For blogs I recommend CC-BY or CC-BY-SA. You can copy the HTML and then add it to a Text Widget to the sidebar of your site.
  • If you want to know more about Creative Commons, you can download the guide I co-edited:

Collins, Hellen; Milloy, Caren; Stone, Graham; Baker, James; Eve, Martin; Priego, Ernesto (2014): Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors (OAPENUK 2013). figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.928467


 In recent years I have blogged about academic blogging a lot. I once called blogging “the utltimate form of collegiality” (I was younger and more optimistic). I also have various slideshows openly available online.

There’s way much more that can be say about blogging, and opinions about the best way of doing it are as varied as there are blogs. Some of it is pretty subjective.  After all, the fun part of blogging is the freedom it gives you. Blogging, however, is about publishing information as much as it is about organising information.

As an information science scholar I can’t help observing that blogs that have a coherent architecture, are search-engine aware and are updated periodically with consistent, engaging content are often, in my humble opinion, the best.

*Obviously I don’t always follow my own advice… I try though! ;-)

#LibPub Session 3: Comic Books, Libraries and Challenges in the Digital Age

Watchmen – from comic book to graphic novel to folder… Image by Ernesto Priego. Watchmen © DC Comics
Watchmen – from comic book to graphic novel to folder… Image by Ernesto Priego. Watchmen © DC Comics

A book is a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages, exclusive of the cover pages, published in the country and made available to the public.”

-UNESCO, 19 November 1964

My work is dedicated to the proposition that the academic enterprise as a whole needs access to appropriate historical documents.”

-Randy Scott, 18 October 2001

For our third session of our Libraries and Publishing module at City University London, we will focus on comic books as an interesting case study whose analysis might help us understand some key issues around publishing and librarianship in the digital age.

“But comics?” You might ask.

The history of comics  has been defined to a large extent by comics’ stigmatised nature as subcultural material. In turn, this stigma has been incorporated in the ways in which the language itself is expressed in the form of different types of publications, such as hand-made mini- comics or luxurious slip-cased hardback limited, signed and numbered editions, a phenomenon which is related to the medium’s struggle for cultural recognition (Groensteen 2007; Lent 2001).

Moreover, self-imposed or external stigmatisation is expressed as formal and thematic constraints that have generated specific and complex cultural phenomena, including types of texts (newspaper strips, periodical comic books, graphic novels), genres (superheroes, political satire, humour, horror, romance, pornography, crime, biography, reportage, etc.) and dedicated ‘subcultures’ -there must be a better term- around them. Paradoxically, what arguably started at the dawn of the 20th century as an art form of and for the masses has been in danger of becoming a niche market only for the initiated. The artistic complexity of the texts has reached very high levels of sophistication, and so has the expense at which the books have to be produced, therefore increasing the cover prices substantially.

As the comic book market has become more specialised, its products have become more expensive, and its audience more elitist. As seen in the development of comics inthe last few years since the first publication of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (1993) onwards, digital technology would only further complicate things, sometimes in unprecedented ways.

The literature discussing the past, present, future and after-lives of books is considerable and increasing by the day, but comic books have been so far greatly excluded from the debate. With the notable exceptions of The Oxford Companion to the Book (2010) and Bettley’s The Art of the Book (2001), most literature in the fields of book history and topics concerning the history of writing and digital textuality, including studies of books as artistic objects and of the material page make no mention of comics at all, in spite of the fact they do refer to other forms of multimedia or text-and-image publications such as collage books and illustrated books.

The relationships between “content” and “document”, “text” and “publication”, “medium” and “message” are intricate, and today’s information professionals need to be aware of this. If, as Randy Scott puts it, comics “ can help librarianship as a whole break some new ground in terms of proactive information handling”, it is because they are examples of multimedia that defy previous forms of categorization and description, both as messages (that which could also be described as “content”) and as publications (that which could also be described as “medium”, “form”, “material support”, etc.).

Randy Scott, the head librarian and founder of the Comic Art Collection, Special Collections Division of the Michigan State University Library, remains one of the best-known comics librarians in the comics scholarship field. In his pioneering Comics Librarianship. A Handbook, (1990) he writes:

A major reason that there are not enough histories, analyses and reference books about comics is that collecting comics is a very difficult job, and libraries have not been collecting well enough. Although there are some significant university collections of comics material, there are very few libraries that routinely acquire the best of what is newly published, even of political and non-fiction comics (1990:9).

The Library of Congress has never provided cataloguing for comic books as it does for almost every other category of published material. Until the late 1970s, no librarian anywhere on Earth would have been able to prove, using any standard library catalogues, whether such titles as Wonder Woman, Superman, or The Amazing Spider-Man even existed as bibliographic entities (1990: 14-15).

The need for specialized skills, the needs of a specialized readership, and a sense within libraries that the time is right to begin giving comics more serious attention, all these things make it seem possible that comics is a field that can help librarianship as a whole break some new ground in terms of proactive information handling (1990:23).

Scott’s remarks are relevant because they offer the context in which comics as publications were  located in relation to academic information handling and humanities research at the time he was writing. During the same now-distant 1990s, George P. Landow, some seven years later, would argue that “any information medium that encourages rapid dissemination of texts and easy access to them will increasingly demystify individual texts” (1997: 84). If our understanding of “individual texts” has changed with the inception of the Internet (not to mention the Web), our understanding of comic books as “texts” (in this case as “publications”) should also change. How have things changed 24 years after Randy Scott’s Handbook was published?

The book Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives: Essays on Readers, Research, History and Cataloging was released in April 2010. Edited by Robert G. Weiner, includes an article entitled “Webcomics and Libraries”, by Amy Thorne (pages 209-213) and includes an updated take by Scott on the Comic Art Collection at Michigan State University (pages 123-126). However, the volume seems to me very ill-equipped to deal with the transformations in comics publishing and libraries brought about the digital age.

During the first part of the lecture we will discuss the challenges that comics, as specific types of publications, pose to librarians, publishers, and booksellers of today.

Comics, in any form or format, are of course an international phenomenon. Casey Brienza (@CaseyBrienza) is a sociologist and Lecturer in Publishing and Digital Media at City University London’s Department of Culture and Creative Industries. I am incredibly pleased to say she will be our guest speaker for the second part of the lecture tomorrow. She has done extensive research on different aspects of Japanese comics (manga) publishing, focusing on, amongst other topics,  the rise of manga in the United States and its implications for the globalisation of culture. Looking forward to tomorrow!


Bettley, J. (ed.) (2001) The Art of the Book. From Medieval Manuscript to Graphic Novel. London: Victoria and Albert Publications.

Groensteen, T. (2007) The System of Comics. Jackson: The University of Mississippi Press

Landow,  G.P. (1997) Hypertext 2.0. The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lent, J.A. (2001) “Comic Books”, entry for Censorship. A World Encyclopedia, A-D, Jones, D. ed. London: Fitzroy Daerborn

McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press

Priego, E. (2012). “Audio: Randy Scott on the Superpowers of Librarians (2001)”. The Comics Grid  [blog post]. 29 June 2012. http://blog.comicsgrid.com/2012/06/audio-randy-scott-2001/ Accessed 13 February 2014. Web.

Scott, R. W. (1990) Comics Librarianship. A Handbook. Jefferson and London: MacFarland & Company

Suarez, M.F., Woudhuysen, S.J. & Woudhuysen, H.R. (2010). The Oxford companion to the book: Essays, A-C / Vol. 1, Oxford University Press

Weiner, S. (ed.) (2010). Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives: Essays on Readers, Research, History and Cataloging. Jefferson, N.C. and London: MacFarland

This post is part of my residence during February 2014 as blog curator of the Digital Reading Network, covering the topic of “digital comics“.