Karl Johnson is a student at my alma mater, Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, where he is working on his dissertation in Sociology and has decided to fan culture, more specifically comics readers. Popular culture has always been a fruitful area for sociological and related disciplines to research since if often mirrors desires and concerns of the society which produces it, but in a narrower, more defined group which makes it a bit easier for researchers to work with. I’ve talked with Karl and he’s only too well aware that comics readers are not always represented well or fairly and that’s something he is keen to avoid. From a post he’s put up on the Graphic Scotland site about his project:
“In academic terms, the consumption of culture is widely seen as significant in how people form and express their identity in the 21st century. Research into fan culture is a small but growing offshoot of this, looking at the ‘mods and punks’ of the post-industrial age. And while there have been studies into comics/graphic novels for decades – they have not always been in a positive light.”
As I am sure any of us who have had to undertake a dissertation know, it’s a huge amount of work and so it is important to try and set yourself a specified set of parameters to contain that workload so you don’t get swamped. In Karl’s case he’s narrowed it to wanting to talk to male adult comic readers in Scotland – he’s especially interested in why they read the medium, what they get out of it and so on. I must admit I’d be quite interested to hear what comes out of his interviews when the dissertation is finished. There’s more information on the Graphic Scotland site here and you can contact Karl at 09000465(at)qmu(dot)ac(dot)uk – always interesting to see someone taking the medium and its readership seriously, so if you can spare a little time to help Karl with his research then please get in touch with him.