Conference report

Leslie Goufo Zemmo, Giorgio Busi Rizzi, and David Pinho Barros wrote a conference report up at the Comics Forum website.

It was an exciting, enriching and thought-provoking encounter, and all the participants are sure its consequences will be conspicuously felt in the future of digital media scholarship.



Many thanks for all those who attended and presented at the conference, for the lively exchanges, interesting discussions and the collegial atmosphere.

The discussions also went online through the #algopoetics hashtag. Ernesto Priego, editor of The Comics Grid, has generously set up a storify archive for the three days of the conference:

  1. #algopoetics Conference Day 1 (Thursday 16 June)
  2. #algopoetics Conference Day 2 (Friday 17 June)
  3. #algopoetics Conference Day 3 (Saturday 18 June)



In the Spotlight: Gregory Ulmer

Closing off the second day of the conference, Gregory Ulmer will bring the discussion into the digital world by intervening through online video conferencing. Ulmer is Professor of English and Media Studies at the University of Florida and is a new media theorist widely recognized for books as Applied Grammatalogy (1985) and Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy (2003). Drawing from Derrida’s theories, Ulmer has coined the concept of “electracy” to designate the transformative change from a culture of print literacy to a digital culture: “electracy is to digital media what literacy is to print,” as Ulmer famously put it, point to the knowledge skills and new media literacy necessary to understand and make full use of electronic and digital media. As a visual abstract for his talk, Gregory Ulmer proposed the following apparatus sheet charting the transition from orality to literacy to electracy.



In the Spotlight: Markku Eskelinen

A conference such Poetics of the Algorithm could not have attempted to map out the digital without focusing on video games. For the occasion, one of the founders of Game Studies, Markku Eskelinen, will give a keynote address –“Cybertextuality in 3D”– revisiting his recent book Cybertext Poetics: The Critical Landscape of New Media Literary Theory (2012). Eskelinen is an independent scholar and experimental writer of ergodic prose and critical essays. He is also one of the founding editors of Game Studies, an international journal of computer game research.

Following Eskelinen’s keynote, a panel will be devoted to game design and narratology, an area that Eskelinen also repeatedly explored. Fanny Barnabé, from the Liège Game Lab, will give some perspectives on narration in video games, drawing from her book Narration et jeu vidéo (2014). Mark Johnson will present on research carried out with Darren Reed, both at the University of York: besides being a post-doctoral researcher, Mark Johnson is also a game developer and holder of arcade gaming word records. Finally, David Myers, the author of The Nature of Computer Games, will be presenting on the notion of “possible worlds” within video games. A rich overview of cutting-edge approaches to narrative and video games and great discussions to look forward to!

Image credit: Mark R. Johnson

In the Spotlight: Sarah Kember

On the second day of the conference, we will be delighted to hear Sarah Kember give a keynote address based on her new book iMedia: The Gendering of Objects, Environments and Smart Materials, ‘hot’ off the Palgrave digital press. Pursuing Kember’s interest in the connexions between biological life and new media, feminism and technology, the book proposes to bring in a queer feminist perspective to the current analyses of ‘smart’ objects and media, revealing how gendered our ideas and celebrations of these objects are. The book is a lively manifesto in line with her “Notes Towards a Feminist Futurist Manifesto” (2012). Elaborating on these issues, she will pose the question “What or where is the i in iMedia?” during her talk in Liège:

“If the poetics of the algorithm are not post (as in, after) human and we do not seek to substitute structure for scale, epistemology for ontology, relations for objects, environments and materials as things-in-themselves (OOPs!) then we must maintain a sense of perspective and ask who, as well as what is writing – and to what end? If iMedia are currently being unmediated, rendered transparent and autonomous in an iworld that just is/coming soon, then a queer, feminist, writerly perspective might offer the prospect of iMedia otherwise.”

In the Spotlight: WREK

Pendant la journée du 15 juin, l’Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Liège, grâce à l’organisation de Paul Mahoux, accueillera un WREKshop d’Olivier Deprez, Miles O’Shea et Marine Penhouët, un atelier de (cinémato)gravures que suivra une dizaine d’étudiants. Le soir, le collectif WREK présentera ses travaux à l’Université de Liège, avec une projection du film Après la mort, après la vie et de quelques autres cinématogravures. La projection sera accompagnée de commentaires par Olivier Deprez et Aarnoud Rommens.

Écrivant à propos de la pratique d’Olivier Deprez dans un article de 2008 pour Relief, “La bande dessinée nouvelle dont Olivier Deprez et d’autres membres du groupe Fréon/Frémok s’imposent aujourd’hui comme des représentants majeurs, est donc bien autre chose que le ‘roman graphique’ ou la revalorisation littéraire et culturelle d’une pratique populaire et commerciale longtemps méprisée. Les changements de l’ancien média que l’on a pu diagnostiquer dans cet article touchent à la fois aux signes, aux supports comme aux contenus de la bande dessinée, qui s’oriente en plus vers des usages et des structures médiatiques insoupçonnées –mais cependant déjà là dans le travail d’Olivier Deprez.” Cette exploration aux confins des limites de la bande dessinée est peut-être plus vrai aujourd’hui que jamais dans le travail de Deprez et de ses comparses qui mélange bande dessinée, gravure, cinéma, photographie et performance, interrogeant les frontières médiatiques et redéfinissant l’espace entre image-fixe et image-en-mouvement comme celui d’un entre-deux où se jouent de nouvelles pratiques et de nouvelles formes.

Image: gravure par Olivier Deprez

In the Spotlight: Richard McGuire & Stephen Betts

The second keynote address is a conversation between comics artist Richard McGuire and developer Stephen Betts, who will discuss the digitization of Here as well as the differences between print and digital formats.

Here was first published as a six-page comic in Art Spiegelman and François Mouly’s avant-garde comics magazine RAW in 1989, it quickly became a cult work and was recently updated into a full-blown graphic novel, published by Pantheon in 2014. It was awarded the Fauve d’Or at the Angoulême Comics Festival in 2016. Here, which Chris Ware named a “game-changing graphic novel”, captures the changes of a single space across the million-years span of deep time, reimagining human time beyond the grasp of traditional narrative patterns. This multiscalar reimagination of narrative was simultaneously published as a print book – urging its readers to constantly flip through and manipulate the codex in nonlinear ways – and as an interactive app – which makes use of the specific affordances of digital media to expand that nonlinear aspect towards a database logic of random combinations and juxtapositions. As McGuire told Leanne Shapton in an interview for The Paris Review:

“The book form works perfectly for telling this story, but I also wanted to push the nonlinear aspects of the storytelling. I imagined an interactive version that could randomize all the panels and backgrounds and reshuffle them, and with the new combinations come new connections within the story. I spoke about this possibility at a lecture I gave, and by luck there was a developer in the audience, Stephen Betts, who knew how it could be done. We collaborated on that for two years, right alongside of the making of the paper version. Stephen wrote a lot of programing for what became the e-book. It’s unlike any other I’ve ever seen. It also incorporates animated GIFs and, for me, those little looped movements feel the closest to single memories.”


In the Spotlight: Digital Comics – Practice & Theory

We are particularly happy to be featuring a special panel on Thinking about Digital Comics through Practice which will bring together four speakers who navigate the traditionnally wide spectrum between practice and theory – ranging from a researcher practising comics as scholarship, to two hybrid practicioners who co-mingle theory and practice in a feedback loop, to a graphic artist with a keen eye for self-theorizing.

  • Nicolas Labarre is Associate Professor at the Université Bordeaux-Montaigne and he has been interested in how to make comics as scholarship, that is how to produce scientific discourse in the form of comics. Through his research blog Picturing it!, he is publishing his own reflections on the process and stakes of drawing an ‘academic comics.’ At the conference, he won’t so much present his own production as much as analyze various cases of ‘comics as scholarship’ and how these are framed in terms of genre, users and interpretative communities. His blog features an interview about the University of Florida’s Sequentials project, which will feed into the presentation.


  •  Anthony Rageul‘s approach to digital comics was, from scratch, weaved in with an academic framework: for his master thesis, he designed the digital comic Prise de tête, which received a large echo in the comics world, marking a significant point in the development of French digital comics. While completing a PhD thesis on digital comics at the Université Rennes 2, he simultaneously realized several works hosted on various platforms. Often subtitled “bande dessinée interactive,” his comics aim at fully taking advantage of the interactivity of digital comics. In his talk, he will highlight the relationship between coding and interface in the creation of digital comics and the importance of the stage of designing the interface in shaping up the narrative told.


  • Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, comics artist and new media lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, is undoubtedly the British counterpart of Rageul. A prolific and innovative comic creator, Goodbrey has gained international recognition as a leading expert in the field of experimental digital comics. His hypercomic work received the International Clickburg Webcomic Award in Holland in 2006 while his work in print was awarded with the Isotope Award for Excellence In Comics in San Francisco in 2005. His smartphone app, A Duck Has an Adventure was shortlisted in the 2012 New Media Writing Prize. Academic-wise he wrote numerous articles on digital comics and co-edited a special issue of MeCCSA on digital comics.


  • Yannis LaMacchia is a Swiss comics artist living in Lyon. He has been particularly involved with the Hécatombe publishing collective, which distinctively pursues alternate ways of making books exploring their materiality in a way that brings comics close to the field of artists’ books. Following these ideas, LaMacchia has come up with the idea of a “Fanzine carré” that literally is a cube of equal proportions, which led him to rethink the whole production process because of the challenges posed by its feasibility. With his Racontars project, he has been experimenting with new ways of narrative and seriality that is partly based on reader feedback and suggestions. Readers are indeed invited to post their own “racontars” (French for gossip) with which LaMacchia then improvises his fragmented stories.


Image credit: Yannis LaMacchia, Racontars

In the Spotlight: Ilan Manouach

Greek (comics) artist Ilan Manouach will be our first keynote speaker at the Poetics of the Algorithm conference, where he will present his ‘Shapereader’ project (see, which explores a ground-breaking form of tactile storytelling. Throughout his varied projects, which include Situationist-like détournements of popular comics from Maus to The Black Smurfs, Ilan Manouach’s work has continuously raised the core issues of the digital and ‘unidentified’ media that the conference seeks to map out.

As Bill Kartalopoulos wrote in World Literature Today, “Externalization, improvisation, systems, and collaboration: these ideas and more inform the decentered approach that runs through Manouach’s mature work. In all their diverse manifestations, Manouach’s comics undercut both the protagonist-based model of classical narrative and the author-expression mode of traditional creative production.” While not working in digital media proper, Manouach’s work, with its relentless defamiliarization and reliance on collaborative creative processes, foregrounds approaches to art and narrative that are clearly in tune with this changed media ecology.

Most of Manouach’s comics have been put out by Belgian publisher La Cinquième Couche.

Conference Programme

Images (c) Richard McGuire. Used with permission. 

The conference does not require advance registration (except the WREKshop). It is a free event and completely open to the public. 

Wednesday 15 June

Conference opening event: WREKshop by Olivier Deprez & Miles O’Shea
9h-17h, organized by Paul Mahoux, Académie des Beaux-Arts de Liège   (registrations closed)

20h – WREKshop Projection: Après la mort, après la vie and other ‘cinématogravures’, with comments by Olivier Deprez and Aarnoud Rommens – Salle Lumière, Université de Liège

Thursday 16 June

8h30-9h – Welcome and registration

9h-9h30 – Introduction by Aarnoud Rommens, Björn-Olav Dozo & Benoît Crucifix

9h30 – 11h30 – Thinking about Digital Comics through Practice

  • Nicolas Labarre (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne), “The Users of Comics as Scholarship”
  • Anthony Rageul (Université Rennes 2, artist), “De la jubilation de concevoir des ‘récits-interfaces’”
  • Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (University of Hertfordshire), “Choose the Format of the Destructor: Design Choices for Comic Creators in Print and Digital Media”
  • Yannis La Macchia (graphic artist), “Narration par fragments”

Coffee break

Ilan Manouach
“Shapereader: Tactile Storytelling for the Visually Impaired”

Lunch (room A2/5/6)

14h-15h30 – Bande dessinée numérique : esthétique et lecture

  • Julien Baudry (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne), “Les paradoxes de l’innovation esthétique dans la création numérique en bande dessinée”
  • Magali Boudissa (Université Paris 8), “De l’album à l’écran : enjeux narratifs et esthétiques de la bande dessinée numérique”
  • Jean-Bernard Cheymol (CMI – Université Paris 3), “La vitesse dans 3″ de Marc-Antoine Mathieu”

Coffee break

15h45-17h15 – Comics, Technology and Here

  • Côme Martin (Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV), “Contre ou au-delà de l’imprimé? La bande dessinée numérique à la recherche d’un statut spécifique”
  • Ernesto Priego (City University of London) and Peter Wilkins (Douglas College), “The Question Concerning Comics as Technology: Gestell and Grid”
  • Aarnoud Rommens (Université de Liège), “Weird Media”

Richard McGuire & Stephen Betts
“Digitizing Here

Friday 17 June

9h-9h45 – Digital Practices

  • Loraine Furter (Hybrid Publishing Group), “Hidden Histories, Public Libraries”
  • Robert Rapoport (Leuphana University), “The Poetics of the AI Video Edit: Projection, Synch, Phase”

9h45-11h15 – Networks/Circulation

  • Estelle Dalleu (Université de Strasbourg), “D’un algorithme en résistance : le GIF. À propos de Zac’s Haunted House et Zac’s Control Panel de Dennis Cooper”
  • Dinu Gabriel Munteanu (Nottingham Trent University), “Indeterminate Media and the Poetics of Loss: Architecture, Colour and Mood on Tumblr Microblogs”
  • Vendela Grundell (Stockholm University), “Interfacing Poetics: Glitch Art Transforming Spectatorship”

Coffee break

Johnny Golding (CFAR-Birmingham City University)
“Exquisite Matter: Sensoria, Entanglement and the Roll of the Code (Encountering the Strange Case of 3D Printing)”

Lunch (room A2/5/6)

13h30-14h30 – The Music of Code and Software

  • Jonathan Impett (Orpheus Institute & Middlesex University), “Building with the Unnamable: Code, Music and Operational Discourse”
  • Raffaele Pavoni (Università degli Studi di Firenze), “From Music Videos to Music Algorithms. The Convergence of Software Houses and Record Labels in Chrome Experiments Interactive Music Videos”

Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths, University of London)
“iMedia: What or Where is the i in iMedia?”

Coffee break

15h45-16h45 – Rethinking Interfaces

  • Sylvie Fabre (Université d’Artois), “Du lecteur à l’utilisateur: l’expérience de la lecture sur écran, entre raison graphique et raison numérique”
  • Dane Watkins (Falmouth University), “Smudging the Interface: How Can the Aesthetics of Comics Enhance the Usability of User Interfaces?”

Gregory Ulmer (University of Florida)
“Electracy: the Digital Apparatus”

Saturday 18 June

9h-10h30 – Mediality in the Digital Age

  • Simon Grennan (University of Chester) and Ian Hague (London College of Communications), “Medium, knowledge, structure: capacities for choice and the contradiction of medium-specificity in games and comics”
  • Olivier Crépin (Université Paris 8), “Walking Dead : de l’adaptation à la transmédialité, transformations du rythme du récit et implications”
  • Gert Meesters (Université de Lille), “Bob and Bobette and Digital Enthusiasm. How a Big Comics Publisher in Flanders Put a Lot of Effort into Discrediting His Own Books”

Coffee break

Markku Eskelinen (independent researcher)
“Cybertextuality in 3D: a historical-theoretical-practical framework for re-reading literature”

Lunch (room: A2/5/6)

13h30-14h45 – Game Design and Narratology

  • Victor Cayres, Lynn Alves, Cristhyane Ribeiro (State University of Bahia), “A Game Narrative Development Framework Based on Dramaturgical Analysis Tools”
  • Mark R. Johnson & Darren J. Reed (University of York), “Towards Participatory Game Design”
  • David Myers (Loyola University New Orleans), “Possible Stories and Literal Games”

Gregory Steirer (Dickinson College)
“God from the Machine: Constructing Authorship in Twenty-First Century Interactive Fiction”

Coffee break

16h-17h – Reprocessing Literature Through the Algorithm

  • Martin Zeilinger (Anglia Ruskin University), “Machine-Readable Beckett: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Reading and Performing Quad as Algorithmic Theatre”
  • Philipp Sack (Braunschweig University of Art), “Commodity and thought forms. On ‘Poetry for Robots’”

17h-18h – Oulipo and Digital Avant-Gardes

  • Natalie Berkman (Princeton University), “L’Oulipo numérique”
  • Catherine Lenoble and An Mertens (Algolit), “Exercices de style with algorithms #Digital avant-gardes”

18h-18h30 – Concluding Remarks