08 April 2010

Lessons from young readers

Last time, I suggested thinking of a conference poster not as a poster, but as a document. I still think that doesn’t quite capture the unusual qualities of a poster presentation. We think of documents as largely text, and posters are mainly visual.

Maybe a better model are kid’s books.

In both cases, you’re telling a story, usually out loud, using a lot of pictures and very few words.

Now, before you go and accuse me of trying to dumb down your brilliant research, faithful reader, let me say that this is an analogy. It is meant to highlight a few key points, not provide a perfect “one to one” match between an tool for academic discussion and books for lulling a young one into sleepytime.

Think of it as adapting your full academic work for a young reader.

As a kid, somewhere along the way I got an illustrated version of Moby Dick. The original, of course, is proper literature. It’s all words. High art. (I use Neil Gaiman’s criteria for determining this: A book is a work of art if it is large enough to stun a burglar.)

But Moby Dick is also a story that’s very amenable to adaptation. (Will Eisner’s is pictured.) You can leave out the chapters on rope, ruminations on predestination, and zero in on the story of one man trying to kill a whale. And, of course, there are strong visual elements to the story that positively cry out to be illustrated.

Moby Dick can be a thick tome that entrances American Literature professors while simultaneously boring undergraduate students, or, it can be an “Boy’s Own” yarn that makes young boys want to go to sea.

Your technical, peer-reviewed paper of your work will always be there for other professors. Make the poster version of your work the adventure tale.

Related posts

Don’t hold my hand, which discusses comics


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