How what it project, shaped what others think?

Creative Commons License
A PhD investigation on comm. design contribution on Malaysian Identity by Nurul Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
Based on a work at

Now when you read this title what do you think can go under ‘it’? It in this context could be any form of media, but what I want to discuss today about ‘it’ falls under comics. So ‘it’ in this column means comics, yes only comics, because under comics there’s comic books, comic strips and perhaps other ‘unknown’ type of comic.

Next questions is the question that I asked at the top (title). So what do you think? Let’s makes it easier in putting comic in the sentences. So ‘How what comics [it] project, shaped what others think? What I’m asking here is the role of comics. Hmm..but what is comic? Well, if you look at the comic definition in then the meaning of comic is this – a comedian, a comic book, comic strips, comedy shows or a behaviors that could induces smiles or laughters. Yes, I did said comics is just comic and nothing more, not comedian and not the act of making others laugh.

Sadly because of this ‘unpopular’ areas or medium, people don’t really understand what comic is. The word comic are broadly use, in different situation, depending on the purpose. It is also because comic is not something that are educational appreciated, it use to be considered as a bad influences. But not anymore. Nowadays comic are much more popular, between children and adults. It has become an exclusive desire artifacts for some and cartoonist has become as popular as an artist.

Back to the question asked – what influence or impact does comic have in our life and how it can influence our thinking process or our lifestyle? First, lets see where can we find comics? Traditionally we could only in find comic in newspapers (classic), in children books, in comic books and in magazine. But nowadays we could see them in advertising, in poster and in many other promotional items. So in conjunction to this, comic is no longer a medium under other media, but it is the medium by itself, therefore as what McLuhan (1954) stated “The medium is the message” – comic is the message. Comic has its own ‘content’ through the message it carries , except the content of the message have extended to certain human understanding of comics. Therefore the meaning of the ‘content’ of comic could change and evolve through time. Now if we see the use of new media on comic, this is happening because comic could give meaning and its own interpretation of comic with out reading what it contained. To include comic in advertising work is to create the feeling of comedy, relax, take it easy kind of meaning. Then the content of the comics comes in.

McCloud in his most influential book ‘Understanding Comic’ (1993) describe his extended meaning of comic and shows examples on how to read and understand comic, breaking it into different parts. Comic is a the most subtle communication medium to communicate. Through comic one can express, tell, suggest and perhaps persuade others for different purpose.

understanding comics

To be able to read comic, one needs to understand the culture background of the comics, a western comic could portray towards Western lifestyle and so on with others cultures around the world. In contrast to this, comic also is a medium of study, one could examine the culture, identity, background of others from different countries through comic. So how does this influences what others think?

Well it is a norm human reaction to imitate others, particularly when is it different from others. Lifestyle, fashion, trends, custom etc, are something everyone of use appreciate, and want to learn or at least curious enough to know. This process could shape our thinking, our views on something and perhaps could even alter our behaviors.

Of course this blog hopes to stimulate some awareness or discussion about design, and guess what, comic is part of communication design. Have a think..Now, what do you say again about comic…is it or is it not influential?

Identity : Constructed

Creative Commons License
A PhD investigation on comm. design contribution on Malaysian Identity by Nurul Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Australia License.
Based on a work at

As you can see I haven’t been writing much in this blog, I’ve been super busy trying to finish up writing up my PhD. But this blog is here and still very useful for me to reflect back my work and throw out some ideas. Many ideas from this blog have brought me long way in my research and some are just left behind as I did not have time to make it happen. Hopefully in future this blog will be much better use than now. I wish to continue some of ‘wish’ and hope it will come true one day.

Well, at this point as I mentioned I’m trying to finish up my writing. I’m in the middle of writing up 2 chapters, both are about medium, different medium that are used in communication design. Or it could also be defining the role of communication design in my research. I assumed it’s both but I really need to be able to articulate my thoughts clearly.

Through this blog, I have meet many peoples that have similar interest, and shared different thoughts. Most of all I have received many supports to get this PhD done. It is not really about this PhD, I think it is mostly about the topic that everybody wishes to know what the conclusion would be. Identity..hmmm almost everybody interested in it and Malaysian are not left behind. It’s been 51 years now that Malaysia managed to survive and stand alone. Thanks to all the Malaysian who makes this happen although some of them are not being thank or mentioned in many ways…

I went back to Malaysia to present a paper in a International Postgraduate Conference in Penang. This is not my first time presenting at a conference, but this is my first time presenting a paper in conference in Malaysia. It was an interesting experience. Why do I say that? Well, I found the conference is not really about sharing the knowledge, and value the research that been taken forward but it is more about showing off the research work and hoping to get some recognition from it. Some are more about the conclusion of the project rather than reflecting the whole research process. What a shame I said to myself as I knew some participant comes all this way to listen and share the space to gather knowledge about particular topic like myself. Yes I’m sounding like I’m ranting about it, I guess I’m just disappointed. Even worst when it comes to my paper presentation.

I presented a paper on a topic of my very first project in the beginning of my PhD. I was determined to know what others think about the notion of Malaysian Identity. I used an online forum as a research method to undertake this questions. In my paper presentation I did mentioned before I started discussion about the paper that my research is based on a practice based design research and it’s undertaken under a communication design projects. And I continued my presentation giving a brief explanation on practice based design research.

In my paper I discussed about “What is practice-based design research?” (Rahman:2008). It is a research methodology that utilizes the characteristics of design as a means for knowledge creation. Its involves a process of researching by, in and through design practices. Archer (1981) defines design research as “Design research is systematic inquiry whose goal is knowledge of, or in, the embodiment of configuration, composition, structure, purpose, value, and meaning in man-made things (artefacts) and systems.”

Then I continued the presentation more about my project, the contents, the methodologies, participants etc. Although 20 minutes will never be enough in explaining the whole project. Of course some are of the informations are left behind. But at the end of this presentation I received several interesting questions. Some are about the design research and some about the issues that relates to identity. I received very limited positive inputs of the paper in this conference. Others are more about their concern on identity issues. One just asked me ‘What will be your conclusion on this topic? What do you think is Malaysian Identity?

Hmmm…there I’m standing alone thinking how do I answered this questions. First I said that my research never intended to define what is Malaysian identity, but it is about understanding different methodologies that could be taken forward as a way to understand and hopefully to be able to show how identity have been presented and projected to others.

Second, I think identity is not something that can be defined or to be symbolised to something. There’s not correct representation of it and I don’t think it even could. Identity evolved and it accumulates not only one but many different values through culture, tradition, political, lifestyles, history, economical issues etc. Identity cannot just taken from something and project it to others without any historical, political or any other issues above attached to it. Identity is a constructed and it’s involved political reasons.

In Richard Robbins (1999) book called a book called Global Problems and the culture of Capitalism, he discussed a chapter on the construction of nation-state. He presented few examples on how the nation have been constructed and some convincing methodologies. Few authors such as Eugen Weber, Eric Hobshawn and Linda Coley are widely mentioned throughout one of the chapter.

Although there are many other scholar, many of them are nationalists from various persuasions argues that nation state are constructed based on the expressions of preexisting cultural, linguistic, religion, ethnics, or historical features shared by people who make up or who would make up the state, some general view that are more certain aiming scholars, is that nation-states are constructed through invention and social engineering.

But Eric Hobshwan suggested that tradition must be invented. People must be convinced that they share or must be forced to share certain features, such as language, religion, ethnic group membership, or a common historical heritage, regardless of whether they really do.

Then Linda Coley (1992) discussed and showed illustrated examples through painting how the national identities is constructed through critical understanding of nationalism and ethnicity. Her case studies are based on the Great Britain and she discussed her case through Britons. She showed examples and focussed on the issues of ethnicity and religions as the main ways to construct the nation in Great Britain.

“Thus, one of the most effective ways to construct a nation is to create some Other against whom members of the nation-state can distinguish themselves. That Other needn’t be a country; it may be a category of persons constructed out of largely arbitrary criteria, such as racial characteristics or religion. Thus, a group may insist that only people of a particular skin colour or religion or who speak a particular language can be a members of their nation.” (Robbins:2008:116)

Eugen Weber (1976) discussed on the Frenchmen and the nationalism in France. He discussions focusses based on the language, bureaucracy and education system in France and how this contributes in constructing the nation. He claimed that national unity in France was also the evidenced by the growth of patriotism. Even though it is not a obvious as much as American nation building, French have much more subtle ways of provoking and constructing their nation. This is not to say as Weber pointed out, that the French were unpatriotic, only that they had no uniform conceptions of patriotism. As he said “patriotic feelings on the national level, far from instinctive, had to be learned”.