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August 14, 2009


Hahahaha. That last XKCD is one of my least favorites. The mode of criticism Munroe derides there has, despite its flaws, mounted quite a persuasive (to me, at least) argument against a worldview that privileges science over all other methods of processing reality, and we certainly don't need Foucault to point out that in the wake of quantum physics and chaos theory there are some realities science can't sufficiently access. When I first encountered XKCD, I was pleased (and of course amused) to see a webcomic take up the cause of sciencey jokes, but this reminds me all too gratingly of the positivist Dawkins-esque scientist who cheerfully trashes disciplines he knows nothing about.

That said, good points! I still think there's something to be said for criticism that takes as its starting point why something has failed--but I definitely agree that the more art I expose myself to, the more useless the "good/bad" divide becomes. XKCD is an interesting case study, though, because of its medium. Webcomics are ephemeral, quick one-off jokes. You could read the entire archive of XKCD in a bored afternoon. Good or bad, I think webcomics have yet to invite a really satisfying critical discourse. This is very exciting--you can watch it emerge and watch the medium take shape, much like you can do with video game criticism right now--but it's also frustrating. XKCD is one of the most popular webcomics out there, but it's hardly like it doesn't have any flaws. That smug little nugget at the end of your post is a great case study.

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