Grants/Samandal : Publishing Comics Online in Three Languages Under CC Licenses
Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
Samandal magazine has been the flagship for comics in the Middle East over the past three years and, as such, has amassed a burgeoning network of artists, illustrators, designers and storytellers to marshal the nascent comics domain in the Arab region into an interconnected and expanding community. The proposed project seeks to bridge this localized comic scene, which has so far remained restricted to print publishing, with an international audience through the translation of its comics into three languages (English, French and Arabic) and making them available online under a CC-BY-SA-NC license thus creating a hub were comic book readers from everywhere can read, share, critique and remix the works. By making these comics not only available online but also legible to a wider audience we hope to connect an emerging genre with the comics medium worldwide, encouraging exposure, feedback and exchange.
Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).
The vehicle for this project will be a dynamic website that functions as a nexus for comics readers interested in this emerging scene. The site will feature the comics published in Samandal magazine, presented in an easy-to-use reading interface, available for download and translated into three languages.
The authors of the comics will have access to their readers’ ratings, feedback and comments as well as any derivative works made from their original comics, to build a community around their comics and encourage an exchange and even collaborations.
A section dedicated to remixing the CC-licensed comics and fan derivatives will allow for various readers to further the original work by subverting or reusing it to create a completely new kind of comic.
The translations, unlike the print versions, will be integrated into the comics themselves to allow a non-disruptive reading experience (something that would be practically impossible in the print magazine short of reprinting every issue three times).
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
There are two main targets for this project: the comics authors (illustrators/writers) publishing in the Middle East, and a wider more international comics audience that has no access to these new comics. While comics have been available in the region for decades, the production of comics from the Middle East had been intermittent until the arrival of Samandal magazine, which provided a regular platform for comics fans to work for. Yet this community remains limited to the physical availability of the magazine and its restrictions in distribution, as well as the trilingual variety of comics published. By translating the works into all three languages and compiling them online, this website will assuage these barriers and bring a much wider audience to this budding community. Furthermore, by licensing the comics under CC it will encourage fans, readers and other authors to add to this universe and partake in a truly creative dialogue with the creators.br />
Launched in 2007, Samandal is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the proliferation of comic art production in the Arab region. Since its trial publication of issue zero, which sold out to great acclaim, Samandal has grown from an ambitious idea to a sprawling comics movement, publishing quarterly for the past two years, with sales increasing by 400 percent, and its distribution spreading to 23 points of sale, in 5 countries (the UAE, Lebanon, the UK, Germany, USA). Reaching out to similar independent comics abroad, participating in conferences, festivals and virtual gatherings, and hosting numerous comic-related workshops and events, Samandal, with 70 contributors from 14 countries (both regional and international), has registered on the international comics scene as the new, and rising, vanguard of comic art creation.
From its inception, Samandal aimed to make its material available online (see the translated versions of issue 1 http://samandal.org/eng-trans.html ), but with limited resources, technical skill and time the ambitious translation project had to be abandoned until dedicated funds and participants were available.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
Being a website will make this evaluation painless; the amount of readers, activity, dialogue, comments, downloads and uploads will be an indicator of its success.
Comic book authors will tell by the amount of feedback they get (allowing their fans to interface directly with them) and the readers by the expanding variety of comic literature available.
Ultimately, the true impact of this project will be reaped when the contributors graduate from Samandal to their own, mature, singular entity as comic book authors. This platform will allow individual artists to be showcased and be given adequate space for their work allowing for full recognition and appreciation of their body of comics.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
There are two phases to the project: the design of the website, which will require a proficient programmer to create an intuitive and speedy interface (the Samandal team is chockfull of designers that can handle the graphics for the website) – the second will be the operation phase. This phase will require the constant participation of translators (approximately five, based on previous experience) who will convert each comic into the two other languages, and designers (one or two) who will apply workout the best graphical way to apply the translations onto the comics to insure legibility and maintain the integrity of the original comic. A webmaster will also be needed to overlook the material online and monitor discussions for abuse. This team will be monetarily compensated for their efforts. The real participants, however, will be the comic creators and readers who will keep this community thriving.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
From the onset of Samandal, its editorial team has believed through and through that the most logical way to expand the influence of comics in the region would be to open them up. In fact, the magazine itself is a sort of open-sourced project as it relies on the submissions of authors to showcase their work. And while the magazine is published under a CC license, bringing this comic book wealth online will open up this cultural cache to true interaction by its readers.
This project aims to put these unique comics squarely in the commons for everyone’s reading pleasure and use. The Remix section of this website will directly encourage the production of unique CC material made from other material and contribute to the growth of CC comics online.
Samandal has already made a short presentation on how CC can evolve comics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_OeS6sJsFQ - we believe that with the material out there for everyone to play with, we can expect a lot of exciting results from people who may have never considered comics before.
Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?
This project will augment the Samandal website (currently being renovated) using free, open source software to create a dynamic community portal around comics. The website will be community-driven, allowing authors/artists and fans to interact directly through forums, discussion groups, and by leveraging social media as well as including a database of comics searchable by title, issue, date, author, language and popularity.. The comics themselves will utilize readers akin to issuu.com for maximum reading ease. On the other hand, the translations will be applied to the comics digitally and the designers will be using desktop publishing programs for that.
Samandal’s expertise comes from our involvement with previous comics translations, dealing with Latin (right to left languages) versus Arabic (left to right) directional problems, maintaining visual flow and capturing the right tone for the translations. While our expertise lies in comics, our technical needs would need to be fulfilled by external participants brought in.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
Our first challenge would be in constructing an intuitive yet simple interface for the website that provides functionality and connectivity between the readers and the comic creators. This will be honed through a process of testing and the expertise of the programmer. As such, finding a programmer skilled in FOSS software that we can rely on is crucial. The translations themselves will be unique challenges as every comic might necessitate a different application to suit the material, thus keeping a constant designer would develop their skills in dealing with those challenges.
How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?
Because we will be using a FOSS CMS, upkeep of the website will be minimal and can be sustained by the team without needing technical expertise. After the development of the website, the running costs of maintaining this project will be the translations per issue and their application. As a non-profit organization, Samandal does not generate revenue that can cover these costs and will have to look towards cultural grants to cover this or the adoption of this project by an external body (like the Carnegie Mellon University of Qatar which recently chaired a Translation Conference aiming at facilitating and promoting this same activity). We could also look to the British Council and the Centre Culturel Francais (both with whom we’ve partnered before) for translation funds.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
Essentially an interactive database for comics, this project has the ability to expand endlessly to absorb the growing, underlying social network created out of the comics community. As seen in our partners’ similar project grandpapier.org their website has become a bustling hub for their own comics community, easily archiving and indexing the stream of material constantly being uploaded to it. The bigger the community, the richer the website becomes, the richer the cache of Creative Commons comics culture there will be on the internet.
The scalability of the project also relies on the funding provided. With a base grant we can put up the website. With extra funds we can begin translating and uploading the back issues until we have an up to date archive of the Samandal’s backlog. The bigger the fund, the more issues we can knock down.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
Primarily funding as well as linking to the website to increase traffic. Beyond that, any technical advice or programming recommendations towards making the website as efficient, user-friendly and enriching as possible would be most welcome. While we have researched programmers in Lebanon (the country where we are based) we must admit that their programming expertise with FOSS might not be up to date, and perhaps looking abroad might be the support CC could provide.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
Samandal works primarily through the internet, using website announcements, emails, Facebook, Twitter and SMS to keep our community members in touch. We regularly send our calls for submissions, collect work and send it to our translators, designers and printers through emails and it has served us well.