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comic con
December 13, 2012 : OUL Students Conduct Communications Research at Comic Con
- Cheri Russo
Communications and Marketing Manager

Lancaster – When most people think of Comic Con, they think of nerdy people dressed as superheroes, obsessed with comic books. But, when Ohio University Lancaster students Sara Galbraith and Katie Sheck thought of Comic Con, they thought of it as a great opportunity to conduct research on people who are passionate about comic books.


Galbraith and Sheck decided to study the annual comic book convention for their communications class during fall semester. Dr. Pam Kaylor's "Qualitative Methods – Field Note Methodologies" class was conducted over the Ohio University Learning Network to five campuses. It was taught from Lancaster.


The final research paper for the class asked students to examine communication issues and conduct research.Galbraith and Sheck spent two days at Comic Con in Columbus last September to gather their data.


comic con

Above Picture: Sara Galbraith at Comic Con in September 

"It started out where we had to find a topic that we had to go out and study for a minimum of 8 hours," said Sheck. "We were both sitting there looking at each other and decided that we were going to Comic Con."


"Comic Con started out as a convention where people gathered to talk about and share their love of comic books, but now it's more than that," said Galbraith. "TV shows are a part of it and it's a place where pop culture comes to life."


The event was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center from September 21 – 23. Galbraith and Sheck got press passes to the event. The two passed out more than 100 surveys to participants and also conducted interviews to find out why people attend events like Comic Con and what it means to them.


"We did enjoy it. We did a lot of participant observation, which involved us being part of the crowd," said Galbraith. "We did things insiders would do and then got the insiders viewpoint of it and made our own judgments from it."


'We found there are many different reasons why people go to Comic Con. One theory that we came up with was that people like to have the superhero power," said Sheck. "They like to have that cool aspect. People dress up as superheroes and so many kids want to have their picture taken with them. They want to have that fame."


Galbraith and Sheck found out that people from all walks of life and all occupations attend Comic Con. They said they talked to doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, store clerks and college students.


comic con 3

Above Picture: Katie Sheck at Comic Con

"One of our favorite characters was dressed up as a predator from 'Alien vs. Predator' and he didn't speak any words," said Galbraith. "His wife actually was his translator.We found out that he and his wife spent a year making his costume."


The two also found out that many of the people that attend Comic Con just come to see others in costume and watch.


"The people being watched loved it. They had been spending that year waiting for that moment and that attention. There are people there to get the attention and people there to give the attention and it turns into one great community where there's no judgment," said Galbraith. "It's one big, fun exciting place where another adventure is in the next aisle."


Galbraith and Sheck said their paper ended up being 30 pages long and they actually had to cut several pages out of it. Both believe there is more communication research that can be done at Comic Con.


"I think new communication theories can be created at this place," said Galbraith.


The COMS 3420 Qualitative Methods course is being offered again during spring semester.