The Art of Social Justice: 4 panels to a liberatory consciousness





Four comic panels that show the correspondence between my four steps to upstanding against social injustices (developed for the Life Outside the Box project) and Love’s (2013) four steps to a liberatory consciousness.

Reference: Love, B.J. (2013). Developing a liberatory consciousness. In M.Adams, W.J. Blumenfeld, R. Castañada, H.W. Hackman, M.L. & Zuñiga (Eds.), Readings for Diversity and Social justice (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge. pp 601-605

“Doodle people” demands

Doodles demand we work on them to figure them out. Luckily, we are hard-wired to "lean in" to doodles.

Doodles demand we work on them to figure them out. Luckily, we are hard-wired to “lean in” to doodles.

“Doodle people” demand that we participate to make sense out of the comic. We are hard-wired to “lean in” to images and look for humanity. The fewer doodle details the more of us — and our personal story — we have to insert into the image to make meaning.

Fewer doodle details = More personal engagement.


“Glue” stick figures

When we express our notes accompanied by stick figures, our audience is more “stuck” to our message. Our hard-wiring to search for and see humanity — especially faces — compels us to “stick” with a stick figure diagram until we have found the meaning within. Stick figures come with a “super glue” superpower for educators who mix text with stick figures to get their message across to students who might drift away with text alone.

glue stick figures

Superpower: Stick figures “glue” our attention to the message and can help us bypass our own confirmation bias when we analyze the data.

Chance to win for sketching your quirky superhero …

Life Outside the Box will be offering a prize at the Sketching-in-Practice conference this Friday, June 24.

Stan Lee’s “How to write comics” has everything you want to know about creating fully realized, interesting heroes and villains. The book is well-written and gorgeously presented. Good luck to the conference goers who sketch a quirky superhero scene! You will be able to put in one entry form for every 5 X 8 index card scene you post on the “sharing wall” at the conference. (Note: Be sure your name is on your work so you are sure to be entered in the prize draw.)

“Comics icon Stan Lee, creator of the Mighty Marvel Universe, has set about to teach everything he knows about writing and creating comic book characters. In these pages, aspiring comics writers will learn everything they need to know about how to write their own comic book stories, complete with easy to understand instruction, tips of the trade, and invaluable advice even for more advance writers. From the secrets to creating concepts, plots, to writing the script, the man with no peer — Stan Lee—is your guide to the world of writing and creating comics.”

Taking Life-Outside-the-Box to Sketching-in-Practice

I am taking Life Outside the Box to the Sketching-in-Practice conference hosted by Simon Fraser University. Participants there will get a chance to create their own “quirky superheroes.”

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There will be a random prize draw for all those who sketch a superhero scene. Draw as many scenes as you like. You get one entry form for each scene posted on the “SHARE” board.

Urgent optimism is one superpower that builds grit.

“Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.” Jane McGonigal

screen-shot-2012-07-09-at-8-55-16-am-2Video games with many opportunities to risk, fail and ultimately succeed foster an environment of “urgent optimism” IF we have a “reasonable hope of success as well as the “possibility of a truly epic win” (Kelly, 2013. p. 48.) Life Outside the Box can be a story-telling practice where children and youth draw and write scenes of their heroes practicing urgent optimism and build up perseverance. As their heroes fail, try and succeed, comic book writers see a mirror of how it might be done in real life. Just as video games are a play ground where players devote intense energy to practicing resilience and grit, so comic book creating can be a play ground for the same practice.

“We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games … And I don’t mean just good as in successful, although that’s part of it. We do achieve more in gainteview-jane-mcgonigal-520me worlds. But I also mean good as in motivated to do something that matters, inspired to collaborate and to cooperate. And when we’re in game worlds I believe that many of us become the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again. And in real life, when we face failure, when we confront obstacles, we often don’t feel that way. We feel overcome, we feel overwhelmed, we feel anxious, maybe depressed, frustrated or cynical. We never have those feelings when we’re playing games, they just don’t exist in games.” Jane McGonigal.

Kelley and Kelley (2013) suggest that “by adapting the best attributes of gaming culture we can shift people’s view of failure and ratchet up their willingness and determination to persevere. Jane McGonigal is looking for a way to make four “amazing superpowers: blissful productivity, the ability to weave a tight social fabric, this feeling of urgent optimism and the desire for epic meaning” relevant to real life problems. These superpowers are also character strengths that can also be practiced in comic book epic stories.


  1. Kelley, T. and Kelley, D (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York: Crown business. p. 48.
  2. Transcript of Jane McGonigal’s TED talk can be found here:
  3. Video of Jane McGonigal’s TED talk can be found here:

The beauty of being a misfit

“There’s a myth in most cultures about following your dreams. It’s called the hero’s journey. But I prefer a different myth, that’s slightly to the side of thator underneath it. It’s called the misfit’s myth. And it goes like this: even at the moment of your failure, right then, you are beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”   — Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch has combined two of my favourite Life Outside the Box themes, the hero’s journey and failure, into one deeply moving TED talk entitled, The beauty of being a misfit. She reveals how growing up with an abusive family, coping with traumatic circumstances and tremendous grief after death of her infant set her on a life path of trial and error, grit and perseverance.  Over many years,  ultimately through a failure by failure process of discovery, Ms. Yuknavitch began to believe in herself, find her voice and write her story.  Her TED talk and story is a helpful discussion starter because it holds important lessons for parents, youth advocates, and mature youth who wish to examine, not only the cycles of addictions, poor choices, failed attempts, but also, the importance of wise mentors, brave moments of accepting help, and the fierce will to keep trying.

Ms. Yuknavitch’s begins her talk by saying her favourite word is “misfit.”

I love this word because it’s such a literal word,” she says. “It means a person who missed fitting in. A person who fits badly.

For those of us who have felt the pain or loneliness of not fitting in, Ms. Yuknavitch provides a healing mirror for us to see ourselves reflected back as beautiful, in process, and growing. In this transformative reflection we can see our “not fitting in” as a blessing (because we are more than the average) and an invitation to search for, re-cognize, re-create, and declare our true selves.

“You can be a drunk, you can be a survivor of abuse, you can be an ex-con, you can be a homeless person, you can lose all your money or your job or your husband or your wife, or the worst thing of all, a child. You can even lose your marbles. You can be standing dead center in the middle of your failure and still, I’m only here to tell you, you are so beautiful. Your story deserves to be heard, because you, you rare and phenomenal misfit, you new species, are the only one in the room who can tell the story the way only you would. And I’d be listening.” — Lidia Yuknavitch