Dr. Karen Stewart

Academic Research

I research visual narratives. A visual narrative is a mediated text where photographs, film, digital graphics, or other types of images are predominantly featured, and where the visual information is used to tell stories to audiences.

 

As a visual narrative scholar, I engage in both the critical assessment of visual texts, and in the informed production of my own mediated work. I study visual narratives because we live in a “visual culture,” where individuals and groups use image-based technologies regularly to promote civic engagement.

 

To conduct my research, I use a “’hands-on” multi-method research approach to produce scholarship and creative works. This means I critically examine mediated communication on multiple discursive levels, and I build and distribute mediated messages with art, video, social media, photographs, and gaming components included. This multi-layered methodological approach allows me to examine visual messages from a critical, rhetorical perspective while also exploring the social use and technology framework in which these creative dialogs occur.

Video Trailer created by KotoriMWorks

Opening Theme - Samuel VanDemark
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Closing Theme - Samuel VanDemark
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GAME SYNOPSIS: Faith is a college student in Upstate New York, trying to save an historic fieldstone house from being destroyed. Through magic wielded by a secret historical society, she is pulled back in time to the American Revolution, when the house is newly built. Once in the past, Faith encounters a variety of people living in the region, including people of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy  (Iroquois Nation) and British, French, and Scottish colonial settlers. Reaching the "good endings" in the game requires Faith to reflect on the complex history of the region, including the significant cultural differences between the people living there, and the enduring effects of the war.

Current Research Project:
Leap of Faith Otome Game

 

My current research explores Otome game culture. Otome games are romance-based visual novel video games designed specifically for female players. I investigate why these games are popular with women of different ages and cultures, and what players learn about friendship, love, and intimacy while playing. I also study Otome fandoms.

 

To support this research, I received several grants that provided seed money to build my own Otome game. I am creating Leap of Faith to learn firsthand the narrative strengths and limitations of Otome visual novels.

 

Undergraduate research assistants are also involved with this game design project. So far, twenty different students have contributed over 500 reserach and creative hours to the development of the game. Their contributions range from examining local history, to creating 18th century costume designs, to cataloging ways indie game developers use crowdsourcing to finance their projects. Students are also involved in creating the game narrative, artwork, and music for the project.