Thomas Cuschieri

Paper Trails: Illustrated Walks Through a Digital Landscape


Paper Trails is a practice-based research endeavour that will apply illustrative methods to explore the notion of a ‘digital walk’. Drawing on key concepts from psychogeography and anthropology, such as Marc Augé’s theory of ‘non-places’ (Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, 1995), our research positions the illustrator as digital tourist (cf. Marco Cadioli’s Internet Landscape, 2003). Through the self-conscious application of traditional, analogue media to explore digital phenomena, we seek to illuminate that unique and peculiar human experience of traversing an online landscape – including unintended detours, serendipitous discoveries, and forays into both familiar and unfamiliar territories.

Paper Trails will also examine the role and boundaries of authorial illustration, and consider how this relates to the notion of academic ‘illustration research’. Taking inspiration from Stephanie Black’s 2014 work (Illumination through illustration), we adopt the tenets of ‘research through illustration’ and advocate that the visual outcomes represent the research in its entirety.

This project represents the debut work of a recently formed illustration research group at the University of Hertfordshire, and is a collaboration between three practicing illustrator-academics. Selecting facets of the digital landscape that reflect their individual interests and expertise, each member of the group will produce personal, visual responses within the constraints established by their specific ‘digital walk’. Thus, proposed outcomes include but are not limited to: physical 3D representations of social media interactions (work that finds echoes in projects such as Hugh Davis and Marcus Helm’s Analogue Art Map, 2006-14); an animation depicting a ‘walk’ through an abandoned online space; and a series of ethnographic drawings exploring the extreme juxtapositions occurring within online social spaces.


Thom Cuschieri is an illustrator and lecturer whose work often involves the creation of non-linear narratives through the intentional conflation of fact and fiction. His research draws heavily on his background in abstract mathematics, and he is interested in the visual depiction of impossible, Borgesian spaces and structures.

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