Furnishing our corners of the internet


Things in my life have been a little heavy and stressful lately so I thought it would be good for my heart and soul to write a post focused on the fun and ridiculous elements of the academic internets and beyond.

Working on Research Whisperer through the years, I’ve been more aware of the ways in which the higher education research sector is broken and the bad behaviours and structures that propagate inequity and career crises. It can feel bleak.

I can’t fix these things alone, and it’s easy to get quite down about any number of these issues and their seemingly unchanging (or very-slow-to-change) nature.

For me, retaining perspective on what is meaningful and pleasurable in life can disperse anxieties and enable me to concentrate on things that make me happy and where I feel I can do effective work that’s valued. This post features a bunch of sites and comics that I regularly read. A good way for me to recalibrate my world-view is through engaging with satire and the absurd, by participating in both the consumption and production of such cultural texts. 

On the production side, I have a couple of projects that anthropomorphise chairs and bags. Yes, chairs and bags. They are the Sad Chairs of Academia (here’s why I started it) and the Tired Bags of Melbourne projects.

On the consumption side, these are the things that I love reading:

Alex Norris comics >> Instagram | Twitter

Norris is everywhere but the platforms I list above are where I follow his work.

Famous for his ‘Oh no’ comics, I particularly like Norris’ work because he has a gift for capturing the insecurities of creative and intellectual life. So many of his comics resonate around academic life and are aligned with the higher education and research context. For example:


Satire site that’s been powering on for ages – plenty of pieces that directly address academia and research life, as well as bureaucracies and office culture. A few of the posts that take my fancy:

Poorly Drawn Lines (PDL)

I’m a relative latecomer to PDL comics, which are the work of Reza Farazmand! I had a great time going through the back-catalogue, and this is something that’s a silver-lining when one is late to the party…

Here’s a couple to give you an idea of the PDL vibe:

Finally, an even more recent discovery of mine is tiny snek comics (Alex Cohen): Twitter | Instagram

I’ll admit it took me a while to get into tiny snek but now I can’t un-see it. My 10yo son loves them and has worked his way through years of comics. What I love about tiny snek is the weird cute, and also the politics.

Cohen recently fundraised for RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services). As well as raising over $20K, it brought trolls and various despicable humans out of the woodwork. It’s because he brings a political edge to his work that I like it all the more. Ditto Alex Norris’ queer politics.

This is only a very thin slice of what’s out there and, as you can see, I often come to things really late. They make my corner of the internet cosy and collegial in terms of affirmed absurdities and surreal humour that cuts across sectors or roles. I read a lot about the things in research and academia that aren’t working, have bad consequences, or make it difficult to remember the good reasons why we’re here. These parcels of humour don’t solve any of these problems, but they provide a buffer for me as I continue reading my way through All the Things.

Feel free to add your own links to satire and absurd tonics in the comments below…