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Hergé may not have been an intellectual (although he was undoubtedly bright, according to biographers), but within his work is a subtle portrayal of objects that serves as a short and scintillating practical philosophy of things. Indeed, a true irony of the object is created, whereby a highly original dialogue is established between technology and individual (Robert, 2018a). Here, technology becomes far more than a tool to be utilized. No longer does the individual simply use technology. The technology itself rebels, attacks, defends itself, prevaricates of its own accord; it seems to be imbued with some sort of malign intent. This is something that sociologists exploring the use of technology have never truly tackled; their concern is to prove that the individual can regain control of technology. In Hergé’s work, instead, the individual is the pawn in the game, as well as the player. He or she is a victim, though indirectly, of this irony of the object, its rebellion, in a literal feedback that often catches the individual off-guard (catches him or her out, strictly speaking), and this is where the logic of the joke lies. However, stepping back slightly from the joke itself, we notice how sharply the behavior of objects is scrutinized. This behavior is shown through the objects’ mise-en-scène.
The use of technological, transport, and information logistics (Robert 2019a, 2019b) as the very crux of the narrative development can be seen throughout the Tintin comics. Woven together, these logistics are not only a pretext (which they are quite literally) but an essential vehicle for plot progression…


The humor in The Adventures of Tintin relies extensively on what can be called the irony of the object, and, more precisely, on the irony of technology used in information logistics. This ironic use of communication technology actually gives rise to a great deal of incommunication. In other words, the technology that should encourage exchange interferes with or even impedes it. This is the case in Tintin, where, starting in 1956, a small but real bit of socio-philosophical practice began. This practice was, de facto, critical of technology, especially when it came to communication.

  • comics
  • Tintin
  • incommunication
  • irony of the object
  • information logistics
  • communication technology
Pascal Robert
Pascal Robert is a university professor at the École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (Enssib) (National School of Information Sciences and Libraries) and a member of the Elico research unit. His work seeks to decipher the political and cognitive issues surrounding the digitalization of society and to explore the anthropology of texts and images. He is the author of Polyptyque: Pour une anthropologie communicationnelle des images (Paris: Hermann, 2015) and the editor of Bande dessinée et numérique (Paris: CNRS, 2016). In 2017, he published De l’incommunication au miroir de la bande dessinée (Clermont-Ferrand: PUBP), followed in 2018 by La bande dessinée, une intelligence subversive (Villeurbanne: Presses de l’Enssib). He runs the Enssib seminar “La bande dessinée en questions.”
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