Guided Emotion Participation

Tanner Vea | Pennsylvania State University
Posted 20 February 2021

(Descriptive text follows the bios and recommended citation below.)

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Tanner Vea is Assistant Professor of Learning, Design, and Technology and Learning Sciences at Pennsylvania State University. He is also Affiliate Faculty with the Rock Ethics Institute. His research examines learning in the context of social and political change, as well as how political and ethical concerns shape design practices in educational settings.

Andrew Kohan can’t decide what he wants to be when he grows up, but for now he’s a working comics artist and illustrator regularly making trouble at Winnipeg City Hall. A trained community organizer with roots in the HIV/AIDS movement, he’s made art and noise with grassroots activists in DC, Chicago, Cleveland, and Toronto. More of his work is available at

Recommended citation:

Vea, Tanner, and Andrew Kohan. “Guided Emotion Participation.” Sequentials, vol. 2, no. 1, 2021.

Text descriptions of page images:

by Tanner Vea (with Rainn)

Comic image: Tanner Vea, Brown man with short curly hair, with Rainn, the dog.

Text: “Context: Animal Rights activism.”

Comic image: A group of 18 people and one dog pose together in two rows, with the front row kneeling. Many activists hold signs and placards. One poster of a calf’s face says, “I want to live.” Tanner’s face appears in an oval in the upper-left corner with speech bubble: “I conducted research with animal rights activists to understand how emotion was part of their learning. I generally avoided participating in direct action, but otherwise learned and worked alongside the group’s members.”

Page 2

Comic image: Tanner’s face appears in an oval with speech bubble: “Emotion is really important to how people figure out what’s right and what’s wrong. Our moral emotions, like those we label as anger and shame, guide our behavior.”

Comic image: Two children stand on opposite sides of an adult.

Child 1 wipes away a tear while pointing at Child 2. Speech bubble: “He pushed me!”

The adult stands with arms crossed and gives a stern look to Child 2.

Child 2 bows his head and holds his hands behind his back. Wavy speech bubble: “I’m sorry.”

Center panel in a box: Text: “Because emotion is shaped by our social interactions, it’s possible to guide other people’s emotion.”

Three small comic images:

Image 1: Three smiling people in matching t-shirts and shorts. Text: “Nice job in the game!”

Image 2: Three people sitting in chairs, with the two people on the outside looking at the center person, who is frowning. Text: “We’re very disappointed.”

Image 3: Three people. The two left people hold their hands above their heads, saying, “What the hell were you doing?!” to the third person.

(End of boxed panel.)

Comic image of Tanner and Rainn at the left of the page. Rainn looks up at Tanner. Tanner’s speech bubble: “This makes emotion a powerful tool for organizers and activists.” At right, two protestors hold frown face signs. One of the protesters has a speech bubble with a frown face in it. A bystander looks at them thoughtfully, with a thought bubble that has a frown face in it.

Page 3

Text box overlapping the edges of the top panel: “Emotion isn’t only about feeling. It’s also about what our feelings mean to us.”

Comic image: Man with megaphone yells, “It’s not food! It’s violence!” Two other protestors hold placards.

Bottom-left panel: Comic image: A woman sits at a table with fork and knife in hand, with a turkey leg steaming in front of her on a plate. She grimaces. Text box: “Emotion can turn eating from a normal, everyday activity into a moral question.”

Bottom-right panel: Comic image: A salesman points to a box with a price tag attached, while a large, smiling arrow outlined in lights points to the box. Text box: “Particular ways of using emotion to guide others can make it more likely for people to think in certain ways and do certain things.”

Page 4

Comic image: Tanner holds up one side of a smile for a white woman (to his right) while that woman holds up a smile on the Brown woman next to her (on her right). The Brown woman holds up the other half of the white woman’s smile (on her left), and holds up a white man’s smile (to her right). With this other hand, the white man holds Rainn the dog against his chest.

Tanner speech bubble: “I call this ‘guided emotion participation.’ It’s something people do together to evoke feelings together and get synced up about what those feelings mean.”

Text box: “At a workshop for animal rights activists, an organizer named Carter handed out cards.”

Comic image of the card, which is divided by lines into four quadrants. Top left section text: “Memorializing the nonhumans in our lives. Animals play a profound role in shaping our lives and making us better persons for it. Today, we memorialize them.” Top right section text: “1. An animal who loved me.” Bottom right section text: “2. An animal I helped.” Bottom left section text: “3. An animal I failed.” Each of the numbered sections has space to write underneath the prompt.

Comic image at the bottom: Three people sit on chairs with the cards and pens. A facilitator stands in the center.

Text box: “For each section of the card, Carter told everyone in the audience to think of an animal and…”

Carter (the man facilitating in the center) speech bubble: “Write something about them they would be proud of.”

Page 5

Text box 1: “Later, people at the workshop shared what they wrote.”

Text box 2: “For ‘an animal I failed,’ people expressed a lot of emotion.”

Comic image of a man in glasses crying with speech bubble: “I rescued an injured rat in my apartment building…”

Comic image of a rat with a broken paw.

Speech bubble: “…but then he escaped the cage…”

Comic image of the rat jumping out of a cage.

Speech bubble: “… my neighbors found him…”

Comic image of four looming human shadows. One figure carries a pitchfork, and another carries a baseball bat. In the center, the rat cowers against a wall.

Speech bubble: “…and killed him.”

Comic image of the dead rat in pool of blood.

Page 6

Comic image of four people standing looking at an array of completed note cards from participants, taped to a wall. In the center of the wall is a circular card that says, “ANIMALS WHO LOVED ME.”

Text box: “This activity got the activists to participate in sharing feelings of guilt that brought them into alignment with each other about their moral cause.”

Comic image: One person walks from the left of the page toward a butcher shop in the center. His thought bubble shows meat on a plate with fork and knife. Another person stands at right with her arms wide and mouth in a gaping frown. Her thought bubble shows a cow calf.

Text box: “It was a way of creating agreement about a particular way of seeing (and feeling) the world.”

Text box: “For the animal rights activists, guided emotion participation helped keep activists engaged in movement work.”

Comic image: The word GUILT is crossed out, with a sketch of a turkey leg under it. The word SHAME is crossed out, with a sketch of the dead rat under it.

Next to these images a multiracial group of three people stands together holding a large pencil over their heads that reads “COLLECTIVE ACTION” across the length of the pencil.

Page 7

Text box: “Now, I can’t help but see people learning to do emotion everywhere in politics.”

Comic image: Against a black background, a mob of angry-looking white men dressed in white button-down shirts and polo shirts and carrying lit tiki torches yells: “Jews will not replace us!”

Beneath that, against a white background, a TV screen shows two children lying on a cement floor behind chain-link. A talking head on-screen says, “They are putting babies in cages at the border!” The chyron reads, “Immigrant detention.”

Bottom panel: Comic image: Tanner appears from shoulders-up in an oval. Speech bubbles: “Guided emotion participation is not inherently good or bad… but it is a form of learning that requires ethical attention.”

Page 8

Comic image: Portrait of Tanner from shoulders-up in an oval. Speech bubble: “Examining emotion highlights our radical interdependence and susceptibility.”

Speech bubble: “When it comes to how one is affected by the world, an individual is never fully in control.”

Comic image of five activists in disparate scenes, but with their figures overlapping. Where they overlap, the color is darker, but the contours of the figures underneath are visible through the figures on top. The effect is like looking through overlapping panes of colored glass. One man pets a pig. A person runs with a chicken under their arm. One woman holds a sign that reads: “Don’t buy the humane lie.” Two people sit on the ground, one person holding their face, while the other person consoles them.

Text: “Being transparent about how emotion can support shared goals can help us prevent crossing the line—”

Text: “—from productive cultivation…”

Comic image: Activists collaborating. One man stands with an arm around his friend’s shoulder. His friend holds a protest sign. Two people high-five each other.

Text: “…into unethical manipulation.”

Comic image: “Two men in MAGA hats talk to a third man. One of the MAGA hat men holds points to a clipboard in his hand, showing a crosshairs graphic. In another image next to them, a YouTube video shows a man talking with a frown and one finger in the air. Beneath the video, the title says, “Conspiracies & Diet Pills.”

Text box at bottom: “How does that make you feel? What are you going to do about it?”

Page 9

This comic is part of Learning to Engage: Movements and Sociocultural Theories of Learning.

For more, visit:

Written by Tanner Vea (a little sketch of Tanner) (@tannervea,

Art and lettering by Andrew Kohan (little sketch of Andrew) (@akohan,

Edited by Joe Curnow (little sketch of Joe) (@LearnSolidarity, & Tanner Vea (little sketch of Tanner) (@TannerVea,

To find out more about the research presented in this comic, go check out:

Vea, T. (2020). The learning of emotion in/as sociocultural practice: The case of animal rights activism. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 29(3), 311-346.

This comic was made possible by a grant from the Spencer Foundation (Grant #201900131). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Spencer Foundation.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License