Media Technologies in the Making : User-driven Software and Infrastructures for Computer Graphics Production

Abstract: Over the past few decades there have emerged greater possibilities for users and consumers of media to create or engage in the creation of digital media technologies. This PhD dissertation explores the ways in which the broadening of possibilities for making technologies, specifically software, has been taken advantage of by new producers of digital culture – freelancers, aspiring digital media creators and small studios – in the production of digital visual media. It is based on two empirical case studies that concern the making of free software for computer graphics animation production in two contexts: by a loose collective of anime fans in Siberia, Russia, and by a small animation studio in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The case studies are presented and analysed in the scope of four journal articles and one book chapter which form the core of the dissertation.The dissertation draws on a media practice perspective and an understanding of software as an artefact that concentrates and mediates specific infrastructural arrangements that entangle politics of technological production, economic interests and practice-related concerns. The analytical focus of the research problematises in particular practices of software decommodification and its further repair and development by non-programmers; the anchoring of software development and repair in actual production practices of computer graphics animations; and a commitment to sharing software, animations and other artefacts online as commons. The thesis combines several concepts from anthropology and science and technology studies to theorise these practices: – politics and regimes of value (Appadurai, 1986); repair and artful integrations (Jackson, 2014; Suchman, 2000); gifting (Baudrillard, 1981; Mauss, 1925/2002) and autonomy (cf Bourdieu, 1993). Bringing together these concepts, the dissertation regards them as constitutive and indicative of what I refer to as ‘media-related infrastructuring practices’, or practices in which non-programmers generate infrastructures through creating and mediating arrangements around technical artefacts like software.The results of the dissertation indicate how making free software for computer graphics media is entangled in diverse conditions of technological unevenness that may enable, but also limit, the possibilities of aspiring media creators to improve their status or work positions in the broader field of digital media.

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