middlebroware research website

  • Middlebroware: a research project in which we set out to document and analyze the culture of commercially developed media software.
  • Most recent event: Paper presentation of Re-inscription of Photoshop Fails as part of Mediated Frictions: Learning, Dwelling and Imaging in Youth Lives A Youngsters Pre-Conference taking place on October 18, 2016 at SFU Harbour Centre Campus Vancouver, BC

Like other ‘middle of the road’ terms—lukewarm, just right, middling— middlebrow evokes an unfinished or even inauthentic quality. Labeling something middlebrow implies that it strives for the highbrow by distancing itself from the lowbrow without the legitimacy of either.

Some would argue that this type of linear classification of culture from low to middle to high only serves to entrench elite orders of worth. But while the terminology may have fallen out of fashion, the symbolic and material orders it once denoted have hardly disappeared.The label is even more problematic at a time when ‘everyone’, to quote Angela McRobbie, ‘is creative’. As digitally-mediated creativity becomes more common and more accessible to anyone, it seems all the more plausible to claim that creativity itself is now middlebrow.

The purpose of this project website is to explore contemporary instantiations and classificatory orders of the vernacular and the middlebrow in our post digital culture. We believe a clearer, critical conception of these issues has become all the more essential as media software and skills like coding become increasingly common, taken-for-granted, and significant in everyday life.

The questions we ask are:

  • What are the symbolic and material orders of worth that underpin post digital cultural production?
  • To what extent and in what ways are middlebrow and vernacular creativity valued through digital media?
  • In what ways are cultural categories like middlebrow still relevant in a post digital culture?


The Middlebroware research project is based out of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. [read more]


Bibliographies are hard!

In a time when you can quickly generate massive lists of references on hundreds of platforms, you would think generating a bibliography of instruction manuals for Photoshop would be easy! Not so… A while back, I thought it might be useful to track down an authoritative list of all the third-party instruction manuals and tutorials […]

Are software eulogies a burgeoning new media genre?

I’ve been noticing a new genre of article about software popping up here and there over the past few years. I wouldn’t say it’s unavoidable or rampant but it does creep up once in a while when announcements come out about support for a particular piece of application software being discontinued or no longer being […]

The Photoshop Inscriptions Project with DHIL

We’ve been working with SFU’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab over the past eight months to set up a research platform for investigating YouTube videos related to Photoshop. The initial hypothesis guiding this research project is that Photoshop is ubiquitous not simply because of its instrumental value as a tool for creating and editing images but […]