Chronicling the vernacular and the middlebrow in post-digital culture.


Creative Tools and the Softwarization of Cultural Production - Now available!

February 20, 2024
Frederik Lesage

It’s finally out!

Creative Tools and The Softwarization of Cultural Production is a book project that Michael Terren and I started to develop a few years back during COVID. Some of the key aspects of the project emerged during a workshop at the Global Perspectives on Platforms and Cultural Production conference in Amsterdam in 2022, with gratitude extended to all workshop participants. Sophia Han from SFU’s School of Communication aided with initial copy editing. We’d also like to extend our tremendous gratitude to the editors of the Creative Working Lives series, Stephanie Taylor and Susan Luckman, as well as the team at Palgrave Macmillan, including Lauriane Piette, Kishor Kannan Ramesh, and Nobuko Kamikawa. Obviously,we are most grateful to all the amazing authors who contributed to the book: Maxime Harvey, Brendan Keogh, Tom Livingstone, Alberto Lusoli, Kaushar Mahetaji, David B. Nieborg, Maria-Nicoleta Petrescu, Catherine Provenzano, Seth Scott-Deuchar. Sze Tsang, Stefan Werning.

As a collection, the book examines the rise of softwarization in creativity, where digital tools shape its design, marketing, and production. We argue that, as creativity has become a central element in contemporary power structures, software tools play a crucial role in its material and symbolic formation. From image and video editors to game engines and digital audio workstations, these tools are essential for modern creatives, requiring mastery due to their increasing complexity. Despite their widespread use, there's a lack of comprehensive theoretical analysis. This book fills the gap by offering interdisciplinary perspectives, presenting a holistic understanding of this evolving field beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, thus contributing uniquely to cultural production and creative industries studies.

The book is part of the series on Creative Working Lives, which explores people’s experiences and employment conditions within the global cultural and creative industries. The series aims to provide insights into pressing global and national issues surrounding contemporary cultural and creative working lives.It caters to academics, practitioners, students, policymakers, and general readers interested in understanding the experiences of cultural and creative workers in a changing world. Through its interdisciplinary approach, the series seeks to shed light on the challenges and opportunities within the cultural and creative industries.

Finding a rhythm: exploring visualization techniques for performing skill

August 29, 2023
Frederik Lesage

Empirical research can be complicated! Covid 19 made this reality all-too clear by making fieldwork next to impossible. Fortunately for the team working on "Searching for Tasks", we were able to collect most of our data just prior to the lockdowns. The subsequent process of analysing and publishing the results took an inordinate amount of time but the outcome — a new set of methods for visualizing the performance of digital skills — has been amazing. Nicole Stewart provides a wonderful illustration of how the methods can be used for research in her PhD thesis: Platforms and Everyday Life: A Triply Articulated Approach to Domesticating Digital Media . More recently, a digital-first copy of a paper for New Media & Society has been published online which provides a step-by-step description of how the methods were initially developed and implemented. The paper, titled "Finding a rhythm: The mediality of researching digital skill as process", can be found here. Here is the abstract:

"Our objective for this article is to illustrate the importance of understanding digital skill as process by taking its mediality—interweaving tools, technologies, and media—into consideration. Drawing on 12 case studies with participants performing digital tasks, we use Ingold’s four phases of skill (getting ready, setting out, carrying on, and finishing off) to research and represent the rhythm of digital skill. By using medialities of inscription, scripting, and annotation, we demonstrate how researchers can use mediality to perceive rhythms of digital skill without being physically co-located in the performance. As different medialities enable and constrain the perception and descriptions of digital skill, we develop spotlines as a method that combines different medialities particularly well suited for describing and comparing the temporal order of phases for performing digital skill by rendering each performer’s pace and intensity."

One of the methods that has proven the most evocative have been "spotlines" as a means of visualising and comparing rhythms (pictured above in the image)

Creative Tools and the Softwarization of Cultural Production

September 29, 2022
Frederik Lesage

I am excited to announce that Michael Terren and I have signed a contract to edit a book titled "Creative Tools and the Softwarization of Cultural Production" as part of Palgrave Macmillan’s “Creative Working Lives” series edited by Susan Luckman and Stephanie Taylor.

This book will explore how creativity is increasingly designed, marketed, and produced through these digital products and services — a process we refer to as softwarization. We use this term as a kind of provocation that speaks to historically and materially specific sensibilities that shape contemporary cultural practices and creative industries. While softwarization draws particular attention to application software as the quintessential contemporary creative tool, we use the term to encompass amore complex digital assemblage that includes complementary processes in the composition of creative tools including their remediation, platformization, and datafication (to name only a few). If, as we argue, creative tools and softwarization are key to understanding contemporary cultural production, it is essential that we understand them as articulations of political forces, economic interests, and cultural forms in their own right.

We are currently sending out a call for chapter proposals. Please send a 500 word chapter proposal by Monday 31 October 2022 to both Frédérik Lesage <> and Michael Terren <>. In the subject line of your email, include “CTSCP Chapter Proposal”. For more details, please see the attached pdf below or click on: