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


Searching for Tasks - Final Report Now available

October 30, 2020
Frederik Lesage

The Searching for Tasks report is finally complete!

It took many long hours to get through coding all of the videos and to sift through the draft visualizations but it is great to be able to look at the complete report. Here is the report in full. The two main takeaways from this projects were:

1) The benefits of working with a visualization specialist.

Nicole and I both agreed that we learned a lot from working with Song on this project. While it may seem like a "research luxury" (if there is such a thing) to work with a graphic designer and visualization specialist on a project, it is amazing how much there is to be gained from this type of collaboration.

2) The benefits of taking a processual approach to investigating skills.

A lot of the policy research and other empirical investigations into skills we encountered take what could be called a "procedural" approach to skills. In other words, skills are reified as things that can be explicitly described and disseminated. The danger with this type of approach is that it disconnects skills from the people and places where skills take place. By taking a processual approach, it is our hope that we can "re-embed" skills in the contexts in which they are performed.

Searching for Tasks Report

The Cropping Tool Saved My Life - On irony and middlebroware

November 13, 2020
Frederik Lesage
Photoshop Critique

Friends recently sent me a link to an Instagram video posted by David Choe:
Crop crop crop it out !
The cropping tool saved my life
This tool used properly can save any image - @photoshop is a tool I use everyday to communicate and get closer to gawd @adobe

To me, this promotional video perfectly encapsulates how Adobe embraces Photoshop's middlebrow status as a popular commercial tool for creative production. In a paper for Fibreculture, I dubbed these kinds of tools "middlebroware" — a portemanteau that combines "middlebrow" and "middleware".

"[...] just as middleware serves as a kind of ‘software glue’ (Wikipedia, 2014), software for cultural production can serve as a similar type of ‘glue’ for cultural work – enabling and constraining the production, circulation, and appreciation of cultural content."

What I find particularly fascinating about this video is how Choe leans into the middlebroware argument by weaving together elements of irony and a straight, unapologetic populism.

Searching for Tasks - AoIR Conference Presentation

October 30, 2020
Frederik Lesage

Nicole Stewart and I recently had the opportunity to present at AoIR 2020 on some of the work we completed as part of the Searching for Tasks. 

Although the format was a bit constraining, it was an excellent opportunity to highlight some of the amazing work produced by Song Tang who has been working with us as a visualization expert and graphic artists. You can find more of his work on his website here:

The image for this blog post is only a sample of the great work he has done with us. We are in the final stages of preparing a report based on our findings in which Song's work will be central.

You can find a summary of the early stages of the research on the AoIR 2020 conference website here:

More to come soon!