Thesis ID: CBB555921460

The Artist's Code: Technology and the Optimization of Creativity in Hollywood (2023)


This dissertation explores the intersection of technology and creativity in Hollywood since the 1990s to understand emerging ways of imagining, performing, and automating creative labor. Intended as a social and cultural corrective to the large body of economic-industrial accounts of media industry’s “digital revolution,” this work blends methods from production studies with those of digital media, science and technology studies, and technofeminist critique to probe the ideological tensions undergirding the convergence of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It contains case studies analyzing: the history of computer-assisted screenwriting and the gendered labor dynamics embedded in writing software; streaming video service Netflix’s extrapolation of big data analytics into a cultural belief system merging scientific and artistic ways of knowing; and the mapping of assumptions about creativity onto machine learning and generative AI technologies like Chat-GPT. In tracking and historicizing the shifting influence of the technology sector on media arts, production methodologies, and media industry power dynamics since the 1990s, this dissertation argues for understanding contemporary media work as a balancing act between artistic and engineering sensibilities. Each chapter shows how beliefs about technology and its purpose, impact on society, and relationship to human agency are being adapted into persuasive industrial logics that justify contemporary ways of organizing, valuing, and supporting creative labor. In this way, Hollywood’s varied approaches to technology-assisted creative processes are both symptoms of and adaptations to the cultural and economic conditions of a commercial landscape increasingly dominated by the tech sector, its priorities, and its preferred methods of problem-solving. Finally, this dissertation asks how discursive framings of computational technologies as instruments of totalizing rationality engage existing belief systems in Hollywood concerning who knows what about creativity, how they came to know it, and whether this knowledge can be profitable in the future.

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Authors & Contributors
Baybrook, Loren P. Q.
Daniel, Robert S.
Doel, Ronald E.
Edwards, David
Guenther, Katja
Kuberski, Philip
Arizona Quarterly
Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal
History of the Human Sciences
Humanities and Technology Review
Journal of Modern Literature
Journal of the History of Biology
Oxford University Press
University of California Press
Princeton University
Columbia University Press
Cornell University Press
Florida State University
Motion pictures; cinema; movies
Film and media studies
Technology and film
Digital media
Creativity; genius
Kubrick, Stanley
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
20th century
United States
United Kingdom
Westinghouse Electric Corporation

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