A long-due update on my research

This is a long-due update after a long silence.

Last summer (the one of 2015) the Gooseberry Project was wrapping up and releasing Cosmos Laundromat; the Morevna project team was working on the animatic of the new episode of Morevna while polishing its pipeline; and I was working on summarising my research in progress for what we call “60% seminar”, or an internal seminar with an external opponent who would assess and criticize my work so far. The text in progress (which you can find here) was somewhat messy, but generally accepted well by the internal scientific committee. It seems like this is normal for how a PhD project looks like after half of the research time has passed.

The critique that I got from my opponent, the cross-media and computer games industry researcher from Copenhagen University, assoc. Prof. Kjetil Sandvik, was constructive. His main objection was that I had seemingly read a lot; learnt a lot from my fieldwork and now it was time to produce “new knowledge”. The autumn flew away while teaching, conferencing and reading a course on how to supervise degree thesis of bachelor students. I was hoping to write at least one article then, but instead, in the free time that was left I immersed myself in a massive reading of theories about Transparency.

In early January 2016 I managed to still finish one draft of an article which I wanted to write since long; one in which I discuss the pragmatic use and value of free software beyond the ideology of the free software movement. In this article I have tried to synthesize what I had learnt in my numerous conversations with the Blender, Synfig and Krita users who work in different roles and ways for the media industries today. I bring up the craft sensibilities which the uses of these programs trigger, and the ways in which computer graphics artists try to get engaged in, and influence the development of their tools of everyday work, while negotiating their craft autonomy. The article is under peer review for an eventual publication this summer in an open access journal under a Creative Commons license. I very much hope that the reviews will be positive, or at least that the critique will be manageable.
Download the draft here, with the provisional title: Free software beyond radical politics: negotiations of creative and craft autonomy in digital visual media production.

While waiting for the reviews I am working on another article in which I want to discuss open movie making through the theoretical lens of transparency. So far I have a few scattered unfinished draft papers, and a more coherent abstract for a conference that sumarises the main points. What I find interesting to describe is how the practices of illuminating the invisible work of artistis, animators, modellers, programmers and everyone else working on animation films in the making of Cosmos Laundromat and Morevna, both create feelings of emancipation, and autonomy in their creators, while also subtly structuring their work and organising the work process, imposing a pace, a structure and a control of the work. I will also bring up how creating public archives/repositories of the documentation of this kind of, usually invisible labor, is part of building infrastructures of visibility and knowledge, but also of monitoring the work progress internally, leading to an increase of the quality of the media being made. Lastly, I will discuss what remains hidden behind the radical openness of these projects, and how does this matter. I need to have a finished draft by the end of March, for a publication also this summer in another open access journal. The draft will be shared here too, as soon as it is done.

Lastly, in June I will need to provide a draft of a third article, which I plan to be on the process of “infrastructuring” – or developing autonomous, public infrastructures for professional computer graphics production through making open-source animation films.

In the meantime, one of my earlier writings which was describing my methods of research through discussing Morevna project is finally getting in print, as part of a book edited by Norbert Wildermuth and Teke Ngomba from Roskilde University, Denmark on Methods in Communication for Social Change. You can find the chapter here, the book will come out in print at some point this year (academic publishing is reaaaaaaaaally slow): Chapter-8-Julia-Velkova-Ethnography-of-Alternative-Cultural-Production-edited-JV-final-proofread-web.pdf

In the meantime my academic life consists of also going each month to at least one workshop where I can ventilate my ideas and writings in progress, and work on formulating myself better. This is a process which is very personal, and I do not feel comfortable to disclose in public the very early rough drafts where I just test ideas. I also teach courses on communication theory and media activism, which is fun, but takes too much time…

In any case, the important thing is that things are progressing.

Check out also the section with a list of publications here – I have updated it with a summary of all texts written by me which are currently available to read.

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