My research on the comic book industry draws across multiple disciplines to expose the myriad ways in which industrial infrastructure actively and directly shapes media texts and the social practices that develop around them. Because the value of media tends to be cultural and social, and not generally utilitarian or physical, the infrastructures I examine tend to be less material and more human in nature. Communication systems of course rely on radio towers, data centers, and factory lines, but just as impactful are the ways in which everyday relationships between individuals take on particular patterns, abide by established protocols, and adhere to predetermined networks of communication. These human systems are the focus of my work. I investigate and analyze: particular regulatory acts and court rulings and the particular legal regimes that rise up around them; patterns of ownership and the corporate bureaucracies they organize; distribution networks and the demographic configurations and consumption habits they construct; and accounting practices and approaches to funding that determine what content makes it to the market, and what remains unseen and perhaps unmade. 

Since 2021, I have been working with Dr. Andrew deWaard and a team of graduate and undergarduate reserachers to develop MACRO Lab, the Media and Consolidation Reserach Organization. A scholarly community, research lab, and online resource about the political economy of media, we aim to provide accessible, critical materials and data about media consolidation, financialization, and operations. Our mission begins with on online collection of data visualizations that demonstrate historical trends in ownership, market share, financial metrics, labor outcomes, originality indicators, and inequality. We are working to build a research-based community of scholars whose work mobilizes this empirical data to increase public awareness, improve the field of media studies, and make policy recommendations around labor practices, antitrust enforcement, and the regulation of our media system.

My current book project examines the political economy of film exhibition during the Franchise Era (2008-2020). Like many businesses across the U.S. economy, movie theaters faced new—and enormously destructive—challenges in the decade leading up to the pandemic. Year after year, the crises deepened, while government regulators and business leaders in associated sectors sat silently on the sidelines. The explosive blow of the pandemic, which helped solidify the drift of consumers online, was certainly not expected. But the outcome of that existential disaster is hardly surprising given the lack of infrastructural support that plagued every aspect of exhibition prior to the pandemic. But the problems exhibitors faced were not of their own making; treated as an auxiliary business by Hollywood-based power brokers and Wall Street financiers, movie theater owners were forced into a reactive stance, protecting (and sometimes flailing) against the intense pressures of monopoly capitalism. This book will tell this sad, but deeply illustrative story of American business in the 21st century by looking across multiple subsectors of U.S exhibition: national cinema chains, independent theaters, arthouse cinemas, and Black-owned movie theaters. 

My preliminary research for this book has involved a close analysis of corporate strategy in the 2010s and has led me to examine how a widespread shift toward franchise filmmaking had ripple effects across the media business and beyond. Accordingly, my recent and forthcoming writing not only investigates shifts in exhibition, but also considers labor practices, trends in filmmaking, and anticompetitive practices in Hollywood. 

I'm also currently working with comic book scholars nationwide on a collaborative ethnographic project funded by the SSHRC and built around San Diego Comic-Con 2023. Using a "swarm" methodology to conduct our fieldwork, we're generating a rich, multimodal dataset that examines how conventions like SDCC intervene in the production, circulation, and consumption of cultural goods.


Kidman, The Disneyfication of Authorship: Above-the-Line Creative Labor in the Franchise Era.” Journal of Film & Video 73.3 (2021): 3-22 

Kidman, "Self-Regulation Through Distribution: Censorship and the Comic Book Industry in 1954.” Velvet Light Trap 75 (Spring 2015): 21-37.

Kidman, “Five Lessons For New Media From the History of Comics Culture.” Intn'l Journal of Learning &Media. 3.4 (Nov 2012): 41-54.

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