Research

My research 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.

For the last ten years, I have centered my research around the comic book industry. Although small, this business has played a central role in the transformation of the media landscape over the last thirty years. This has made it an ideal site of analysis in that it allows considerable attention to detail as well as an opportunity to weave in and out of a broader structural account to which it is integral. Furthermore, comic books are a fundamentally transmedial form. Not only have the stories and characters been expanding into other media from their very inception, but the industry itself has tended to traverse sectors in unruly ways, thriving in the spaces between other media businesses. These margins have been where many important transitions and exciting developments in media have originated, so doing trans-industrial analysis through comic books has proved to be an incredibly productive way with which to illuminate the media industries writ large. With my book in press in March 2019, I will continue investigating this space as the reach of comic books continues to expand in every corner of the globe, across every form of media in existence.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

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

Shawna Kidman, “Five Lessons For New Media From the History of Comics Culture.” International Journal of Learning and Media. 3.4 (November 2012): 41-54.

Other Links: