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Type: Theses
Title: A new storytelling era: digital work and professional identity in the North American comic book industry
Author: Mayes, Troy Kristoffer Aaron
Issue Date: 2016
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: This thesis investigates how creative industries workers adapt to and influence the use of new digital technologies. It looks at how these technologies affect business models, content production and product distribution in the comics industry, and how these changes create uncertainty and risk for creative workers in this industry. It examines the strategies comics creators use to shape new industry structures and the status of digital comics within the wider industry, as well as their own identities as media industry workers. The study uses data from interviews and historical documents to compare the experiences of editors, writers, pencillers, inkers, colourists, letterers and new digital workers who are creating content at two existing print publishers and two new digital companies to develop a theory of the creators’ ‘adaptation framework’. The adaptation framework recognises the influence of historically and culturally constructed discussions about what constitutes ‘good work’ in the comics industry and the influence this has on the adoption of new forms of digital technology for comics’ production. Critical judgment and public validation of choices made regarding the use of digital technologies encourages creators to reframe their work identity and the content they produce. This analytical framework highlights the availability of different professional identity categories, including a ‘core’ identity and guiding values, plus a supplementary ‘pioneer’ identity, which acknowledges the creative freedom offered by digital media. Creators also use discursive practices, such as ‘reactive’ and ‘relational’ positioning, to manage their identity in relation to the field of comics production and to distance their work from negative evaluations of digital comics derived from historical exemplars of what are now perceived to be ‘poor works’, and by extension poor work by the creator. Periods of change throw into relief existing understandings held by workers and consumers of what constitutes a ’good’ comic book. Early digital comics projects from the 1990s and 2000s influence creators’ perceptions of whether digital technologies can produce such ’good works’. Pioneers and early adopters take on the role of experts and advocates, engaging in the process of socialising the new discourses and practices into the broader field of comics production. The pioneer identity is correlated with the privitisation and individualisation of risk, whereby creators invest their human, social, and symbolic capital in projects that have uncertain outcomes in exchange for creatively challenging careers and potentially reputation-building work. The pioneers are open to change, but their previous print-based identity often provides stability to their core identity as creators capable of producing ‘good work’. Creators rely on these identities to orient themselves in relation to the new norms, practices and routines of comic book work, engaging in identity management to manage the risk that their investment in skill development and time spent producing digital comics will not produce a return on investment measured through financial or social capital recognised in the industry. Adaptation to digital work forces aspects of the creator’s identity to change, but their core understanding of who they are, what they do, and why they do it is still a valuable and sustaining element of their identity as a creative worker.
Advisor: Humphreys, Sal
Wilmore, Michael Joseph
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2016.
Keywords: identity
comic books
creative work
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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