Nina Vindum Rasmussen (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

European Cinema in an Era of Big Data: Algorithms, Creativity, and Industry Structures

This PhD project will critically examine how Big Data analytics affect industrial structures and creative labour in Europe’s film industry. Digital disruption is fostering new forms of production, distribution, and consumption of screen media. Over-the-top players like Netflix and Amazon have built their business model around viewers’ behaviours, making data collection the default modus operandi. At the same time, data analytics companies (e.g. Gower Street Analytics and Showtime Analytics) want to knock down resource and infrastructure barriers for stakeholders in the film industry. In short, Big Data analytics introduce new ways of financing, producing, distributing, and marketing films. With this context in mind, my PhD examines the following research questions: (1) How is Big Data deployed in the European film industry? (2) How does the use of Big Data affect the autonomy of film workers and their creative process?

My main approach is what Timothy Havens, Amanda D. Lotz, and Serra Tinic call ‘critical media industry studies’. Their research framework emphasises ‘midlevel fieldwork’ in industry analyses, which involves paying equal attention to economic, corporate, and discursive contexts. I will combine a range of qualitative methods that fall within this paradigm, including interviews and ethnographic field observation. The study will furthermore draw upon ‘critical data studies’. This nascent research field questions predominant assumptions about data by investigating cases where data is naively believed to offer objectiveness and transparency. Together, critical media industry studies and critical data studies provide a useful backdrop for examining how film workers negotiate the terrain of film production in a data-driven marketplace. This PhD project contributes to both fields by shedding light on creative agency and industry structures in an algorithmic culture. These findings will also benefit policy makers, organisations, businesses, and researchers across the creative and cultural industries.

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