Adobe, Cloud Computing and Ai: Creative Software and the Governmentalization of the Creative Act

Project: Research

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The economic and cultural importance of creative software companies cannot be overstated. Forbes listed two creative software companies among the 15 most innovative companies for 2018: Autodesk, which produces software to create 3D graphics, and Adobe.Adobe provides software for creative professionals in the sectors of design, photography, film industry, animation. Over the past 35 years, it has grown into an iconic company, defining and redefining a certain social understanding of what digital creativity is. In 2013, Adobe pioneered a move from a software-based model, where the software is bought by the user, to a cloud-centric model involving a monthly subscription. Recently, it has launched Adobe Sensei to empower its AI and Machine Learning (ML) in all of its clouds. The technology relies on infinite data partially provided by the users’ creative practices, paving the way for new forms of automation of the creative act. These evolutions potentially bear a radical transformation of the ways in which professionals use this software in several important sectors of the creative economy and may radically alter the current definitions of digital creativity.Current research on software stresses how algorithms have impacted on individual and social life. A significant trend in software studies embraces a transformative agenda by suggesting alternative ways to circumvent limitations imposed by software. To date, however, no research has extensively documented how creative software companies are increasingly governing creative practices. This project aims to fill this gap in knowledge with a Foucauldian perspective which emphasizes the interwoven institutional, economic, social and political ‘dispositifs’ supporting the ‘governmentality’ of creative acts.We will use a poststructuralist theoretical framework to underline the historical, cultural, negotiated construction of the meanings of creative acts through discourses on creative software. We will perform a Foucauldian discourse analysis over an extensive corpus of documents in relation to Adobe from the creation of Illustrator to Adobe Sensei.This analysis aim to study discursive mechanisms through which conceptions of creative act come to be accepted, internalized and performed or modified. This project builds on the PI’s past work on the datafication of the creative act, on videogame engines as tools of metacreation, as well as on his recent research ‘The development of new media expertise in the creative economy of Hong Kong’, studying the use of creative software by Hong Kong creative professionals, which resulted in a public policy report for the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 


Project number9042899
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/20 → …