Circles of Production

Making media starts with pre-production (1), then moves to production (2), post-production (3), and distribution (4), right? Not so much anymore–if it ever did. Digital media culture has shifted the order, pacing, and gatekeeping mechanisms governing media production. Rather than picture production as a predictable sequence of steps, maybe it’s better to visualize the process as a cycle without a prefigured beginning or end, nor a fixed pathway through.

A contributor to a visitor-curated website might start with the fourth phase, distribution, by grabbing existing digital content and making a case for why that story belongs on a website’s front page—turning dissemination into an act of creation (see digg, for example). A video game player or fan fic writer might start at number three, “post-producing” someone else’s media by messing with an existing game’s code, or re-tooling another author’s narrative, thus transforming the media experience into something new. The widespread availability of “everyday media” (e.g., home videos and digital photos, archived voicemail recordings) can launch a creative project at number two, mid-production, with recordings in hand, around which the maker only later frames a narrative (check out Lost and Found Sound).

These and other examples show that media production doesn’t necessarily start at the beginning, if we imagine the beginning as a process of pulling an original idea out of the air. Rarely does the process march forward without lots of stopping short, reversing course, and circling back to start anew. But then again, when did it ever work like that?

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