PhD Oral Exam - Jordan Gowanlock, Film & Moving Image Studies
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
This study looks at the ongoing development of tools and practices used to animate nonlinear physical phenomena, such as the crash of ocean waves or the movement of human hair, in the visual effect and animation industries. These tools and practices are developed in a nexus between public funding, research universities, the film industry, and various other sectors, such as aerospace and meteorology. This study investigates how technological development became integrated with film production, and in turn how epistemic paradigms were shared between the film industry, scientific research institutions and other industries.
At the heart of these animation tools and practices, and the networks of institutions that developed them, is a way of thinking that seeks to make use of unpredictable nonlinear complexity by shaping it toward specific applications. I observe this in the way animation and visual effect studios seek the realistic appearance of nonlinear natural movement through simulation, while also implementing technologies and practices to “direct” the “look” of these simulations. I also observe this in a variety of related examples, from the way the concept of “research and development” unites science and application, to the way management science promotes “hands off” approaches that preserve the unpredictable nature of creative work. My methods consist of charting the circulation of ideas, technologies, moving images and people through contact zones such as the computer science special interest group ACM SIGGRAPH, using archival research of trade communications, scholarly publications and conference proceedings, as well as interviews with industry workers.