Editorial: Distribution

As a concept and topic for the study of culture, ‘distribution’ can point to a variety of flows of objects. These may range from material goods and media formats to ephemeral opinions, but can also include power structures, the dissemination of knowledge or the traveling of cultural works and theoretical concepts. Distribution is thus ideally situated to grasp changing landscapes of cultural production, academia, and knowledge institutions.

Itch.io and the One-Dollar-Game

How Distribution Platforms Affect the Ontology of (Games as) a Medium


The article at hand outlines formal and media ontological implications of digital distribution by analyzing how independent game publishing platform Itch.io enabled ‘the one-dollar game’ as an emergent form of cultural expression. Production studies, particularly with reference to film, have investigated how new modes of production have shaped emergent genres and forms like chase scenes and location shooting; this article makes a similar case for distribution modalities. For that purpose, studies and creators’ accounts on the distribution of literature (Carr, 2015), film (Meusy, 2002) and music (Anderton 2019) are adapted. Characteristic software affordances of Itch.io are analyzed to determine how the platform frames the selling and advertising of ‘disposable’ games. A corpus of almost 300 one-dollar games was compiled by scraping the Itch.io website. Through a comparative content analysis, several unique microgenres, most of which can only feasibly exist within this product category, as well as performative and simulational aspects of game publishing are studied. The findings are related to ongoing debates about the ontology of (digital) games, thereby connecting the material-semiotic notion of platformization (Helmond, 2015) to cultural production.

Programming a Public Mediascape

Distribution and the Japanese Motion Pictures Experience


This essay sheds light on how a film distribution apparatus, which aimed to cater to the entire population as one, in effect ushered in a process of collectivization of cultural life experience, as well as media aesthetics, in postwar Japan.

While public discourses on nationhood were discouraged in postwar Japan, information and other textual contents about nationhood flowed freely. The national space as a unified location started to re-reform in the mid-1950s. This was after the country regained its sovereignty, and a new medium―television―emerged in the public sphere. However, more than these two factors, I argue that it was the film studio distribution apparatus labeled the “program picture,” which enabled an imaginary reunification of viewership throughout the country. Although not entirely unique to the postwar era, this distribution system was predicated on economic models of vertical integration, which in the midst of several medial transformations, established a dominant cinematic aesthetics that has been equally disseminated throughout the country.

Travelling Media Structures

Adaptation and Demarcation in China's Public SARS Discourse


The flow of communication structures across various media formats can be traced back to the printing press culture of early modern Europe, where three distinct media features appeared: disagreement, sensationalism, and self-reference. These features continue to characterize health communication in today’s online media (Bogen 2011; 2013). This study investigates whether these media structures also characterize contemporary health communication in non-Western countries like China, which are undergoing a modernization process. By taking European structures of healthcare communication as a point of reference, I will analyze how Chinese healthcare communication differs from its European counterpart. This paper takes SARS (the first globally emerging infectious disease of the 21st century) as a case study. While the SARS discourse illustrates the existence of these communication structures in the Chinese media and indicates some convergence between East and West, it is clear that these media structures have been adapted to a specifically Chinese cultural program of modernization. Moreover, I will identify ‘non-European’ structures that can be explained by China’s specific cultural background, and explore the processes of transfer and demarcation that occur when media structures are adapted across cultures.

To Copy, To Impress, To Distribute

The Start of European Printing


In order to distribute our thoughts and feelings, we must make intelligible and distributable copies of them. From approximately 1375 to 1450, certain Europeans started fully mechanized replication of texts and images, based on predecessor “smaller” technologies. What they started became the most powerful means for the distribution, storage, and retrieval of knowledge in history, up until the invention of digital means. We have scant information about the initiation of print technologies in the period up to Gutenberg, and the picture of Gutenberg that we have has become a great deal more complicated than hitherto. There has not been, however, an approach to the “pre-printing” period in terms of the history of idea or intellectual history. After a brief survey of established approaches, this essay argues that distribution by impression, or print, is bound up with ancient metaphors for understanding communication by the making of multiples. I suggest that there is a rich field of study for printing history in the sophisticated concepts of reality that medieval and late Scholastic philosophy developed. These concepts helped to express and develop a desire or need for communication that led to the technology of replicating texts and images for wide and continued distribution.

A Coordinated Europeanization of the Comics Industry through Distribution

The Politics of the Global Journey of Astérix and Tintin through the Strategic Distribution of their Magazines and Contents in the 1960s


Researchers have usually focused on the Tintin and Astérix series’ global book diffusion through translation. However, little has been discussed about the distribution policies of the comics magazine format, a key factor in the development of European comics. This paper will consider the continentalization of western European national comics industries via the intra-EEC networking of distribution channels during the 1960s. By facilitating the exchange of comics features in the Franco-Belgian area, publishers such as Casterman, Le Lombard, and Dargaud ensured the rise of the industry and of the products they wanted to disseminate. Contemplating the motivations of publishers this article will delve deeper into the emergence of cooperative and competitive distribution channels among national publishers and between countries. Through the archives of Casterman and primary sources this article intends to contribute to a greater understanding of how the carefully planned distribution network of comics influenced the development of the European industry as a whole.

Data Troubles

Digital Distribution in the Platform Economy


This essay examines the distribution of content in the global market and how it has become imbricated with “cloud policy” — through online platforms, remote data storage, and the patchwork of international laws, Terms of Service agreements, and policies currently regulating the 1s and 0s being stored and streamed as digital media. Distributing and protecting digital data as it travels all over the world poses challenges that often defy legal paradigms, national boundaries, and traditional geographies of control. Moreover, the incursion of platforms and other “intermediaries” into the digital distribution landscape has created challenges for everyone from tech companies and theater owners to regulators and audiences. Looking at some of the industrial, cultural, and political dynamics connecting the governance of data with the shifting realities of digital distribution, I will address the growing “data troubles” faced by the media industries and relate them to the growing stakes for the futures of culture, information, and citizenship in the platform era.