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Palgrave Macmillan

Animating Unpredictable Effects

Nonlinearity in Hollywood’s R&D Complex

  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2021

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  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access
  • Rethinks the historical and theoretical relationship between animation, mathematics, and engineering by studying software tools used to animate. unpredictable phenomena
  • Offers a glimpse into the economic and institutional machine that is constantly producing the cycle of media technology emergence, dominance, and residue
  • Develops a theoretical framework for understanding how knowledge is created through making media apparatuses and “artifices”

Part of the book series: Palgrave Animation (PAANI)

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About this book

Uncanny computer-generated animations of splashing waves, billowing smoke clouds, and characters’ flowing hair have become a ubiquitous presence on screens of all types since the 1980s. This Open Access book charts the history of these digital moving images and the software tools that make them. Unpredictable Visual Effects uncovers an institutional and industrial history that saw media industries conducting more private R&D as Cold War federal funding began to wane in the late 1980s. In this context studios and media software companies took concepts used for studying and managing unpredictable systems like markets, weather, and fluids and turned them into tools for animation. Unpredictable Visual Effects theorizes how these animations are part of a paradigm of control evident across society, while at the same time exploring what they can teach us about the relationship between making and knowing.

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Table of contents (7 chapters)


“Unpredictable Visual Effects offers important new contexts for thinking about Hollywood blockbusters. This book provides a substantial and important intervention into the fields of cinema studies, effects studies, industrial history, digital aesthetics, and media archeology. Gowanlock asserts the role of Hollywood blockbuster to shape development of computer graphic technologies and makes a very convincing argument for why nonlinear simulation, as a product of the R&D industrial complex, should be a central area of study.” (Julie Turnock, Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of Film & Media, University of California, Berkeley, USA

    Jordan Gowanlock

About the author

Jordan Gowanlock is a media historian. For the past two years he has been conducting research as a postdoctoral visiting scholar in the Department of Film and Media at UC Berkeley, USA. He is currently a non-regular faculty member at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Canada. 


Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Animating Unpredictable Effects

  • Book Subtitle: Nonlinearity in Hollywood’s R&D Complex

  • Authors: Jordan Gowanlock

  • Series Title: Palgrave Animation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Literature, Cultural and Media Studies, Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2021

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-74226-3Published: 29 May 2021

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-74229-4Published: 29 May 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-74227-0Published: 28 May 2021

  • Series ISSN: 2523-8086

  • Series E-ISSN: 2523-8094

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XI, 206

  • Number of Illustrations: 4 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Animation, Film/TV Industry, Film Theory

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