- Research Questions
- Methods and Possibilities
Building diversity and inclusion into the media production pipeline
“Media”, for the purposes of this thesis, is defined as: film, television, video games, books, marketing material, radio spots or music, and any other component of large-scale, often cross-platform, productions.
It is my contention that by specifically planning for diversity, the outcomes – both in staffing levels and in the character of the final product(s) – are much more positive than merely letting the chips fall where they may. While there are many nebulous, and not so nebulous, “feel good” reasons to do this – including social good, accuracy, and avoidance of outdated stereotypes – there are clear financial advantages, as well. Keeping existing customers (as in, not alienating them) is more affordable than seeking new ones, for one thing. For another, existing polls show that films which pass the Bechdel Test, for example, consistently bring in more money than films that do not.
Discovering the best methods for bringing these facts to the attention of media producers, implementing effective ways to build in the consideration of diversity as a benchmark of success, and gathering feedback from said producers on the changes to which this leads are the focus.
- How is diversity defined in terms of staffing and media representation?
- Which types of media have the greatest impact on social policy, group dynamics, and individual welfare?
- What are the benefits of diversity and inclusion in a business context? Are they social,
financial, intangible, other?
- Where have policies designed to increase diversity and inclusion been implemented? What was the outcome of doing so?
- What steps must be taken to convince media content creators to build diversity and inclusion policies into their planning? At what stage of the process is it most critical to introduce such policies?
- Which types of diversity (gender, ethnic, age, disability, etc.) are least represented in popular media when compared to the global population? Does representation, or the lack thereof, impact each of these groups with the same intensity?
- Discussion about inclusion – and, by extension, exclusion – of which groups is most prevalent in Western media at the minute? Does this awareness make policy-building about said groups an easier task than for those who are currently more marginalised? Should the starting focus of this study, therefore, be on “soft targets” in order to facilitate the creation of an overall inclusionary process change?
- What is the best way to design a check list, blueprint, or other action plan for building inclusion into processes? Can it be made in an expandable form which is modifiable enough to be applied to other areas of business?
Methods and Possibilities
- Quantitative studies
- Explanation of benefits
- Outreach and feedback
- The Blueprint
The rising consciousness about equality issues in terms of gender and race – see the recent uproar about the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards, sexism on the red carpet (hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #AskHerMore), and repeated calls for better roles for women – will probably make those some of the softest targets. Addressing other issues, like language, physical and mental abilities, religious diversity, and cultural accuracy could take longer. Getting a blueprint built into the process now will make it easier to add components for consideration later, much like browser plugins.
Data will be extracted from existing studies and websites; explaining the benefits of diversity, continuing outreach to and receiving feedback from studios, artists, and other production staff; creating a base blueprint; and finally attempting to convince those contacts I’ve made along the way to implement it. There will, of course, be more feedback and revisions after that.
The final thesis will be in the form of text (standard, academic format) and an accompanying digital artefact. Digital options under consideration:
- Android application
I’d really like to create an Android application, but am unsure if I will have time to do so within the time frame of this MA. It may be left for the PhD portion of the project.
Additionally, there is the possibility of later creating a grading and award system that allows creators to promote their product on the basis of fulfilling a percentage of diversity requirements.