This dissertation presents the first critical scholarly analysis of the Canadian
English-language scripted web series industry, its cultural practices, industrial dynamics
and texts. Through in-depth interviews with 48 individuals active in the production of
Canadian online scripted content, participant observation, and a benchmark
quantitative analysis of gender and race in key creative roles in 175 seasons of
Canadian web series, the dissertation investigates the web as an alternative space for
Canadian scripted audiovisual content, and the actors and forces that have shaped and
are shaping its development, including its emergent patterns of inclusion.
By developing a novel theoretical framework that combines the critical political
economy of communication with entrepreneurship studies, the dissertation is able to
mediate effectively between structure and agency to reveal how Canadian web series
creators are interpreting, internalizing and resisting larger institutional dynamics and
discourses in their cultural practices and texts. Through their entrepreneuring,
Canadian web creators are reacting to a variety of rigidities within the contextual
dimensions in which they are embedded, including the absence of meaningful
opportunities to practice their crafts, the persistence of networks of exclusion, and
inaccurate or missing on-screen representations of themselves or others in mainstream
media. Through their work, they desire to achieve freedom from these constraints. The
challenge of disrupting the status quo is then revealed through an examination of the
domestic and extra-national structural factors that act as impediments to their agency.
The dissertation problematizes ideas of participation and access on the web,
and introduces new conceptual terminology through the Participatory Culture Paradox,
to encapsulate the contradictory set of relations that on the one hand, enables
creators’ activities in the online space, and at the same time, constrains their capacity
to find audiences and monetize their work.
The findings here demonstrate that as much as internet-based distribution has
expanded opportunities for participation for regular users, who you are, and where you
are based, continue to be salient mediators of both participation and success in the
development of professional scripted screen careers in the digital age.
The dissertation culminates in actionable priorities for Canadian policy that aim