The ongoing industrial migrations of new technologies (game engines, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and 3-D imaging) across commerce, news, entertainment, prototyping and manufacturing, scientific visualization, education and within the military suggest they have broad power for organizing the cultural field. In a multi-million-dollar deal with game developer Crytek, Amazon licensed the CryEngine in 2015 as a codebase for its own proprietary Lumberyard engine; the company's goal was to expand the Amazon Web Services ecosystem by consolidating a suite of products and services for video game developers (tools for building, hosting, and livestreaming). And with its 2017 acquisition of Body Labs, a 3D body modeling startup, Amazon expanded its investments in artificial intelligence; the company's interest in avatar-based technologies is part of a broader visual communications and e-commerce strategy. This paper foregrounds Amazon as a case study model of an emerging new media ecosystem--an industrial arrangement that has emerged to concretize the exchange value of integrated software and hardware mechanisms, with the broader goals of connecting information to e-commerce, pairing knowledge to technobiographic identity models, and shaping the emerging technology trends for communities (no-fault algorithms and conversational computing). With close attention to Amazon's acquisition and build strategy, and its hermetic information systems and workflows, this paper unravels the complex intersectionality of the company's technocentric portfolio.
Dr. Eric Freedman is Professor and Dean of the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago, and author of Transient Images: Personal Media in Public Frameworks (Temple University Press, 2011). His most recent essays include "Sottware Studies" (Routledge, 2018), "Resident Racist: Embodiment and Game Controller Mechanics" (Pearson, 2012) and "Technobiography: Industry, Agency and the Networked Body" (Peter Lang, 2012). Dr. Freedman serves on the editorial board of the Journal of e-Media Studies, and holds a Ph.D. from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.