Levine/Newman Questions

1. Levine (2008) argues that television “liveness” (its ability to transmit events as they occur) has been considered one of the most legitimate qualities of the medium since its original “Golden Age.” Likewise, in chapter 6, Levine and Newman demonstrate that the popular press discourse surrounding high-def television often focused on how the visual capabilities of these new TV’s would “offer direct access to a world of vivid and detailed images…” (6). These assessments, in other words, speak to a particular notion of the popular imagination that television offers viewers a “window” into the world; a notion that is assumed to be a positive, if not the ideal, function of TV. It has also been increasingly referenced with regards to 3D TV, which apparently now offers viewers a chance to “exist” within the diegetic worlds. When, if at all, does the window offer a view that is too real for viewers? Is there a foreseeable limit in viewers’ appreciation of television’s ability to project the real? Also, with the advent of 3D TV, has the window metaphor ceased to adequately describe peoples’ experiences with, and the function of, television, considering that 3D makes viewers believe they are “on the other side of the window” and witnessing events as they happen?
2. The observable trends throughout all of this week’s readings is that television has been legitimated in cultural discourse in several related but disparate ways. One such way is that television has often been compared to the arts, movies, and the theater-kinds of culture all viewed as of high quality and status. This is true at least of certain forms, functions, and features of television which have been explicitly associated with those types of “high culture” as to distinguish them from “regular TV.” At the same time as television’s status has been increased in discourse, however, I wonder whether the other types of culture, such as film, have had a decrease in their cultural status? That is, if television has garnered respect from its recent associations with film, has film lost some of its “credibility” in American culture? Has the rise in TV’s status negatively affected culture’s view of film? Or, perhaps, has the recent progression in the technological capabilities of television, as well as the progression in the way stories are told, garnered so much attraction and positive appraisals because movies now heavily (excessively?) rely on technological advancements in producing and editing films and routinely recycled the stories they tell and the manners in which they tell them?

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This Week’s Questions: Legitimate or Not?

I post the reading questions now because this week all hell is going to break loose and overrun me with its armies of papers and undergrad’s midterms to grade. Enjoy!

1) When explaining the concept of “legitimate” television in the conference paper, Newman concentrates on how viewers (and which viewers) define a show as “legitimate.” He speaks of how “legitimate” television is accessed (through the DVR, the TiVo, the DVD, on demand, downloads) underlining the ability of its audience to break the established broadcasting practices and skip ads. Newman explains that “good TV is routinely described as ‘cinematic” and that the difference in genres and production technologies is often what distinguishes it from “ordinary” television.

What in the content of a show makes it “legitimate”? Can we learn more about the workings of the society from the HBO dramas and House than from guess-the-price type of shows? If this is not the case, what makes the former “legitimate” and the latter “ordinary”?

2) Chapter 2 begins with an overview of the criticism directed against the mass culture of television. Critics accuse television of being directed to “the most vulnerable and manipulative members of society,” to those that “do not fit the model of sophisticated taste,” and to people of “lesser faculties.” These statements assume that the critics of television (and those who value “quality” programming and culture, as opposed to pop shows and culture) consider themselves to belong to a higher class or are in some way different and better than the “uneducated masses.”

We can look at this criticism as an attempt by the critics to define their own identities. The definition of identity itself, the distinct characteristics of an individual, suggests that identities are created by finding the differences between people. Thus, the debate of what is “quality” television maybe has less to do with television and more to do with a crisis of identity in society. If we assume this is the case, how television contributed to this crisis?

Boddy RQ’s

1. In  chapters 6/10, Boddy contemplate to disparate extents how previous attempts to merge the internet and the television “into one” were unsuccessful, including Microsoft/ WebTV. Included in chapter 6 are comments made both by Steve Jobs, who contends that people watch television not to think whereas people use the computer to “turn their minds on,” (cited pg. 90) and Bill Gates, who argued that a “big-screen” television, unlike a PC, doesn’t “afford privacy” (cited pg. 91). In other words, television is constructed as a passive experience shared with others (family) set in direct opposition to the interactive and private experience of the computer/internet. Yet, in 2010 new television sets are literally (and almost exclusively) computer monitors,  playstation 3 is literally a computer necessarily used through a television, and people play online video/TV content for others to view together on TV screens. To what extent have these recent developments forced a reconsideration of the merger of the internet and TV, and reconfigured the passive/shared VS. interactive/solitary binaries that made the television and internet irreconcilably different mediums for different experiences ten plus years ago?
2. In chapter 8, Boddy shows how the decision of CBS’s news division to use virtual advertising to alter the billboards standing outside CBS studios in New York City led people to question the legitimacy of its journalistic standards. The question of legitimacy goes farther than that, however. Television was once thought of a “window” into worlds unknown for viewers, but how did CBS threaten the legitimacy of that window when it fictionalized the “view” of NYC for viewers? Moreover, an original episode of a fictional show comes out of a distinct historical context, and is encoded with specific meanings and an intended experience for viewers.  How does using VA to change the products used by characters in the story-worlds in syndicated programs, perhaps from “older” brands/logos to “newer” ones, raise questions about the legitimacy of the resulting meaning and experience of the text? Or do the meanings/experience of a text no longer matter when it is outdated and in re-runs? Finally, “liveness” in televised sports/news has been culturally viewed as synonymous with the real, the legitimate. How does the altering of billboards, within a live broadcast of a sporting event from one country airing in another, to make them location-specific to that other country-aka constructing a false but apparently real “diegesis” of the game- raise questions about the legitimacy of the live footage?

VR and DVR: Boddy Discussion Questions

In his introduction, Boddy states the following: “The shifting boundaries between analogue and digital…throw into question traditional critical oppositions between domestic and public media reception, active and passive modes of consumption, and authored and non-authored texts.” (1) I find the opposition between active and passive modes to be a particularly interesting point, and one that Boddy seems to focus on with his discussion of virtual reality and the DVR.

In chapter 5, in evaluating virtual reality, Boddy mentions that many “VR boosters” admitted it was “more compelling to talk about what VR might someday become than to describe the current impoverished devices” (68). This brought to mind the various utopian visions we have looked at throughout the semester and specifically made me think of the 3D TV ads that Sam posted last week. These ads suggested world-altering shifts in our television experience not unlike the talk surrounding VR. They also seemed focused on some kind of physical interactivity, featuring people reaching out to touch things and ordering dinosaurs back into their televisions.

Do these 3D television ads suggest a desire for physical interactivity in television, or are they utopian ideals used to sell 3D TV but not actually expected or desired? VR was appealing to think about, but it did not take off.

Boddy notes the “merging of computer and TV,” (131) and the modes of interaction with each, in the rise of the DVR. He also points out that control over programming provided by DVR shifts television from an invasive threat to a “valued domestic resource” (129). What does this say about the shifting boundaries that Boddy mentions in his introduction? How does the level of perceived user agency and mode of interaction affect how we view certain media forms?

For your viewing pleasure, the crazy Marines ad that Boddy references:

Make Room For Discussion Questions

In our discussion about radio entering the home, we noted the convention of making the receiver into a piece of furniture and its place in the home. Spigel’s focus on television’s relationship with interior space is nothing short of extensive. Spigel notes popular discourses, significantly in “women’s magazines,” that address the issue of where to place the television and the sometimes dramatic effect that its placement had on family interaction and views on interior design.

In my experience, televisions continue to dominate the interior design of spaces that they occupy. Does any other media technology so greatly and directly affect the physical spaces in which we live? And does this effect of television rest on its tendency to bring the outside world into the private space of the home?

Spigel also makes note of producers and advertisers instructing people on how to use television and networks aggressively seeking to change morning rhythms by “making the activity of television viewing into a new daily habit” (85) This is obviously in contrast to technological determinism, as there is a social agent determining use.

However, it begs us to question the “social” half of “social shaping.” One might think this shaping would be by society as a whole, but given the information Spigel discusses it would seem that much of this shaping is done by commercial innovators of the media. Do the buying actions of consumers constitute shaping by “society,” i.e. “the market has spoken,” or is social shaping more often a process performed by certain commercial agencies? Spigel does note popular media discourses criticizing these agencies, but it seems as though this is after structures are in place.

Finally, Spigel notes Weaver’s views on television turning the world into a “small town” (112) and homogenizing the population. This is not unlike the idea of the “global village.” Though some element of this homogenizing could be seen in discussions of the spread of news anchor-like non-regional dialect, these hopes regarding new media do not come to fruition. Are we just that contradictory? that our hopes regarding new media so often do not match our actual use of those media?