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?


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