Spigel discussion questions for 10/15

Throughout this book Spigel explores how television, as a cultural form, took shape – particularly building up to its diffusion, use and perception during the postwar era.  Her investigation consistently hinges on notions of domestic ideologies of familial recreation, spatial hierarchies in the home, and perceptually gendered distinctions/contradictions between work and leisure in the (often contradictory) public and private spheres. She traces these notions back to their social development during the Victorian era, and subsequently identifies postwar America as a similar age of “cultural revitalization” in the domestic space (32). She argues that these social circumstances in many ways defined the development of television as a cultural form – and subsequently facilitated its widespread production, promotion, and consumption.  In bringing her story to life – and in qualifying her assertions – Spigel exhibits numerous artifacts (namely advertisements, photos, and articles) collected from popular women’s journals of the day.

1.) Do Spigel’s artifacts from the popular media of the postwar era effectively reflect/explain/qualify the proposed domestic ideologies of the day (namely the notions of familial togetherness, social exhibition, and expectations of public vs. private space)? If so, how might we consider similar popular artifacts (see some examples below) describing media technologies/commodidities of our contemporary setting? What domestic/individualistic or gendered ideologies, values and needs do they seem to reflect? How do they align with, or conflict with, the presented ideologies of the postwar era?

2.) A common theme throughout Spigel’s book is that middle-class ideals of domesticity are “predicated upon divisions of (private) leisure time and (public) work time” (73).  While these distinctions are complicated by common gender roles during the postwar era, the general (and contemporary) assumption is that the public sphere is a space for productive work, while the domestic (private) sphere is a space for more leisurely/amusing consumption and familial togetherness.  How do these notions hold up in the age of converging media and mobile technology – where it is no longer enough to have the spectacle of the world “delivered to our doorstep” (102) but instead delivered to our fingertips and carried around in our pockets?  How might such developments complicate the lines between public and private space, and play into Spigel’s considerations of spatial confusion between electrical and real space (116-117)?  In all, how do these developments impact or reflect modern (and postwar) ideologies of domesticity?



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