Friday, February 27, 2015

My Condolences To Trekkies Everywhere

"Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of Spock on Star Trek, died Friday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He was 83.
Nimoy's wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, told the New York Times the actor died from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

I can only imagine what Gabriel K√∂erner shouted into his telephone when told the news.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Core Response: I didn't know stories had boobs - In search of a "feminine" story

Henry Jenkins' opens his essay "Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten," by recounting the ways journalists have dismissed Star Trek fans, or Trekkies, as overweight, social rejects. Academics have characterized them as adolescent, and many entertainment corporations claim they are thieves, engaging in copyright infringement and textual appropriation.

Jenkins, on the other hand, sees them as a diverse group of often marginalized people who are reluctant poachers of textual meaning. He focuses in particular on fans who enlarge the existing Star Trek franchise with their own writings, spin offs and story trees all based (however obliquely) on the original show. He argues that with their stories, these fans are prying open a space for their own cultural concerns.

Because so many of the authors of these fan fictions are female, Jenkins posits that women need to reclaim feminine interests from the margins of masculine texts. While the creators of Star Trek wanted to include women in more key roles in the show, network executives shut them down. Hence, much fan fiction centers around female characters who were marginalized in the show, but are more fully realized in the fan fiction, often holding positions of power and fulfilling their diverse sexual needs all while grappling with decisions about how to balance work and personal life.

It's a fascinating essay, and a great look at gender, media, fandom, and the way the entertainment industry has often left women behind, but I think it falls short when it characterizes some types of stories as "feminine" and others as "masculine." There's no denying that the majority of protagonists in film and TV are male, and that female characters often exist just to help that hero achieve his goal or realize his potential, but that's a function of casting, not story type. I reject the notion that the Hero's Journey, for example, is an intrinsically "masculine" story type, or that the ongoing serialized nature that was first popularized in soap operas is an intrinsically "feminine" story type.

Social and market forces help push content into soap operas that a certain type of woman in a certain time period would find more appealing than a certain type of man, but content is not form. There is nothing about the serialized form that is intrinsically feminine. If there were, only women would be watching Breaking Bad.

Small-scale studies like David Bleich's don't confirm an intrinsic difference between men and women, and they don't line up with our own experience that audiences respond to stories on a far more complicated pattern than gender. Instead of confining ourselves to the binary notions that certain story types are "feminine" or "masculine," let's take a page from the Vulcans and recognize the presence and power of stories and audiences of infinite diversity in infinite variations.

Hidden camera settles the age old question - Who ate my lunch?!

This week I had an interesting experience that echoes what we were talking about several weeks ago with screens everywhere and increasing surveillance. I intern at a production company in Santa Monica. We share a beautiful, expensive office building with several other production companies, and we have a communal kitchen that's stocked with lots of high-end, communal snacks. People also bring their own things like Odwalla that they store in the refrigerator with their names written all over them.

Someone must dipped into someone else's private food, because when I went into the kitchen this week, I noticed something strange hidden in the back of a shelf of chips. It was a tiny, HD camera mounted up on old bags of honey-roasted peanuts. It was at the perfect angle to capture the refrigerator at all times.

Because this is a building full of production companies, I guess it makes sense that an expensive, HD camera and hours of continuous footage to sift through seems like an easier way of solving this problem than just talking with your fellow office mates and appealing to common decency. But common decency is boring, whereas catching a lying Odwalla thief in action with the video evidence to prove it is so much more exciting. Technology has given us a way to, not only enforce morality, but publicly shame those who transgress. It reminds me of this article in Gawker about public shaming for Twitter transgressions.

On an unrelated note, I'm drinking less Odwalla lately.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Oscars Are On TV

First, there was all the talk about nominations.
Then, there was all the talk about the nominees.
Then, there was the show where the winners were announced.
Then, there were all the reviews of the show where the winners were announced (that almost unanimously bad).

Does anyone else find it strange and some what annoying that film industry deigns to take over our beloved televisions for one night (min.) every year to produce a show that is incredibly long and boring to watch?

asking for a friend.

Monday, February 23, 2015

TV Prof turned TV Consultant turned Survivor Contesant

Hi all,

I stumbled upon this interview on Twitter today, on the former Northwestern professor who taught a course on Survivor turned Media consultant turned Survivor contestant. It was a really great read.

OSCAR Reflection - Beware the Screens in Our Jeans - Times are Changing

It was difficult not to think of our "TV's and Screens" readings after that opening musical number at last night's Academy Awards. What started out as Neil Patrick Harris' broadway worthy ode to the "magic of moving pictures", was abruptly interrupted by Black's franticly paranoid interlude proclaiming "In a world where are brains are all becoming machines, the only screens we're watching are the screens in our jeans!" He screams that last line over and over after pulling out an Android phone to presumably take a selfie. Then, he's quickly brought to a stop by Harris and Anna Kendrick who immediately move on to extol the magnificence of moving pictures. Actors dressed up like iconic movie characters stormed the stage while images from classic films were projected in the background. It was all to remind us the myriad ways in which "moving pictures" have influenced culture.

I'm interested in the evolution of "moving pictures" through device based technology. iPhone and tablet apps like Vine, Snap Chat and Instagram or even the popular "gif" trends online are newer iterations of "moving pictures" that for decades we could only see projected on massive screens or transmitted from televisions. We now have more freedom than ever to produce and disseminate our own media. Times are changing.

On a less related note but a more personal reflection, last night's Oscars made several interesting references to the passage of time. Before Lady Gaga sang her tribute to The Sound of Music, she made remarks -- in a red carpet interview -- about how monumental the film was in affecting and changing both the film and music industries. After that tribute Julie Andrews spoke admitting she felt it was as if she blinked an all those years just flew by. Meryl Streep seemed to have a real moment of self-reflection while introducing the "In Memoriam" segment. It seemed as though the 'here today gone tomorrow' aspect of it all really struck her. In addition the Common/John Legend performance of "Glory" and accompanying references to the 50th year anniversary also evoked the passage of time.    

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Core Response #3: Fandom Without Pity

This week’s readings on TV and Audiences clearly take a sharp opposition to last week’s readings based on TV consumption as passive rather than active fandom that “transforms personal reaction into social interaction, spectator culture into participatory culture” (Jenkins,Poachers, p.473) Henry Jenkins and Ellen Seiter’s (both professors at USC) articles are excellent resources that provide the foundation of audience studies, the use of ethnography in TV studies, and the shift to understanding TV consumption as participatory and active. 

Mark Andrejevic’s article, which was published in 2008 rather than the ‘80s or ‘90s and heyday of laying down the groundwork of TV studies, then establishes a lot of what we talk about when we talk about audience studies, or fan studies today in terms of influential, savvy viewer. 

Our early talks in class about the kind of TV shows we watched, why we watched them, how we watched them, with who, etc., made me reflect a lot about my relationship with Star Trek re-runs as a kid. Growing up on kids series like Captain Planet during the day and soap operas with my grandparents like Dallas. Later, I was all about the family sitcoms - Full House, Family Matters, and kid-dominated stuff like Clarissa Explains it All and the TGIF set. Now I long for ABC’s Shondaland TGIT and the cultural capital of HBO and Showtime, and AMC, programming that suggests the culture capital Seiter discusses. The cultural capital component rings especially true now when we think about “prestige” “narrowcasting” niche programming like The Sopranos and Mad Men and the onset of programming that came after, geared towards a college educated, upper middle class, TV viewing audience over the broader appeal of network TV. 

But most of all, I thought about why I didn’t enjoy Star Trek as a child and why it still doesn’t appeal to me now. While sci-fi and action movies or TV programming have never been my cup of tea, I can sit through anything with an appealing storyline - that’s why I loved watching the funny, self-referential nature of Kingsman. Also, I think the True Crime genre prevalent in TV with Fargo, True Detective, The Bridge, parts of The Affair, and so many more prove this kind of programming a powerhouse, along with the popularity of cop shows as serialized like The Wire, from Hill Street Blues before it, and the decline of the more episodic Law and Order sets, although like many other women of my age, we love marathonic episodes of SVU- but in some ways this is because of the topical nature of each episode, as well as Detective Olivia Benson’s presence.    This is despite the lack of character development we get from Benson, in contrast to a serial.

Reading Jenkins' piece again, I realized that a serialized, fan fiction, soap opera-esque version of Star Trek would be much more up my alley. Although Jenkins wrote that male fans of Star Trek dismissed this kind of soap opera-ization of their beloved series is blasphemy,male audiences today are clearly drawn to the long-form serialized genres prevalent in gangster shows like Sopranos and True Crime detective buddy shows turned prestige programming like True Detective. 

And I think Andrejevic’s work, that shows the influence of fan communities, previously marginalized into a strange subculture, are becoming valued more and more in the digital era where marketing and creative both want to know what keeps fans watching. This fan response and desire to see more character development could likely contribute to why all TV is becoming more like a soap opera genre rather than en episodic plot structure with contained story lines. 

Twitter is obviously one of the new frontiers in terms of fan responses to TV programming, best seen through Shonda Rhimes’ live tweeting of Scandal and now the #TGIT brand that ABC caught on after realizing the potential of social media and appointment TV. This is also evident in the Twitter Nielsen ratings. And unlike message boards, Twitter is right there in the open to anyone, rather than a subculture again. Being a fan of a media work is no longer marginalized, but in the mainstream. Producers of these series also become more participatory, engaged with and influenced by pervasive fan and critic responses. 

I wonder what some of you as TV writers think of this shift - since I would imagine most TV writers initially identified as fans themselves, and their writing followed a similar path as what Jenkins' highlights from reading to writing. I've previously thought about how a spec script, in some ways, can function as a form of fan writing, although you can't go outside as much outside of the boundaries of what the TV show is like, so then perhaps that leads to what the TV writer and TV fan wants to see out of the next series.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TV While Pumping Gas

I could have very well been watching TV while pumping gas almost right after class today.

 I didn't realize the existence of a small TV screen playing Access Hollywood at my very own personal gas station fuel area until after I returned from the station's shop, when my tank was done filling up. Whenever I find a bargain on cheaper(er) gas, I see it only fair to treat myself to an unhealthy snack from said shop, which was a slurpee of sorts this time around.  Upon my return, Access Hollywood let me know the breaking news that 50 Shades of Grey was a smash success.

This made me think that such a phenomenon in the early '90s would have been pretty important for someone like McCarty and her research, but for 2015, it isn't surprising or very interesting, but the norm of screen culture and its pervasiveness in our everyday lives.

For the most part, we are no longer really controlled by what our screens choose to show us, but the opposite: what we choose our screens to show us. The homogeneity and same-ness of malls and freeways in the suburbs mirrors the homogeneity of network era TV to some extent, but personalized on demand culture has changed this scope. And had I not gone inside the gas station shop, I would have likely stared at my iPhone screen while waiting, choosing to ignore the Access Hollywood feature.

I Wish Defense was a Part of the NBA All-Star Game, and Other Thoughts from a Former Fan

For the first time in years, I watched the NBA All-Star Game live. I watched it at a bar. Now, it's been some time since I kept up with the NBA, so I was watching it out of obligation (to a years-gone sense of sports fanaticism, to the communal aspect, and to this blog post). McCarthy's assertion that the televisions in healthcare waiting rooms operate as public address rather than private entertainment is mirrored in some way in this social context (201). People go to bars to traffic in the cultural capital that they represent. Why else would you spend more money on alcohol in a space where you can't hear your friends? TV is an integral object in that social performance. While this experience diverges from McCarthy's theorizing on waiting, it does occupy a similar space in that hanging out at a bar is leisure, it is a non-productive activity. The television is transmitting important social and cultural events that are considered a part of citizen performance, so when you engage with the broadcast, you are performing a civic duty -- availing yourself to what corporations think is important, even if you don't really have interest in it. If you're at a bar with a date or friends, or what have you, why are you watching TV?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Core Response 1: Pastrami and the NBA

Sunday evening I watched the NBA All-Star Game, in its entirety, while feverishly shoving pastrami down my throat, accompanied by frequent sips of beer to prevent the catastrophic public display of a Reuben induced death by asphyxiation from traumatizing every other person attempting to enjoy this athletic and commercial belch of programming. Now I perform this routine on more occasions than I should realistically be proud of. 

This Sunday evening’s performance I tried to observe in tandem with my viewing, McCarthy’s concept of televisions in environments typically understood as waiting environments. It was immediately that I noticed that my motivations in seeing this game, while at once academically requested, is something I do frequently. I frequent this restaurant, The Oinkster, in search of an uncomfortable and egregious consumption of food, but mainly to watch the game. I saw my concern that McCarthy’s idea of television viewing in environments of waiting was not going to have much bearing on my viewing because I was going to specifically watch this game, and as an encouraging supplement to my viewing, eat too much. I have done this very activity before at this very establishment, arranged a meet up with friends to eat, drink and watch a basketball game, with semi-earnest and social interest in the outcome of the game. Also, adding to a discussion we had a couple weeks back on the relationship between statistics and the broadcast and viewing of sport events, the fact that I participate in fantasy basketball, generally with the very people who are with me at the restaurant, increases my interest in the game, albeit centered around inconsequential stakes permeated by an unnecessary focus on fickle data.

Moving on, my problem with McCarthy is in no way a disagreement with her ideas. In fact only the night before, I was at a bar and as I stood waiting for either my drink or acknowledgement from one of the bartenders that I wanted a drink, above the bar I witnessed two very large flat-screens both playing for whatever reason Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, on mute with subtitles. I stood there, with nothing much else to do, transfixed by this bizarre silent subtitled film, partnered with the general incomprehensible chatter of everyone in the bar and an unreasonably loud Tribe Called Quest song playing on the speakers throughout. I stood there for quite some time. I believe my desire to wait in this Fitzcaralldo­-chatter-hip hop stupor trumped my initial want for a drink. The mundanity of waiting seemed to leave me for a moment as I began to sort through this barrage and befuddlement of stimuli, even in my own head quietly asking myself “What the fuck is going on here?” And then I ordered my drink and went outside as the routine usually goes.

Back to the Oinkster however, since I realized that my role and wants as a commercial viewer would not be in line with any type of quality of waiting. I instead began observing the exchange of customers throughout the several hours I was there. For the most part very few customers stayed much longer than 30-40 minutes, and with the exception of my party and another, most customers viewing of the game, while enthusiastic, lasted only as long as the meal. So the question arose, why do I come here, a public environment to watch this game? I do often enough to beg the question. The proliferation of establishments with televisions and my lack of cable seemed to satisfy my question. However, I’m sure I could procure some stream online of any of these events in decent enough quality. I’m neither a distracted viewer nor a viewer in waiting. Perhaps I’ve been swept up into the appeal of the very commodification of my activity, and joyfully engage with forms of industrialized culture, and to an extent I find the public arena to better suit this engagement.

CORE RESPONSE 2: "Watching," "Reading" & "Driving"

The hypothesis that television is akin to freeways or malls was a shocker. Having just "driven" home from school, (I use quotes because is going 0 miles per hour really driving?) an act I do daily, I can say that it resonates when considering public TV viewing, an act I rarely do and wish I did even less (much like driving from USC to Sherman Oaks in rush hour). Kowalski's line describing "detached involvement" -- "Perhaps no aspect of the freeway experience is more characteristic than the sudden realization that you have no memory of the past ten minutes of your trip."  is one I have often. In fact, I'll have NPR on the radio and not even notice the shows have changed until I'm stuck in one of Dante's lesser-known rungs of hell: when you've been trapped in your car for so long the news cycle repeats itself. 
Before I get into the similarities I noticed between my public TV viewing experience and driving (Malls? Do those even still exist?) I'd like to make one point: Thinking about television as a window as having replaced other means, like, oh, say, BOOKS as windows is made especially complicated when the writer of said books we are reading use a style of language that is basically incomprehensible. These texts, in particular Morse, uses such dense language that it is painful to read in a way that is not dissimilar from trying to comprehend a nuanced TV show being shown in the middle of a night club. 
That said, I "watched" teevee at a restaurant called Tuning Fork in Studio City. I went there for lunch yesterday and I had never been there before. I was not expecting bougie restaurant to even have TVs, but there they were-- two flat screen TVs front and center. I made sure I sat on the side of the table that faced them. One screen was showing a tennis match and the other was showing a soccer game. Now, I put watch in quotes because it's similar to my experience "driving"-- I was having lunch with a good friend who has been having a bad time lately, the TVs were just far enough away that I could not read the score, and the volume was muted, so I wasn't really "watching" in the traditional sense, or at least in the way that I watch at home. As a TV writer, I respect TV. I know full well how much work went into the creation of any episode of any program and so I watch it with singular focus, as I hope people will do for my shows someday. At this bar however, chunks of time would pass and something on the screen would catch my attention and I'd remember that I was "watching" and try to figure out what had just happened. In this way, I could see the commonalities between the two activities. But at least I can tell you the route I took home (Vermont to the 10 to the 405 to Wilshire to Sepulveda ...) and the annoying white Chevy Cruiser that kept cutting me off. I can't tell you who won either game. 

CORE RESPONSE: The Atmosphere of Waiting

Have you ever waited for an appointment at Planned Parenthood? Or taken an LA city bus across town? They’re really interesting public spaces in which television plays a large role in the atmosphere of waiting. They’re both spaces that have the concerns of their generally low-income audience in mind, but deal with this audience in very different ways based on general wait time and emotional state, thus creating different atmospheres of waiting.  

Unlike waiting rooms described by Anna McCarthy in “Television While You Wait,” the programing on televisions at Planned Parenthood does not “serve as an outreach tool, targeting particular populations.” (203) In fact, it is quite the opposite. Due to the high stress of many of the patients awaiting procedures as extreme as abortions, Planned Parenthood’s programing is primarily concerned with creating an atmosphere of calm. Instead of short, informational segments, it’s longer form narratives such as TV movies - but still broken up by quieter, less jarring commercials. Perhaps they know better than to aggressively advertise to women in moments of distress who are not currently very receptive to their message. 

In this high-stress environment, the television is a tool of distraction and crowd control. The longer narrative forms make the wait less apparent and palpable. The programs in these waiting rooms are also generally of a lighter nature - think romantic comedies and Disney films. These programs help combat the anxiety of what awaits the patient on the other side of the waiting room door. 

Compare this programming now to what one would find riding a city bus across Los Angeles. This programing is much closer to what McCarthy describes as designed for public spaces. It’s a lot of trivia, short informational segments about Los Angeles, and light-hearted, happy, and relaxed commercials. Like McCathy says, these programs require “minimal cognitive and emotional investments,” and thus are “easily integrated into the comings and goings of public space.” (212) 

Since those riding the bus generally have shorter wait times and come and go more often than patients at Planned Parenthood, the programing reflects that by being shorter and less emotionally engaging. Also, it can be more commodity-focused, since there is generally little emotional turmoil associated with riding the bus, compared to waiting for a doctor. 

I would say that both approaches are successful, though different because they take into account the mood of those waiting and cater a desired atmosphere that diminishes the emotional toll of waiting. Both are effectively integrated into the rhythms of the space. 

TV in the Gallery

Looking at the presence of television in public spaces, Anna McCarthy (2001) argues that it blends in with the temporal organization of particular institutions and places. At the same time, it transforms the notion of waiting as ‘wasted’ or ‘dead’ time and uses it to transmit commercial or educational information in discrete and unintrusive ways. In an enormously productive move, she refrains from attributing uniform ideological effects to television and advocates a site-specific approach that takes into account the placement of the TV set, the function of a space, and the nature of the audience in different cases. 
Source: Guggenheim

Source: New York Times
While she deals primarily with commercial and medical establishments such as doctor’s waiting rooms and restaurants, I wanted to put her approach in conversation with the space of the gallery. Even though art galleries are not entirely free from commercial considerations, they structure movement and attention in distinctive ways. In contrast to academic discourse which has often de-valued television, the TV set has occupied a prominent place within the gallery in a way that emphasizes its formal qualities and highlights its physical frame. I’m drawn in particular to some of the works of pioneering video artist Nam June Paik (1932-2006), who extensively used the television as an aesthetic device. In his work TV Clock (1963), Paik puts twenty-four TV sets parallel to one another, each representing an hour of the day. They’re placed vertically on top of pedestals and the image on screen is compressed into a bar of light. (A short video on how he came up with this here.) The bar is angled differently in each set to reflect the movement of the hands of a clock. Interestingly, the flow of time is represented through the static television set to highlight the tension between passive consumption and a sense of active engagement. The work coincides with some of McCarthy’s concerns as the arrangement of the sets speaks to the way in which television structures temporality. But by inviting the audience to reflect on the fact of this ordering, Paik seeks to reimagine the possibilities of this new temporal structure. Moreover, by obfuscating the signal and distorting the image, he subverts the utilitarian and disciplining functions of ambient television. In some ways, Paik's work seems contiguous with McLuhan's focus on TV as a medium that exerts a cultural force which breeds its own ways of seeing, being and thinking.


CORE RESPONSE #1: JLO While You Wait

I spent this past Valentine’s Day at the recently opened Del Frisco’s Grille in Pasadena. The wait time was outrageous, leading many couples to pass their wait time in the restaurant’s bar area. As I sat there waiting for a table, the multiple screens (that amplified the bar but were completely hidden from view in the dining area) displayed two different shows; half of the screens showed a hockey game, while the others featured the Jennifer Lopez documentary Dance Again.
Del Frisco’s bar space itself raised an interesting question for me. Generally, bars are spaces in which communal enjoyment of televised events (sports in particular) is considered the norm. In other places, as McCarthy demonstrated in her research on Planet Hollywood, the television is a part of the overall experience. However, how does one classify a space such as this one? This bar, especially on Valentine’s Day, is, in a sense, a waiting room. Does that ultimately make the bar what McCarthy would classify as a “serialized environment” even if the next stop is the consumer’s ultimate destination (McCarthy 197)?

On another note, I also found myself fascinated by the juxtaposition of the two shows themselves within the space. The Lopez documentary is not something that one would generally find in a bar, to say the least. Based on the images displayed, it seems to fall more under the lines of a reality show as opposed to a documentary. Interestingly, the show was muted and did not include subtitles, whereas the hockey game was on full aural display. This seems to speak to McCarthy’s idea that television in the waiting room acts as “an environmental distraction that somehow changes the overall affective experience of being there” (McCarthy 197). Clearly, the restaurant attempted to promote the “sports experience” of the bar even though spectators were not expected to stay for the duration of the game. So, then, what was the point of displaying this other show? Perhaps, the space attempted to provide an “effective experience” based on gender. In a different direction, this choice in show may speak to McCarthy’s discussion of passing time. Showing this type of show as a “way of passing time suddenly legitimizes” the show itself. Thus, waiting spaces seem to not only legitimize the act of viewing itself, but also what may be viewed.
Kelsey Moore

Core Response 2: Individualized Screens in Public Spaces

A voyage inspires creativity for a limited time, afterwards, the individual must return from a state of absentmindedness to actuality and rely on alternative forms of entertainment. An exemption to this idea can only be granted if the environment in which the individual is located offers forms of distraction to decrease the perception of time. In Anna McCarthy’s chapter “Television While You Wait,” the scholar explores the role of televised content in “waiting rooms” that incorporate the apparatus into the space as an antidote to anxious emotions erupting as a result of time confining an individual into a seemingly perpetual infinite cycle of ennui. To bring some perspective, I am going to contextualize McCarthy’s thesis around television in public spaces by applying my own subjective spectatorial observational experiences in my flight from Los Angeles to New York City.

First off, we need to decentralize the waiting room as site for passing time in certain institutions. McCarthy, in her essay, writes: “the waiting area is not the only place where we use TV sets to pass time […] TV sets are installed in public zones…” (197). McCarthy’s analysis is appropriate today considering that mobile technologies with streaming capabilities place autonomy on the spectator to watch anyplace where a television screen may not fit. Such example would be the case in an aircraft, particularly a specific model. My trip from Los Angeles to New York City this past weekend—upon doing the readings and engaging in this “in-between” “non-space”—made me reflect on this notion of derealized space brought forth by Margaret Morse. The design of the aircraft I boarded was designed to make the trip a perfected individualized experience by gifting viewers with access to specialized content. As opposed to having one central screen with uniformed content (a feature), individual screens with a built-in remote control to provide complementary television content distributed by DirectTV.

Perhaps this individual choice allows passengers to select content tailored to their preferences. However, did everyone use the medium? Not necessarily. Some brought content with them on their mobile devices and others opted to engage in other activities. Waiting for landing inside a time capsule suspended above in the air certainly raises questions around derealized space and how each person has control over their content…and others who reject the flow of entertainment by doing something worthwhile, like read a book…or recuperate hours of sleep. The aircraft as vectoring flow and time. Certain aircraft no longer create an egalitarian viewing practice; individualization is the future. 

Core Response #3: Marking Time in Little Galen

Lunchtime in the Little Galen dining facility.

The TV streams run unrelentingly: three main projector screens, several smaller LCDs. The facility represents a partnership between USC Hospitality office and the Athletics division, so the televisions host a constant drone of ESPN. Two channels of it: ESPN and ESPN News. One of them has the audio up. The other is muted, reduced to a hyper-visual news ticker. In any event, the emphasis seems less a matter of specific content and more of the effect of the background visual noise. No one in the room seems to be watching. That is, until the USC logo appears on the chyron. Someone applauds.

Boosterism. Little Galen is a hive of USC pride: sports pendants; murals of the national champion swimming team; the school colors everywhere. Fight on. The overall effect is martial. This is a war room. ESPN is a perfect complement to the spirit of the space.

Beatriz Colomina writes about the war of the domestic space, the rhetoric of violence entering the private sphere. Could anything be as militaristic than football game analysis? We've discussed other qualities of sports broadcasting in previous weeks, but one of the most striking aspects of contemporary televised sports is the minutiae. Strategic choices by coach/generals are given infinite airing and rehashing. Minute tactical decisions by men in the trenches are praise or lamented in precisely diagrammed replays. Then follows the off-season dissection of the political economy of free agency and front office intrigue that will shape future campaigns. Watching sports analysis on ESPN is like reading John Keegan on Normandy. In as much as the TV stream in Little Galen is intended first for the audience of USC athletes, it seems intent on inculcating in them the ideology of home team warcraft.

And then there are the rest of us. We can dine in Little Galen only between the hours of 11:30 and 1:30. Then the civilians are hustled out. Time is always ticking away. In "Television While You Wait," Anna McCarthy observes the way in which television structures time both within the home and in public space. With the sound down or unintelligible under the lunchtime din, the screens surrounding the dining space in Little Galen serve a curious ambient function, something precisely like McCarthy's notion of deadness.

A news ticker flits by at the bottom of either channel's image. The lefthand edge of the picture contains a second standard, this one an agenda for the next fifteen minutes of broadcast time. A series of talking heads and replay images fills the balance of the screen. Men run and leap, tackle and pass in slo-mo. Chattering analysts, pundits, and journalists cycle through. The overall effect is of a constant flow of information that overlaps our brief visit to the dining room but has no direct relation to it. We are dipping in on an infinite stream. The feeling is of a sort of temporal smudge. One never quite feels how long one's been sitting in Little Galen. That is, until the helpful staff comes through to make sure we're on our way out.

Core Response: Television, Right on Target

Core Response No. 3 - Week 6
Television, Right on Target
by Bobby Sevenich

Like most kids, I frequently (and begrudgingly) ran errands with mom, and Target was a habitual stop on the route. Of course, when I was very young I was required to stay at my mom’s side while she shopped, but I savored the moments when we passed by the aisles of toys and games. As I got older, my recreational preferences shifted from playing with action figures to watching movies. After a certain age, I was allowed to temporarily separate from my mom so she could look for what she wanted and I could peruse through the movie section. Browsing through the electronics section helped pass the time while I waited for my mom to complete her shopping.

At the ends of VCR/DVD racks, TVs monitors were mounted and played looped programs advertising a given month’s upcoming video and music releases through alacritous montages film clips. Though I salivated while gazing at the DVDs on the shelves, I also used that solitary time to watch the promotional video so I was on top of the home video release calendar. I distinctly remember that the looped videos delineated the time I spent away from my mother; two cycles of the video accounted for roughly ten minutes away from my mom. Once I measured two cycles, I knew it was time to meet my mom at the front of the store. From an early age, television was not only an omnipresence in many of my public experiences, but TV monitors also validated my wait time while shopping with my mom – corroborating McCarthy’s argument that “watching is a way of passing time suddenly legitimized when it takes place in waiting environments” (Television While You Wait, 199).

This past weekend, I took a customary trip to Target and ventured into the electronics section (as I often do, but typically without a critical agenda). Thank goodness for consistency, because just as before the TV screens—though more conspicuous—loomed above the plastic shelves of new Blu-ray/DVD releases. It was evident that the TV screens served an obvious hegemonic purpose; they were merely marketing tools for Target. Equally, the adjacent section promoted interactive video games on assorted flat-screen TVs for purchase. These set not only showcased the ideal videogames for which the TVs were meant to bolster but also promote themselves through the demonstration. This is an obvious observation. While Target is an explicitly concerned with consumerism and the Target shoppers are “well aware of the store’s commercial purpose” (Ibid, 214), I couldn’t help but consider McCarthy’s claim that TVs in these spaces “have a key structural role in the flow economy of television, working to direct attention toward a commercial address during a period of waiting” (Ibid, 214). I wonder how—or even if—the screens and their cyclical promotional programs in Target and other retail stores continue to demarcate wait time for me and other shoppers.