The central question of the mass communication studies, as outlined by Seiter, is/was the emphasis on audience activity rather than passivity. (Seiter 462) How should passivity be theorized in the age of Tumblr and Twitter? How does passivity operate in the context of a media-consuming environment in which integrating and negotiating fictive narratives via into one’s own social experience seems to be the only way for (young) people to watch television?
I’ll use myself as an example. I need to start by confessing that I do not watch Scandal, which is considered sacrilegious for a young Black women. But, I do find immense pleasure in literally just posting up in Twitter (for sometimes it feels like a physical space) so I can witness Scandal livetweeting. All I do is read them, rely on my very basic knowledge of the show (who Olivia is, what she does, the fact that she is having an affair with Fitz the President, that her mom is a terrorist, that she has an epic lip tremble, is always drinking red wine, and has a very luxe, sophisticated wardrobe...and that when he was on the show, Harrison had no storyline to speak of), and laugh aloud to myself and marvel at how Black people collectively make everything funny. You see, reading these tweets is important to my identity as a young Black American who, faced with the oppressive weight of the world, needs escapist entertainment. It is a form of catharsis and healing. But let me repeat, I do not watch the show. (I tried...I promise...I just couldn’t get past how the show’s soundtracking.) Is there something to be said for the fact that I derive pleasure from audience labor inspired by specific media rather than the media itself? When one moves past Twitter, and considers Tumblr, the labor is considerable. As Andrejevic states (cue implicit updates of current technology):
The notion of the social factory coincides with the creation of an interactive consumer–viewer, one prepared to devote time and energy to developing the skills necessary to participate in an increasingly interactive media economy. The list of such skills is becoming increasingly long and includes the ability not only to operate a computer and surf the internet but also to master an array of devices including VCR programmers, cell phones, palm pilots, video games, and so on. (30)
Further, what does it mean that said audience analysis does not only reject “aesthetic distance,” as outlined by Jenkins (471) but conceives as fans as experts of the aesthetics and themes?
With that, I leave you all with a meme inspired by the villian of the hour and the gold that is Black Twitter.
Andrejevic, Mark. “Watching Television Without Pity: The Productivity of Online Fans.” Television & New Media. Vol. 9, Issue 24 (2008). 24-46. Web.
Jenkins, Henry. “Star Trek: Rerun, Reread, Rewritten, Fan Writing as Textual Poaching.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication. Vol. 5, Issue 2 (1988): 470-494. Print.
Seiter, Ellen. “Qualitative Audience Research.” The TV Studies Reader. Eds. Robert C. Allen, Annette Hill. New York: Routledge, 2004. 461-477. Print.