Monday, April 27, 2015

Core Response 5 (2.0) - The Medium Has Collapsed

In her chapter “Television Outside the Box”, Amanda Lotz gives an in depth and somewhat retrospective analysis of what she calls revolutionized television of 2007. Reading this chapter, eight years later in 2015, generally bolsters my own fascination with the ongoing evolution of post-network TV distribution. As digital “pure play” streaming platforms such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix continue to escalate in popularity, and with the emergence of subscription based exclusive streaming services like Vessel, Lotz’s questions surrounding audience fragmentation remain relevant. Lotz argues that with the introduction of new technological advances in the reception and aesthetics of TV, “Viewers gained greater control over their entertainment experience, yet became attached to an increasing range of devices that demanded their attention and financial support,” (51).

The decentralization of TV viewing (that is to say we no longer only consume TV in our living rooms on our sofas) along with the disruption of linear programming and flow (we can set our at home DVR’s to record chosen programs with a few clicks on our cell phones) that Lotz and others began to observe in the early 2000’s have become dominant practices in television consumption.

Lotz highlights a distinction between mobile TV for convenience and portable TV for the desire of immediacy when discussing the viewer motivations for engaging in alternative modes of TV consumption. Mobile TV which allows viewers to “disrupt the networks” by use of DVR and VOD becomes even more disruptive in the form of portable TV – which in early stages came by way of DVD box sets and in newer formats consists of online streaming via tablets and mobile apps.

Portable TV redefines the medium itself by breaking apart the traditional structure of TV consumption and opening up the possibility of TV being viewed anywhere, at any time an in any conceivable way. We can essentially go about our daily lives in constant company of our favorite TV programs at our beckon call.  To take things a step further, these new modes of disruption have prompted an overhaul in the actual development and production of TV. Network executives are thinking about millennial online audiences who don’t have cable subscriptions. Tech startups are conjuring the next big online/mobile streaming platforms. Internet celebrity wannabes are clamoring to post viral content.  TV isn’t made for TV anymore. The medium has collapsed.  

In “Flexible Microcasting”, Lisa Parks outlines the different ways in which the Networks – through personalized and gender targeted programming, the re-imagining of traditional quiz shows, and use of Internet based branded content – attempted to “transition viewers into online domains,” (138). Parks uses the term “post-broadcasting” to describe the integration of on air broadcasting programs with Internet based computer technologies.

What is most interesting for me here is Parks’ reading of the failure of DEN as a partial product of its “anti-television rhetoric”. Parks states that, “The economic viability of the Den was built on the assumption that youth would want to turn off network and cable TV and turn on the DEN in a search for salient content – that is, content deemed too fringe for broadcast television,” (151). She posits that DEN’s unwillingness to tap into the hybrid potential of Internet TV contributed to its obsolescence. 

Almost prophetically, Internet streaming of TV programs began taking over as a prime popular mode of consumption just a few years after Parks’ chapter was written.  The Internet through Hulu, Netflix, Amazon (and countless other ‘bootleg’ digital options) has emerged as perhaps Network TV’s greatest ally, and simultaneously its most daunting competitor. Furthermore, with digital pure play platforms like Netflix and Amazon producing their own original content traditionally constructed meaning of TV has all but collapsed in terms of conception, production and consumption.  

1 comment:

  1. Myah -

    I think the question of pure play and the "collapse" of television raises a question that we've been treating in various ways over the term - "what is television"? It seems Lotz and Parks, in their sense of "televisions" and changing screen cultures argue for television as an apparatus or series of apparatuses which enable the viewing of content. I wonder if television might also be characterized or described by the content itself - which is also evolving. For example, could television be anything 1) episodic or serialized (with installments), 2) visually based, or featuring visuals and dialogue with some level of movement, 3) that is viewed on a screen of any kind? This of course would be the broadest possible definition, which raises the question of if television is still a useful term to describe these new media forms. In some ways, saying "television" might be like saying, "movies," though - referring to format of content (length, structure, viewer expectation) versus platform on which this content is viewed.

    Another thought is about the word television itself - which refers to "viewing at a distance" - who might this notion of "distance" relate to the perceived "intimacy" of online screen spaces such as social media sites? Can these sights, and personal webisodes, etc. that work to collapse distance be televisual, or is their personal and "close" nature part of what makes them "anti-television" (in addition to dealing with material, themes and styles not able to be broadcast elsewhere)?

    -Allison Ross