Blog Post

Day 1: Television and Television Studies in the 21st Century

Tonight I found myself, once again, in room 2435 within the University of Michigan’s North Quad attending a conference. Unlike the last time (which was two years ago at HASTAC V) the topic of this conference (hosted by the Communication Studies department) is about television and not Digital Scholarly Communication. Despite the difference, the room was still abuzz with a bevy of talented television teachers, students, and academics who discussed not only the past but the present and future of television studies. Below I have inserted an overview of my notes for the opening presentations and I will end this post with some questions that I have posed for myself. In addition, follow me at @Violafaithe90 or #TV21CC to get regular live tweets from the next two days of panels that I plan to attend (Friday: Digital Television and Saturday: Television, Text, and Identity).   

Thursday September 26, 2013 4-6pm

Opening remarks by Aswin Punathambekar and Amanda Lotz (University of Michigan)

·         Aswin Punathambekar (@aswinp)

o   The night began with Aswin putting up some questions to keep in mind. These include, but were not limited to:

§  How does television orient itself to the world outside of television and how does the world orient itself in relation to the televisual space?

§  In light of the 2008 financial crisis and the political unrest in multiple countries around the world, What might it mean to think about the post-capitalist world in comparison to the post-colonial?

§  How can we avoid producing a singular sociological vision for the world in our research?

§  What practices of reading, writing, and watching television must we change in this new world?

·         Amanda Lotz

o   Began her discussion by examining concerns about the death of television that have been pronounced over the past decade

o   The relationship between new media and television

§  Thinking about television as no longer old media but in its reincarnated state within the digital realm

§  Is there a difference between television online and offline i.e. video vs. television

§  What is the future of television in the “post-network era”?

·         Reminded me of my HASTAC post on Netflix and House of Cards

These opening addresses were followed by the main panel titled “Television Past, Present, and Future: Television and The City”

1.      Keynote by Charlotte Brunsdon, University of Warwick

a.       Discussed television through the lens of British programming, specifically television as national broadcast medium

b.      Referenced Troy Kennedy Martin’s work on the mythology of television and its medium specificity i.e. the convergence behind television that pre-dates the conception of 21st century television

c.       Discussed how we can learn about television not only through programming but through the beliefs and assumptions of television viewers

d.      Posited the importance of collaboration with other scholars when studying television

e.       The image of the global city and/or the television city i.e. New York or London

f.       Two common ways of portraying London in Television

                                                              i.      The multi-cultural utopia ex. Desmond’s

                                                            ii.      London as Victorian/Dickensonian City ex. Ripper Street, Sherlock

g.      Media as an important part of the history and genealogy of a city

2.      Michael Curtin (University of California-Santa Barbara)

a.       Separates the three panelists into discussions on meanings (Brunsdon), institutions (Curtin) and audiences (Gray) in relation to the television city

b.      Asks the question “Where does television come from?”

                                                              i.      20th century tv as suburban, national, and international

                                                            ii.      21st century tv as urban, national, international, and global

c.       The glocalization of television as a presentation of the local in a globalized space

d.      Global cities that produce television tend to be port cities which encourage the flow of not only information and industry but learning and opportunities

e.       The difference between Global Cities and Media Capitals

                                                              i.      The commercial production cities: Bollywood, Hollywood, etc

                                                            ii.      The official media capitals of the world

f.       How can we think about the influence of policy in the production of television?

3.      Jonathan Gray (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

a.       Discussed the relationship between producers, texts, and audiences

                                                              i.      How is television distributed? How does the text get to us?

                                                            ii.      The role that piracy and video-sharing play in how, what, why, and when we watch television

b.      Example of the people of Malawi who find media relevance in Dolly Parton but not Madonna

                                                              i.      What type of media do people receive and how does it influence their image/perception of people and places?

c.       How does what we watch on television influence us as people?

Overall it was a great first day, and in true Raymond Williams fashion I will say that some of the keywords for the night were globalization, flow, convergence, urban/city, and digital humanities. In discussion, which was mediated by Susan Douglass, questions discussed collaboration in the 21st century, whether there was still a stigma to studying television, whether or not there was a language barrier in the dissemination of global television texts, and the role that culture played in the production of individual television texts and the appropriation of television shows from other cultures.

In reference to my own work, some questions and ideas that I am currently mulling over (which I would love to hear the community weigh in on) are:

·         What is television? i.e. the recent separation between the television device and content

·         Who watches television?

·         The role of fandom and youth culture in the globalization of television?

o   SuperDrWhoLock and Tumblr’s devoted to British programming

o   Teen television as mainly produced by CanadaTv (CTV)

o   The popularity of Japanese anime and Korean and Chinese dramas

·         The online space as a revolutionary realm for the future of television

I will spend this weekend, and probably the rest of my research, working through these questions and writing about how the conference plays out and some of my thoughts so stay tuned.

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