‘Liveness’ and ‘Sharedness’ Outside the Box
Graeme Turner / University of Queensland


What Television Was

Having just begun the process of writing something like this myself, I have discovered that there is an emerging mini-genre in television studies of essays or chapters in books which address a question that is variously framed as ‘what is television?’ or sometimes ‘what was television’? Provoked by questions such as Joshua Green’s ‘Why do they call it TV when it’s not on the box?’,1 these pieces address the problem of deciding exactly what we are doing when we watch television content online. So far, there is no agreed answer – although there are lots of interesting discussions of the problem. The fact that the question is raised at all, however, suggests the existence of a fairly persistent suspicion that the actual technology being used is a definitive factor: if it isn’t ‘on the box’, then how can it be television? What makes this unsatisfying, of course, to just about everyone who has written about it, is the equally persistent recognition that much of the content in question has either been produced for television in the first place, or looks like it could have been. As a contribution to this continuing set of definitional anxieties, I wonder if we need to turn more towards investigating the similarities, rather than the differences, between the viewer’s experience of consuming television via ‘the box’ and via the computer.


The Viewer is No Longer Bound by Schedule

Among the most familiar lines of argument used to define the specific attributes of the experience of television include an emphasis on ‘liveness’, and on ‘sharedness’. With ‘liveness’, the immediacy of live television is regarded as fundamental even though, once the capacity to record and replay was developed, so much television (particularly prime-time) is pre-recorded. Notwithstanding, there is still a view that television is at its most essential when it is live – an argument that I made myself in my last column for FlowTV.2 The ‘sharedness’3 argument also draws its power from television’s beginnings: television’s original function in most places as a national medium –its infrastructure often established by the state and its audience defined by their membership of a national community. An important component of television’s capacity to construct a sense of community or belonging, the argument goes, is a sense of the co-presence of the imagined community of the nation—hence the shared nature of television’s consumption.


Online Consumption is Highly Individualized

On the face of it, transnational cable and satellite television troubles this model significantly; even more so, the way we view television online. The online pattern of consumption is highly individualized, through personal choices taken from extensive menus or playlists, calling up a more fragmented and atomized audience than that which is gathered by broadcast television. Furthermore, the function of the audience has been blurred by the digital capacity to copy, reproduce, forward and edit downloaded sound and vision – that is, to function as a producer. Consumption also involves a form of distribution, as one viewer after another connects to the many through a series of individual but networked transactions. Our capacity to choose, to timeshift, to control, brings in a different kind of immediacy, one that the consumer orchestrates, not the network or the producer. And so, routinely, the problem for the ‘what is television?’ chapter is to find a way of accounting for the fact that television content has been disaggregated from the platforms that once distributed it, and has been transformed into something else – that looks like television, but isn’t on the box.


Television Content Has Been Disaggregated From the Box

Perhaps the differences aren’t as clear as we might think. It is absolutely routine, for instance, for the consumer to be invited to ‘share’ what they have just consumed via the various social network possibilities provided through the web. This capacity seems to be an important one, since it is so vigorously used – generating the phenomenon of going viral. Daniel Dayan’s discussion of the ‘sharedness’ of what he calls the heyday of ‘central television’ (that is, a television system designed to connect ‘centers to peripheries’), asks if this function, of sharing, can be performed by other media.4 The answer seems to be a resounding yes. Social networking is about little else, as the imagined co-presence becomes both visible and specific.

I would also argue that the experience of consuming online replicates aspects of the liveness claimed as fundamental for television. Anthropologist Richard Wilk’s discussion of the introduction of satellite television in the developing state of Belize argues that this technology changed people’s ‘perception of time’.5 According to Wilk, it was the immediacy, the liveness, of this feed that was significant: the direct transmission of material from outside that was being consumed at the same time in the metropolitan centre of New York, for instance, as it was in Belize. This eliminated the actual and the perceived time lag between the world of Belize and the world of achieved modernity, reducing the difference between Belize and that world to geography and culture rather than temporality.


Consuming Online Replicates “Livedness”

Elsewhere, I have reported on an analogous response to my own ‘first contact’ with cable/satellite television in Australia – where cable was introduced, embarrassingly late, during the mid-1990s. Describing my first experience of watching a political event from London live on Sky and CNN – it was the election of the first Blair government in 1997—I noted the ‘pleasures of access, the metropolitanising buzz’ experienced as a result of this direct temporal connection with the metropolitan centre. Importantly, however, I explained that ‘buzz’ by comparing it to the feelings ‘many of us experienced when first introduced to the Internet’.6 As C.Peiper, in a comment on my previous FlowTV column in January pointed out, it is not just the pleasures of access, and it is not just the linking up with transnational time. It is also about sharing an experience that is unpredictable and continually immanent:

‘living in an environment in which the media I consume daily is–typically—so tightly controlled, scheduled, programmed, spun, biased, re-clipped, re-reported, and then satirized nightly (a la John Stewart or Bill Maher), watching a true televisual event, be it a natural disaster or the protests in Egypt, which disallows canning and prepackaging by virtue of its unpredictable and uncontrollable nature—well, it absolutely mesmerizes me.’7

I think that description works for more than the consumption of live television. If liveness includes a sense of the shrinking temporal gap between oneself and the rest of the world, as well as a palpable sense of immediacy, then this is something we can find as readily online as in television. This is a possibility worth following: that what was once done only on the box is now also accomplished by other means. As Dayan puts it, ‘today’s situation is perhaps less the story of a dethroned television faced with a new dominant medium than that of a gradual accommodation, a reluctant partnership, a multi-tiered public sphere’.8 This implies much less of a distinction between the qualities of the experience of consuming television through the box and through online media than is customarily drawn.

Image Credits:

1. What Television Was
2. The Viewer is No Longer Bound by Schedule
3. Online Consumption is Highly Individualized
4. Television Content Has Been Disaggregated From the Box
5. Consuming Online Replicates “Livedness”

Please feel free to comment.

  1. Joshua Green (2008) ‘Why Do They Call it TV When It’s Not On the Box?: “New” Television Services and “Old” Television Functions’, Media International Australia, 126, 95-105. []
  2. FlowTV 28 January, 2011 []
  3. Daniel Dayan (2009) ‘Sharing and Showing: Television as monstration’, in ‘The End of Television? Its Impact on the World (So Far), special issue of The Annals of The American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 625, September, 19-31. []
  4. Dayan 20 []
  5. Richard R. Wilk (2003) ‘Television, Time and the National Imaginary in Belize’, in Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin (eds) Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain University of California Press, Berkeley, 171-188. []
  6. Graeme Turner. Ending the Affair: The decline of television current affairs in Australia , Allen and Unwin: Sydney, 2005; 131 []
  7. FlowTV January 28, 2011 []
  8. Dayan, 20 []


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  • Thank you for the post, Graeme. I wonder what you think of Youtube as television? While the majority of it is cute animals and amateur parodies, there is some online production that is produced for Youtube, or is popularized by it, that seems like television. For example “The Guild” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKkVIbA5iyE) used an episodic sitcom format and eventually got enough hits to get advertisers.

  • Yes, Nestor, it is precisely that kind of example which has encouraged me to look at the similarities and continuities between ‘TV’ and the forms of television that pop up online. It is pretty clear that a lot of the work which is produced for distribution online is produced in ways that implement formal and generic structures that we would once have identified solely and unproblematically with television. That, of course, opens up the kinds of the debates I referred to at the beginning of this piece, which is about. among other things, defining television as a complex of genres rather than as a technology of exhibition or distribution. At this stage, I don’t think there is a way of doing this convincingly, and it may be better to think about the kinds of relations between viewers and content – relations that are not determined by the technologies used– as among the things that can define what is going on when we watch things that look like television but which are accessed by YouTube.

  • Great post. It really is an extremely relevant topic right now. In some ways you can look at it as a generational divide. This last Christmas, my aunts and uncles were extremely interested that I haven’t had a TV for the past few years, and that I watched all the television shows online for free. Although it seemed strange to them that I use a different physical object to view the shows, it is interesting to think about how similar the technology really is. My aunts and uncles have thousands of channels to choose from, and can record and re-watch shows all the time. But I can theoretically watch the EXACT same material, and can watch it on repeat as well. It really feels like TVs are turning into internet-compatible-computers (including TV shows that literally air crazy clips from youtube and funny or die), and computers are turning into TVs (huge screens, network shows online, etc). There is so much talk about the fall of traditional TV, but really it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I think that looking at the vast similarities is really a good way to look at it, because they are both becoming basically the same thing; visual “projection” screens that facilitate “live” and “shared” media.

    What you said about our perception of time changing due to more light-speed, globally-spanning media is really interesting. It reminded me of something that new media theorist, I think Marshall Mcluhan, has said about new light-speed technology. He talks about how the internet shrinks both space AND time, and so has made our new society more like smaller, indigenous tribal communities. When we all see the same shows all at the same time on TV sets and on our computers, we have communal, shared stories and constant communication that hearkens back to the, what he calls “timelessness” of aural-tradition-based cultures. I totally agree that, at this point, trying to separate traditional television from the internet is basically futile.

  • Caitlin Starowicz

    With the advent of online broadcasting, we called for an artistic revolution – a shift that would see the divide erased between those who could make media due to their affluence and education and those who could not make media. This would democratize art and bring cultural expression to all classes. In this world free from critics and gatekeepers of culture who are classically trained by the culturally elite, everyone was free to break the bonds of their class restrictions to question and break down unfair and repressive regimes.
    Flash-forward to 2011, and ordinary people can make their voices heard all over the globe and present images to millions of people. Unfortunately, those images are generally of Nora, the piano-playing cat, two otters holding hands, and a hysterical fan screaming and imploring us to “leave Britney alone!” YouTube has revolutionized viewing practices around the globe, but has it done so for the positive?
    Admittedly, the concept alone is a testament to the democratization of art, but is this really beneficial when all that is produced is geared to please by appealing to the lowest forms of humour? Arguably, YouTube has done this. It is hard to argue with the dream of artistic expression for all, but is there not also an argument for the idea that when a practice is all too accessible, it loses some of it’s aura and becomes degraded into a form of mass art where the goal is not enlightenment but only base reactions? As an example, while the proliferation of YouTube has indeed allowed for the dissemination of some innovative and revolutionary works, the vast majority of clips uploaded and viewed are either re-runs of syndicated television broadcasts (NB. ALL seasons of “America’s Next Top Model” can be seen on YouTube), cute animal videos, or revolting reactions to the “2 Girls, 1 Cup” phenomenon. Can this really be called revolutionary? Is this the result of the democratization of the medium?
    Though it can be argued that if this is the product of democratization, it must be what the public wants, there can also be benefits to making the medium less available and more exclusive. This is not to say that film should be only be used by the elite and the affluent, but when a medium is more valuable for its scarcity it becomes precious and encourages that thought and planning go into the product. If the creator of art knows that this process is not endlessly repeatable, then would they not put a greater effort into only producing work that they truly felt mattered?
    This is not an issue that I see a solution to – of course I believe that audio-visual media should be accessible for all to create, but if there is still a market for the “gross-out” clip of watching people eat disgusting things or the intellectually vacant joys of watching someone get hurt on camera, this kind of clip will always be produced. Perhaps then, it is the audience that needs to be revolutionized, not the medium. Perhaps media is already imperfect enough, and all that we need now is to create a market for it by proving that the revolutionary is more socially valuable than the vapid.

  • I find it interesting that as technology seems to connect the world more tightly it is also individualizing us by our entertainment preferences. In addition, T.V., just as it has always represented the world, is now being represented by different and more novel forms of technology. In some ways, television is a thing of the past that can now only be represented by things of the present. The medium seems to have shifted but the message still remains in the mediators(T.V. shows).

  • Samantha Taylor

    I find it completely fascinating that people would rather watch shows on their cell phones then a television screen. I feel that sitting down and actually paying attention to a show means I want the best experience possible. A little screen that fits in my hand, and headphones that baracades me from the rest of world does not give the same experience as a television on a comfortable couch. For one, there is not as much detail in the picture, it is much too small. For two, on the go is no way to enjoy a show. The experience to me is about relaxing and enjoying the escape from reality. If your television experience becomes just another part of the reality in which you live, it becomes a pointless advertisement in your life, just like a billboard.
    Personally, I enjoy the experience of an alternate reality that television provides as a ‘box’.

  • I personally have never thought there is a difference between media consumption whether on a traditional “box”, a phone, computer. You are consuming content that is controlled by a very few “gatekeepers” whose goals are to produce more consumption to increase the bottom line and make the case for a pervasive almost universal ideology that is about narrowing the spectrum of views in order to dominate. i agree with the article that there is a reluctant partnership between media while there is still a “lack of control” over all new forms of media by the traditional elite. Soon the large corporate conglomerates will wrest control of these independent avenues (one that are still left) because that is how business works. The goal is to annihilate your competition. The German War strategist Carl Von Clausewitz ideas are used in business as well as military circles of power. Without constant technological innovation with regards to the production of ways of distributing media information to the world public and proper government regulation with regards to anti-trust violations we the public are going to be increasingly bombarded by similar ideological content.

  • For me, I think the persistence of identity of television isn’t quite associated with the qualitative shifts in technology as much as the idea of content and what television, since its inception, has abstractly sought to do with this content. I think for the most part we can refer to the idea of television being the same today as it was yesterday because if we didn’t, we would be excluding television the ability to survive any changes. Therefore, such technological advances of the past like its transition to color or wider screen formats would have already marked television’s shift in no longer being television, not just the digital shift in which it has now undergone.
    But with televisions relocation to the internet, I agree there has been a greater expansion and change in the customs and practices associated with television; much of which we’re still uncertain of. The new idea of consumption through the internet seems to create the ultimate discursive possibility to access content. Shows are no longer confined to the barriers normally associated with “traditional television”, one can view, replay and access content anywhere with seemingly no restrictions. The internet itself doesn’t necessarily stand as an object of difference, its inclusion into our daily lives provides a means to make content and users closer. The ways in which content is distributed is also subject to change. I do feel that it has become more individualized in a viewing sense (one person watching on a computer) but I don’t think it has been “separated” from its distribution; it has just changed the way it is distributed. These new ways possess the possibility to reach more viewers globally in a faster way.
    The idea of production I think has been affected the most by this shift. There seems to be no binary anymore between viewers and producers. There is this new middle ground where viewers, through places like Youtube, can become producers, everyone now has the ability and means to make content and make it readily accessible to audiences. This will definitely have an effect on the structures set up by studios, networks, and creators, coalescing into an inevitable change.

  • When I think of television, I think back to my childhood. Sitting down with my parents every Sunday night to watch the new episode of “The Simpsons.” I would anxiously wait throughout the day for my favorite television show to start. Once eight o’clock struck the opening sequence would begin, followed immediately by the messages from the sponsors, which just drove up my anticipation level even more. Immediately as the show came to a conclusion, I would begin thinking about the funny parts within the episode and what I was going to discuss with my class-mates the following morning, since I knew they were all sitting in-front of their T.V. sets watching the show just as I was. Now the only times I ever have that shared television experience would be during major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup, which just doesn’t prove to be the same experience if watched past its time. I still watch my share of sitcoms and stay up to date on news and current events, it is just way more convenient to load up the videos on my Mac and watch the videos at my own leisure, being able to pause, skip segments, loop, and basically reproduce the material. If somebody asked me what I was doing while I was watching one of my shows on the computer, I would feel like a liar saying ‘I am watching T.V.’ Something about it just doesn’t feel right; television is more about the experience than the content. If you recorded the radio for an hour, music, DJ’s, commercials and all, and replayed it later, would you be listening to a tape or the radio?

  • Ashley Mauricio

    I thought you brought up a point that I really hadn’t thought about, and that was the ideas of television moving from a community experience to that of a individual one. The fact that television has moved from a “box” to a phone or laptop, shows how television is become more and more an individual experience. There is no need to watch something that has been worked on and adjusted for the masses. Nowadays we can create our own television stations, in a way we get to decide what we want to watch and when. Also you wrote about how television has a way of connecting different countries around the world. Television is a way that people connect to the world around them, not only that but now the internet for some people has replaced the television. Can we consider the internet a more reliable source than that of the networks on television?

  • Natalye Pronio

    I grew up watching shows on the television and I still enjoy watching TV the same way. We have a DVR at home and when I’m away at school I have my family record my favorite shows for me at home. I have the option of watching shows online but I don’t really find that enjoyable – the laptop screen is much smaller, you have to hold the laptop, and typically only one person can watch from the screen. A TV screen is larger than a laptop screen and the whole family can watch shows together if they wish. Watching my recorded shows on the DVR lets me fast forward through the commercials, which I really like but I before to watch “live” TV. Being able to watch a TV shows the first time it airs is a really exciting thing for me. Watching a show live allows me to discover the new developments of the show at the same time everyone else does. As I’ve grown up commercials have bothered me more than they used to but since I enjoy watching live television I have to sit through them and watch them just like I used to when I was little. There is something special at a television set, a person can control what they watch with a click of a button whereas on a laptop you already have to know what you are going to watch and look it up.

  • I would cautiously agree with Turner in that television by today’s definitions rests upon the concepts of ‘liveness’ and ‘sharedness’. Much of television’s power comes from the fact that it is live, or “streaming” in today’s terms, and that it is being enjoyed and utilized throughout the nation. It is a medium through which the majority of the nation can connect, even if we do not all share similar viewing styles, habits and preferences. However, in today’s world, the consumer has power over what they view, as Turner states. We as consumers can drastically modify what we observe, whether in terms of time, or in terms of production, which I would say actually dampens the sense of ‘liveness’. To me at least, liveness connotes a sense of not being able to change what is being viewed. The television broadcasts material and it cannot be altered until it is recorded in some manner or form. Viewing something online to me does not portray liveness, as it has already been recorded and put on the web for future viewing. It is no longer literally live.

  • Reading your section on “Consuming Online Replicates “Livedness”” and your first experience watching a political event on Sky and CNN, reminded me of my own experience watching the September 11 tragedy. As my family gathered around the television to watch live footage from the disaster, we all watched in awe, discussing what was going on, so many questions we had come up with as a group in those few hours before I went off to school to further discuss the event. In comparison to a more recent, but just as worldwide known event- Osama BinLaden’s death. I first read about this via an internet news forum and headed off to school. I was shocked to find that I didn’t come into contact with one person who brought it up in conversation for 3 days after! Which reinforces your ideas on television as once a medium of community and how it has evolved into that of an individual experience. Of course if I wanted to converse about the topic I could have so easily just googled his name, found an online forum where “live” dialogue was taking place, and/or just brought it up to someone, but it was an interesting experiment to wait to see when the first person would bring up the subject to me.

  • All mediums of expression and entertainment have to adjust to the advancing technology, or else fade into obscurity. And the internet is no different. You can see it by the changes to how newspapers, films, and especially television, markets themselves. If you think about it, the group of people that consume the most media (the younger, 18-30 crowd) now do so via the internet. And by putting media on the internet, the audience/producer interactions have been much more direct since.
    For me, I think that TV watching via the internet gives a clearer message to producers of the show. For instance, on the website Hulu, there is an “advertizement tailor” which shows certain ads depending on what ads the user finds relevant. This can be used to tell the producers what kind of audience watches their show. For instance, the ads for a show like Community are usually for videogames and cars (appealing to the male 18-49 crowd), where the ads for Glee might be for cleaning products or makeup (geared towards women).
    Another point that online streaming makes is it makes the show more convenient for the user. He/she doesn’t have to plan out the rest of their day so that they can sit for an hour block and watch a show. When TV recordings weren’t effective as they are today, people would miss out on programs simply because another one was showing at the same time. But now, buy putting the shows online, it can access more people and have a better chance for success.

  • As someone who hasn’t watched television conventionally on a television for years and generally has rejected the medium completely, it’s interesting to see how the ability to watch television online is slowly bringing me back into the fold in the past year. The sense of homogeneous community viewing on a national level the way it was in the early years of television seems to be waning out, yes, but sub-communities of fans of particular television texts that would not have been able to garner a strong following that way,and would have probably been canceled, or have been canceled are also developing. I’m allowed a myriad options I would not have had before through the internet, unless I wanted to pay much more than a student can afford to have access to a few select shows, resulting in my all-or-nothing mentality for all of television up to this point. I can meet people all over that are huge fans of shows that never made it past their first season, such as Freaks and Geeks or My So Called Life, and have their own sense of community experience around them. These shows probably would have never seen any form of syndication had it not been for niche internet followings and communities around them.

  • Tyler Malinoski

    Interesting post Graemey. I was particularly intrigued by both the Belize story and your own personal anecdote on Australia, and how citizens in both countries changed their perceptions of time and their place in the world as a result of gaining access to live TV. I often think of TV as a solitary and un-social past time; even if you watch
    TV in a group social interaction is often sacrificed when watching TV. That TV could be a unifying force that brings the world closer together is something I never really considered. Absorbing media through the internet, on the other hand, has a more obviously social function. The ability of internet users to find and share with others things they have found to be interesting certainly allows for a more natural, social and less rigidly formulaic way of consuming media than TV.

  • Melanie Tepperman

    The first thing that comes to mind when i think “TV ” is, oh, that limiting box that I used to watch as a kid, that forced me to sit through ever-increasing commercials until I was about 18, when I discovered you could do the same on-line, but for free and without commercials. That being said, I agree with you when you say there are fewer differences than similarities. Commercials now seem to have saturated the internet too-noticeable in sites like YouTube where “pop-up” advertisements appear on the bottom of many of the videos now. I think it’s safe to say that the presence of commercials/ads is increasingly unavoidable. Consequently, web-sites like Hulu, now offer “ad-free” viewings, but for an extra-cost. It will be interesting to see how the web evolves, especially post-privacy acts such as the Patriot Act. With a supposed increase in government involvement in internet use (such as the tracking of “liked” web pages through various sites like Facebook), I can’t help but wonder what the freedom and specificity of the web will mean for the privacy of its users. It seems to me it will become a double-edged sword…

  • Very cool article Graemey. I especially love the quote by C. Pieper. I think this “mesmerizing” feeling is something that the majority of us have felt when watching live programming but is also something that is happening less and less now with the addition of online programming and DVR’s. However, I think this quote attributes to why something like professional sports broadcasts never seem to go out of style. The idea of things unfolding live in front of our eyes is a staple of broadcasting that generations have come to know and love and with the coming generations I don’t see why anything would change even with their ability to access content whenever and where ever they want. Especially with live internet streams and websites like youtube.com who are broadcasting live programming now (i.e. coachella 2011, and presidential debates). Also, with reality programing seemingly here to stay, even the appearance of “live” situations draws a large quantity of viewers. I think this article contributes well to the idea of the feeling (and the sometimes shared feeling) of a live experience.

  • Yes, I definitely agree with the feeling of gratification while watching a seemingly live program on television. While watching the live streaming of an event, you cannot help but be excited that you and everyone else is watching something for the first time, with only a few possible seconds in lag time. However, this “instant gratification” has made us as T.V viewers extremely impatient. Turner writes that “[television] content has been disaggregated from the platforms that once distributed it, and has been transformed into something else – that looks like television, but isn’t on the box.”Instead of anxiously waiting to see what happens next on a weekly television program, the viewer has several options. One can TiVo the program so that not to miss the broadcasting of multiple shows at once. One can also wait for the whole season to appear on Internet websites such as Hulu or Netflix that broadcast shows ranging from a weekly episode to an entire series with multiple seasons. I know in my own experience being at college, I don’t have regular access to a T.V, or even have the time to catch up on shows weekly on the internet. I watch T.V programs in large clumps all at once. For example, with Mad Men I can watch an entire season in one sitting on my computer during my summer break. That instant gratification that I experience while watching a live program is not so far off from what I feel when I watch a series. As long as no one spoils the season for me, it is like I am experiencing a continuous chain of events on a show for as long as I would like to watch. There is no suspense, no waiting, and no commercials. Instead of watching week to week, I would rather catch up on a show by watching it all at once, because I just don’t have the time when I’m in school doing other things. It’s an interesting way to watch.

  • This is a great article trying to explain what is actually a television, and the things that has changed the most about this medium in the past decade or so. It seems as if there is no straight line that we can draw to separate TV from the Internet any longer. Before the birth of the Internet everything came out of a box whether it was news, or a family sitcom. People used to set their alarms, so that they wouldn’t miss a show, or a news programs. Now days with the invention of television there is no need for that. With such things like live streaming we can watch things as they occur live from all around the world. Things have drastically changed in the past couple of decades. We are at the time of the rise of technology where social networking websites like Facebook, and Tweater can start a revolution in another side of the world. People are relying on these sources of information more than ever before. Information, and technology has become very crucial in our lives that is why we have to be very cautious with it, and to verify its authenticity.

  • Thanks for the post. Personally I think that the actual technology being used does not need to be a definitive factor in its categorization. The type of content and its aesthetic are much more noticed and processed by the greater public. Music for example has been consumed through many different mediums over the past decades. Whether it is played from a tape cassette, a CD. or an Ipod the content is still considered “music”. Though it may have been originally named for the medium through which it could be accessed it has become an identifier for an entire form of visual entertainment.

  • This is a very insightful post. To answer the question: “Why do they call it TV when it’s not on the box?” I would have to state that TV has been such a permeating device used in our socialization. It has been, for years a primary tool in constructing a sense of community for audiences in our nation. There has been a shift in the structure of viewing television media as I have noticed, in which today audiences have begun to participate as producers in a sense. With the availability of television shows on the internet, people are given more freedom to interact with the media as they please, instead of having to sit in front of the TV at a fixed schedule. Dayan’s quote, ‘today’s situation is perhaps less the story of a dethroned television faced with a new dominant medium than that of a gradual accommodation, a reluctant partnership, a multi-tiered public sphere’, fits perfectly in this article as it articulates what exactly is uncovering in the world today pertaining to TV and the aspects of modernization accompanied by it. I remember traveling to the Philippines, were not everyone has satellite television, and the dynamic there is reminiscent of my childhood, in which I did not have an ‘achieved modernity’ as I would have today. However, in the various capacity-laden internet cafes located in the malls of Manila, I noticed users experiencing various television shows on Youtube and sharing certain media with others on Facebook. Here have I seen the direct affects of internet accessibility to media.

  • Ilana Rappaport

    This article makes a good point about how television is now a confusing thing to define. When questioning what makes television what it is, liveness is a complicated determining factor. On one hand, I can definitely agree that it is exciting to watch a live program at the same time as everyone else – as it airs on TV. However, the need for instant gratification in this generation is so common that being able to watch a show on demand or fast forward through commercials is ideal. Still, information, entertainment, and cultural ideologies are being shared regardless of the manner in which programs are viewed by audiences.

  • Interesting concept of “liveness” and “sharedness”. With the advent of the internet there is a major shift, if not an expansions of these concepts listed above. For example, YouTube has recently streamed live concerts and orchestra performed in real time by users all over the world. The advancement of broadcasting technology like the internet presents a dynamic example of programs catering to both communities and the individual. I’m not sure if there is either a shrinking or expanding gap within the experience of how we attain information through programming but instead it’s becoming a larger collective experience taht is connecting everyone everywhere. What is an interesting consequence of the internet and what I personally promote is the blurring of lines between producer and audience.

  • Television to Microvision
    When I was younger I often wondered how television made money. How did the act of people watching a screen make money for the people behind it?

    After sometime, I became familiar with the way in which the seamless advertisements were responsible for “paying the commission.” To realize that the reason for television and its programming was commercial advertisements was a wake up call in the way I watched and still watch television.

    Now how does this relate to the blog? Well, I realize that with the change in the way we watch television also comes a change in which advertisements try to maintain their presence. Most of us are familiar with the commercial interruptions while watching shows on a television screen. As technology changes, such as the rise of TiVo/DVR, there is a threat to commercial advertisement, and advertisements try to remain present through the strategic product placement within television shows. Even while watching television on-line we are bombarded by ads around the website, and as we wait for the show to load. Even You Tube videos on occasion require us to sit through a 19sec commercial. So, whether or not our consumption of “TV” programming changes in the technological sense, or despite the growing options on what we can consume, we are still “consuming.” And it appears that no matter what way we choose to consume shows, (via tele- or micro- vision) we cannot escape the constant reminder to consume.

  • I think the most significant difference that has occurred with the advent of online programming is the individualization brought up in this blog. Instead of being confined to a schedule, where only certain things are on at certain times, the viewer is now presented with a large variety of options at any given time. Therefore, it’s more difficult to market to specific viewers. As this blog stated, the viewership is more fragmented, and there are less people watching a show just because it is on. The viewers specifically choose to watch the program. Advertisers thus have to do a lot more work to know who they are advertising to, and work to ensure that those consumers continue to watch the program.

    On another topic, I think the “sharedness” still is there, but it has evolved. Now, the sharedness comes in the form of social networking sites, where one can actually post clips from the show to discuss it. It’s different because a person doesn’t have to follow a show or watch TV at all to feel the sense of community that comes from TV. A simple 30 second clip from Youtube can easily create that feeling of community that viewers crave. The sharedness is still existent, but it has changed formats.

  • I believe that the ramifications of technology growth will only complicate the already clouded definition of television. Deciphering what really constitutes the construction of ‘TV’ will progressively become lost in translation as media is introduced to newer mediums. We already have the ability to stream the internet on our flat screens, through our laptops and an HDMI cable. So if viewing TV shows, on a TV, but through the internet, still isn’t television? Hence, the advent of new technologies disparages the definition of television if it is viewed through a different medium. We need to rethink this definition, after we consider the relevance of the conventional television, and decide if ‘liveness’ will retain more importance than immediacy.

  • I agree to an extent of what is being said. The first question is, why call it television when a majority of the world is now watching programs online? I think no matter what form it takes, television will always be referred to as just that. We have been so programmed from the beginning to call it television and at this point it is a brand name. There is no need to change anything, although that does not mean it will not be changed to some extent in the future.

    As for the liveness of television, people are now putting programs on DVR or watching their favorite shows on Hulu. I don’t feel that it will change how we watch television. Just as Turner states, it is more individualized now because we watch what we want and when we want to watch it. It is not based on the networks schedule anymore. This is making it much more convenient to people. The networks are the ones that have to conform to new technologies arising through the web. However, live television is still important to the individual. Millions of people tuned in to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate. The sense of liveness is still there with the viewer even though the DVR and online shows may now be available.

  • Gabriel Laverdy

    I personally like the satisfaction that I have when I am watching Television on a set. I feel that it is something that gives you the sense of stability knowing that you could watch so many different programs in great quality all from the comfort of your home. I feel that watching something on online is in a way much more selective rather than the many options you could have watching something on a television. I feel that Television is in many ways a good outlet for “liveness” for those who still probably do not have the capability to stream TV programs online.

  • I think that this was a very insightful post. It’s funny to me how today i can go on my itouch and watch any show from Netflix on demand for free. Not that i actually use this app because if i actually wanted to take the time to watch a show i would want it to be in a dark room without distractions, not on a bus or my way to class. I think that with the increase of technology in our society, the market has continually tipped towards connectivity with the world, and with making electronic devices as small as possible. It was only a matter of time until phone companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Motorolla, and Sprint, would make the shift. Once the uses of cell phones switched from only calling and texting to surfing the web, everything on the web was now a cell phones market. Since media/TV/Movies are of such high demand online, it was only natural for these companies to make switch their emphasis from making calls to watching television, even if it is a little ridiculous to watch a movie on your cell phone, opposed to in a theater or at home. In order for a phone to be considered competitive in todays market, capabilities of online streaming television is a necessity. It doesn’t necessarily mean that people are yearning to watch television on their phones, beyond the superficial aspects of showing off their latest technological purchase, but that companies are responding simply to where their technology development is taking them. As time goes on, computers will become our phones, and TV’s will become our computers, and vice versa. It can already be seen as on new flat screen Panasonic TV’s you can stream Netflix online from the TV itself. Because the medium in which we are watching our television shows has left the household, into the boundless limits that connectivity and technology had provided, we are now in a new time in which we will witness TV, as we know it, change. Content from the internet will begin to show up on TV, as already seen in shows such as Tosh.0 and College Humor. Television will continually change as our technology does, especially in its accessibility as to where the consumer chooses to enjoy it.

  • Watching tv shows on a television set or on a computer do lead to different experiences. I’ve noticed that some people have said that they don’t watch much television, yet they still have subscriptions to Netflix and other web sources to watch older shows. When using a computer or even a type of video player, it does not give the impression that it is the same form of watching as with the box. These same people consider the fact that they are using a different “box” to watch the same shows on television excuses them from saying they watch a lot of television. The computer can used to be more selective as I’ve heard some people state that they turn to the internet for their news source as their sets have limited choices and the chances of them seeing something they do not like is higher. However when a large event has just happened, I have seen people choosing television to stay informed with the world and thus bring the people together once again. The fact that the tv brings the liveness of the event allows the audience to avoid the hassle of looking online and instead have the information quickly sent to the awaiting audience.

  • This concept of media convergence that is danced around in the blog entry is certainly a pressing one, but I think that it will begin to reshape television when it inevitably becomes internet-based. With the rate at which television is being made available online, through both illegal downloading and websites like Netflix and Hulu, I predict television will soon be aired on the internet for many of the reasons listed in the article. People prefer to set their own viewing schedule and enjoy individualization. When consumers see something they like, they often want to share it with their friends via a social networking device. Computers have also become more convenient than stationary televisions with the advent of the laptop and WiFi (also noting that mobile devices are increasingly gaining the capacity to play or stream video content). Advertising is likely to change along with the new platforms, as it has already with pop-up ads on YouTube and sponsors being recognized within the narrative of The Biggest Loser, but more importantly a new format for video will likely emerge in response to all of these changes. Though I could not predict the outcome, one trend I have personally noticed is the rise in webisodes. Not only are there miniseries to be watched online as a paratext to a television show like Lost, but there are entirely fresh narratives that are being scripted and produced in ten minute segments to be uploaded online. Media convergence, I would argue, is slowly altering the face of television.

  • In response to the initial question raised, Television shows are shows produced to be watched in Television screens. Regardless of what’s watched on the internet, the shows and the quality are intended to be seen on Television. Shows produced specifically for the internet are labeled accordingly.

    Television’s liveness is a big aspect of it’s attraction and what draws viewers to watch as a primary and not resort to the internet. Families can’t come together to watch shows on the computer; the Television is the heart of the home.

    Individuals have different viewing schedules and the internet let’s people not be restricted to TV’s time slots. We decide when we want to watch shows now because we have the means of doing so.

    Consuming Television shows through the internet will increase in the future, but the amount of television’s will not decrease.
    People do often just record shows on TiVo’s and DVR’s and watch them later, which in the sense is the same as watching on the internet through Hulu and Megavideo.

  • Traditional Television has many “big” parts to it that make up its appeal. There is Liveness, which fosters a euphoric sense of community within those watching it at roughly the same time. There is also the fact that families and friends can gather around the TV and watch a common show on the couch together, laughing or gasping at every intended moment as a unit. Episodic format also works to fill in the entertainment needs for those who only have the time to watch short bursts of action/drama/comedy/news.
    I would say that Television’s odd compatibility to diffuse into other platforms simply expands the pros that make up the medium’s appeal. Media convergence is a wonderful thing indeed for the spread of quality content and the start of new beginnings. Some purists may complain that “nobody wants to watch real TV anymore on the box”. However, this is only half true. Watching traditional box TV was fine for years, only now there are more preferable options for certain individuals (by “certain individuals” I mean lots!). Of course, I would never want to watch something sci-fi like “Dr. Who” on a phone, but to each his own. Youtube Miniseries such as the new “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” live action webisodes are gaining popularity through an audience that spends much time on the internet anyways. Social networks, with their constant status updates, urge viewers to watch episodes when they are released ASAP in order to keep up. So a sense of immediacy still pervades the online world in a good way.
    Whatever our preference for TV, whether we want true liveness of box channel TV, the ability to type comments after viewing, or an entire season on DVD to watch at our own pace, we still have the original format of the mid-20th century to thank. I doubt it’s going away at all in the future.

  • Monica Cordova

    This concept of “liveliness” and “sharedness” was one that I truly enjoyed reading. Mainly because it opens the reader’s eyes into thinking about what television stands for in today’s modern world. By that I mean that “television” is no longer just a TV screen. As turner points out it is now live streaming or can even be seen on a computer. I personally find joy in sitting down in my living room to watch a show from my TV set. It’s a kind of gratification. It seems that by watching “tv” in any other form such as an ipod touch, a laptop, or any other electronic device, it loses the sense of what television is. Turner’s article makes it clear that television isn’t as easy to define as it was back a couple decades ago. Television is used to broadcast shows and entertain families. However, with all the technology we have today it is easy for one to say i’ll just watch television on my laptop. Which goes back to the argument of “What is television?” Personally, I will always consider “watching television” on my big tv screen.

  • I also believe that there isn’t such a distinction between the qualities of the experience of consuming television through the box and through online media. Although one of the biggest differences between the two is one that I am particularly happy with. When watching television from the customary box we as the audience are hit with dozens of adds and images that compose the flow of T.V. When watching television online there is a lack of flow that is contributed to lack of video adds. Usually when watching an online episode there are only one, two, maybe three short adds. The same three adds are also repeated during each commercial break. This is a considerable change from television from the box where each commercial break we could see up to ten different commercials.

    Another difference that doesn’t play a part in the flow of online television is the banner add; stagnate adds that sit towards the top or sides of pages. I think since people navigate through the internet so much and are exposed to these adds on nearly every page they view, they have a less of affect us. These adds usually sit on the side out of the way and let us go about our business without much harm. I think people woudl rather sit through a T.V. show with advertisements sitting on the side then have the adds be pushed in front of our faces.

    So yes the we are still being bombarded with adds, and the similarities between the box and online are small, but the overall flow of the classical tevevision experience is being disrupted by the type of adds and the overall lack of adds.

  • The concept of Television as a box, was popular in baby boomer generation. The box embodied a central viewing place for families. On the second main point of the author’s essay, the section titled “The Viewer is No Longer Bound By Schedule,” livedness and sharedness are concepts that allow for community viewing, which is no longer bound by the schedules of morning, daytime, filler afternoon, or primetime viewing. In this sense, on a viewer’s time, anytime can be primetime, and there is a sense of community in a gathering on people, apart from a set schedule that Television and networks have set. The past is in the past, but it the past way is still the present, depending on person and person. If people still find themselves set to watch television on the schedules of morning to primetime t.v., then that is certainly acceptable.
    There is merit in the viewing practices of digital video recorders playing back shows for later viewing, especially in the busy lives of people. To them, it could still be “live” and there is a still a sense of “live”.
    There is a point about the watching of shows online as “individualized” but at the same time, shared and communal. I certainly take this in as a statement to the power of sharing, whether it be through social networking or some other online form.
    The last paragraph makes me think that the internet is the new box, but can it really be contained?

  • Armando Torres

    I was just watching a short video on YouTube the other day that stated that although online-television streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube (which now offers streaming of mainstream, big-budgeted films for a low price, and some for free) have proven to be a great success in revolutionizing the way we consume television programs, television is far from being considered an obsolete device. They were discussing the possibility of having televisions with the capabilities of streaming without a peripheral device. In my opinion, the television itself isn’t on the road to obsolescence, but rather, the concept of the “livedness” that television once provided will no longer be present. What’s really at stake? Advertisers of commercial commodities nowadays implement ads before and sometimes during a television program streaming online. These ads displayed to the audience based on their psychological demographics, characterstics of audience members that are gathered by asking “is this ad relevant to you?” at the start of an ad. If television does evolve into a purely streaming medium, then it can be guaranteed that advertisements will be delivered to audiences in a very personalized and customized manner. From observation and personal preference, people love the idea of being able to watch their television programs at any given time. No the internet isn’t the “new box,” but by looking at the popularity of online-television streaming content, television is definitely on the road to transforming into a new kind of “box”, one that is a completely personalized streaming medium.

  • I really enjoyed reading your words, I was growing up out if states with totally different culture and background , although I had a different experiences, I still strongly agree that, what I thought about “television” today is not just a TV box with wires and screen, it goes behind that, today, the way we receive information is all about diversity. I can watch CNN new from my iPhone, and so many other mobile devices. I feel like the television is not what it was maybe decides ago, today, television has become a big and a very crucial part of mass media. Every minute we spend on television, we are controlling by the hegemonic ideology and receiving culture. It is just a part of the world out there.

  • Personally, I think the television viewing experience and ’sharedness’ is enhanced by watching TV shows online through websites such as Hulu.com fans of shows are able to interact with each other and offer new perspectives, giving there take and often times decoding their own meanings of the show. Its through theses message boards that the sense of community is made stronger while allowing audience to interact with the text.
    I believe television still serves as a national medium although it may be transmitted through something else its essence is still there, we know what television is when we see it. However there is something about the ‘livedness’ seeing the next episode of your favorite show and excitedly waiting (because last weeks episode was epic and left you hanging) that I think websites like Hulu strip you of, with websites the shows are at your beck and call; you can see them anytime, with TV (without dvr and such) there’s just something special.

  • I believe television and internet media both hold upsides that ensure the survival of each. This article touches on the clashing of the two, and the emerging preference of one over the other. In my opinion, television holds a sort of excitement and energy that internet media does not. Maybe I am a product of my time, but I enjoy the continuous programs that cycle over the course of the day on cable. I have shows I can look forward to, and favorite stations that I routinely visit (not to sound like a television junkie). In my experiences watching my favorite shows on the internet, I have come to realize it is too much for me. “Too much of a good thing,” or so the saying goes. The convenience factor is all the internet has over television in terms of watching times, I suppose. I think the two go hand in hand, in that people can use them interchangeably and get the best of both worlds if they so desire, depending on the situation. There really is no need for the two to compete if people approach them with this attitude.

  • What is television? Quite the epistemologically loded question some would say, but nay. At it’s heart, the t.v. is… a screen, flat and simple. Back in the 1920s when the human kind were barbarians, television was the phenomenon, as people could now be captured, played and seen by millions across the globe. But fast forward to the land of twenty-eleven, where 6 year olds are filming their 5 year old friends krumping against one another, putting it on youtube, and having seen by three and four year-olds on their iPods and fancy tablets, all in the comfort of their cribs. The freedom that the interweb has created had bred armies of creative media creators and connoisseurs, it’s only [digitally] natural. With the mobility of these screens and the continuing trend of technology getting smaller and faster, the transition of programming from television to web was obvious. Whats more is we now see tv on the internet and internet on tv, web hosting clients have become annoyingly advertised and news programs now take time out of their reporting for viral videos–to keep you the viewer with whats trending of course. After all, you dont have to pay reporters for reporting nothing and I sure as hell haven’t seen anything for that flick I shot a while back involving 2 girls and a drinking vessel.

  • In response to Caitlyn Starowicz

    I think your assessment of the online content distribution of media as a limited revolution is shortsighted. I argue that the online content revolution is absolutely positive, for a number of reasons. 

    First, internet users are now taking up the reigns as content creators. regardless of whether they make videos of people falling off of trampolines or collect videos of scientific symposiums, the process of media authorship has been entirely democratized, which fosters a heightened first-hand awareness about how media and audience work. I would argue that any act of youtube distribution and promotion will promote a deeper learning about how media is distributed and received by an online community. 

    Secondly, I wonder where you have been receiving your online media. Youtube is the most populist content distributor, and recieves funding from ad money the same way television does. Top videos online are sponsored spots for new  movies or albums, clips from tv shows and campaign ads. Websites like TED talks are examples of distributors who allow direct distribution of cutting edge research, philosophical debates, cultural activism to be spread anywhere. Just as a night on FOX news isn’t exactly liable to give you an unbiased representation of political events, Youtube won’t always be a place to foster social and artistic change. In short, there is so much activity and information everywhere online that any sort of content is immediately available. It just takes some looking. 

    The article talks about ‘liveness’ and ‘sharedness’. I would point to the revolutions in Middle East recently as examples of instant global political awareness and mobilization, thanks to the mechanisms of internet content distribution.  Injustices can be reported and spread instantly. To be able to read twitter updates about ground conditions in Egypt and see hand shot videos of military brutality in Libya allows us to remove temporal constraints from experiencing global events.

  • Thanks for the post Graeme Turner / Queensland University

    I thought your idea of “Liveness,” television essential as live was interesting and reminded me of Gray Cavender’s, “In search of community on reality TV” and Victoria O’donnell’s, Demystifying the Business of Television. Both writers speak on the concrete inversion of life and how consumerism fuels everything we see. Do you believe media effects our perception, perception effects media and reality is lost?
    Also what do you think about Netflix creating a television series to sell to corporations? Do you think cable television is doomed?

  • In my opinion television is no longer about the liveness that it once was. Today we live in a society that wants everything to be at their fingertips. Media is more about immediacy or at least that is what the public at large is wanting. They want things now and don’t want to have to wait for them. But also more viewers today want to feel as though they are apart of the making of a show in some way. With this idea, an interesting partnership that some television programs have been able to make with the Internet has arisen. For example, The Discovery Channel show, Mythbusters now almost relies on user generated ideas and comments online to keep the show going and develop new content. Another example is the Comedy Central program Tosh.O; his show is all about making fun of videos that have been posted online; so with out something like the internet that would lead to websites like YouTube a popular comedy show like Tosh.O would not even exist without the Internet. I feel that to question what television is now is not a worthwhile question to seek the answer to. Just because the medium is not longer being viewed “on the box” doesn’t mean that it is still not television. For example, if a movie is not watched in a theater does that mean it is not a movie anymore? Or why do so many people still call them films when most movies today are made digitally? The focus now should be to embrace what is changing about television, think of ways to utilize and take advantage of this new form, and also to consider where it is headed. By combining television with the Internet the possibilities are endless as to where it could go.

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  • I believe that the original purpose of his article is that watching television live brings people together. It gives people a topic to discuss with each other other than getting rejected if someone has a television show recorded at home and hasn’t watched it yet. “Livenedd” is the feeling we get when we’re watching something as it happens. In my opinion, I don’t see the difference between watching something as its happening right then or watching it a few days later. The reasoning behind recording shows and watching them lataer is because people are too busy at the time the show is on T.V. or people have something else to watch. There is no anticipation though, if you don’t wait like a week to watch the next episode of a television series. These are just a few thoughts on watching T.V. as it comes on live.

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