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After the Break

After the Break: Television Theory Today

Marijke de Valck
Jan Teurlings
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    After the Break
    Book Description:

    Television as we knew it is irrevocably changing. Some are gleefully announcing the death of television, others have been less sanguine but insist that television is radically changing underneath our eyes. Several excellent publications have dealt with television's uncertain condition, but few have taken the specific question of what television's transformations mean for the discipline of Television Studies as a starting point. The essays collected in this volume aim to fill this void. Two fundamental questions string the various contributions together. First, is television really in crisis or is the present not so extraordinary when revisiting television's development? Second, should we invent new theoretical concepts or are our old ones still perfectly relevant? To answer such questions the authors in this volume take up diverse case studies, ranging from the academic series Reading Contemporary Television to Flemish Fiction, from nostalgic programming on broadcast television to YouTube, from tell-sell television shows to public television art in the 1980s. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1867-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. After the Break Television Theory Today
    (pp. 7-18)
    Marijke de Valck and Jan Teurlings

    Qu’est-ce que c’est la television?Perhaps it is telling that André Bazin’s volumes on the ontology of cinema have become classics of film studies, while in television studies there is no equivalent search for the specificity of the televisual at the origin of the discipline. One could mention Raymond Wiliams’Television: Technology and Cultural Form(1974) as a landmark study in which the influential concepts offlowandmobile privatizationwere coined, but this would ignore that the book’s leading contribution is of a socio-political, rather than ontological nature: theorizing the role television played (or could play) by grounding the...

  4. Part I: Questioning the crisis

    • ‘Unreading’ contemporary television
      (pp. 21-34)
      Herbert Schwaab

      The current transformation of television could be regarded both ways, as a crisis or as the complete opposite of a crisis. The transformations of television are often referred to, using terms coined by John Ellis, as the three ages of television: scarcity, availability and plenty (see Ellis 2000). It is accompanied by a shift of emphasis in television studies ‘from the TV I ‘consensus narratives’ with its casual viewer, through the target programming and ‘avid fanship’ that defined TV II and on to consumer satisfaction and consumer demand, which increasingly shapes contemporary TV landscape’ (Akass and McCabe 2004: 3). Television...

    • Caught Critical versus everyday perspectives on television
      (pp. 35-50)
      Joke Hermes

      There is no denying that television viewing is not what it used to be. Multichannel choice, the alternatives offered by downloads and streaming video on the internet and, last but not least, the opportunity to make one’s own television. High definition video cameras are available at reasonable prices; montage software can be downloaded for free. Any amateur who wishes to make television can do so. This has led optimists to argue that we are heading towards ‘convergence culture’ (Jenkins 2006) and a world in which media content production is no longer the prerogative of media corporations. Clearly, then, we are...

    • The persistence of national TV Language and cultural proximity in Flemish fiction
      (pp. 51-64)
      Alexander Dhoest

      There is an overwhelming sense, both in professional circles and in academic writing, that television as we knew it is no more (e.g. Spigel and Olsson 2004; Turner and Tay 2009). Undeniably, the era of broadcast television as the prime mass medium is crumbling, making way for a more complex broadcasting landscape where diverse (niche, global, digital, interactive) channels divide the market, competing with other devices, media and cross-media applications. However, there are important continuities so we should be cautious in declaring the ‘end’ or ‘death’ of television. Historical media research has taught us to be cautious in predicting the...

    • Constructing television Thirty years that froze an otherwise dynamic medium
      (pp. 65-78)
      William Uricchio

      The history of television is a history of change. From vacuum tubes, to transistors, to chips; from broadcast, to narrowcast, to on-demand; from cathode ray tube receivers, to plasma flatscreens, to projection; from a programmer’s vision, to the viewer’s choice, to the interworkings of metadata protocols and ‘smart agents’ … we have witnessed an ongoing process of transformation in technology, textual organization, regulatory frameworks, and viewing practices. The pace of change has been as dramatic as it has been uneven. Regulation, infrastructure, national interest, and viewer expectation have all, at times, stimulated development, or suppressed it. Overall, the pace of...

    • When old media never stopped being new Television’s history as an ongoing experiment
      (pp. 79-98)
      Judith Keilbach and Markus Stauff

      In the 1990s, when new technologies and deregulation policies were emerging throughout television practices, the resulting changes were considered to be transitions that would lead to a completely different and enhanced form of television. Back then, everybody anticipated that digital television would evolve as a new, possibly interactive television standard. Today, as profound changes are still taking place, scholars refrain from determining television’s future form, focusing instead on the process of its transformation. The features of contemporary television simply seem to undermine a coherent definition of the medium, which seems too complex, too heterogeneous, in constant flux.

      Today, many critics...

  5. Part II: New paradigms

    • Unblackboxing production What media studies can learn from actor-network theory
      (pp. 101-116)
      Jan Teurlings

      In this chapter, I argue that actor-network theory, or ANT as it is commonly referred to, has much to offer media studies. I am not the first one to suggest so. A growing number of media scholars have commented upon ANT, or have used some of its concepts in their analysis of media (e.g. Couldry 2001 and 2008; Hemingway 2009; Kendall and Wickham 2001; De Valck 2006; Muecke 2009; Bennett 2005). This chapter aims to make a contribution to this burgeoning intersection of actor-network theory and media studies, and also explain why ANT seems to be such a productive framework...

    • Convergence thinking, information theory and labour in ‘end of television’ studies
      (pp. 117-130)
      Mark Hayward

      The link between the future of media and labour is one that has become a common topic of research in discussions heralding the end of television. Critical media scholars are increasingly interested in, and concerned about, the kinds of labour that television viewers and media users more generally are asked and expected to contribute. In television studies, Mark Andrejevic’s research is exemplary in this regard. In his work tracing the changing power relations between actors, producers and audiences, he positions reality television as a key site for observing the shifting of labour from the industry to audiences while allowing industry...

    • Television memory after the end of television history?
      (pp. 131-144)
      Juan Francisco Gutiérrez Lozano

      At a time when television is undergoing significant transformations and scholars are rethinking television theory, it is also necessary to reflect on the key subjects, methodologies and concepts used for research on TV history. The aim of this article is to highlight and explain the significance of the concept of television memory for research on television and history. The reflections on television memory provided in this article will be useful both for media historians and media theorists. More specifically, I will discuss examples of nostalgic programming by contemporary television channels as well as the interactive (re) use of old television...

  6. Part III: New concepts

    • YouTube beyond technology and cultural form
      (pp. 147-160)
      José van Dijck

      In his seminal workTelevision: Technology and cultural form(1974), Raymond Williams described television as a medium to be understood in its various dimensions: as a technology (‘broadcasting’), as a social practice (‘watching television’) and as a cultural form (‘programmes’). Williams deployed this multiple view of television to scaffold two broader concepts: the concept of ‘flow’ – an endless stream of concatenated programmes that glued the viewer to the screen – and the concept of ‘mobile privatization’ – referring to the way in which mass media makes mobility an endeavour that can be pursued in the privacy of one’s own home, allowing people...

    • Move along folks, just move along, there’s nothing to see Transience, televisuality and the paradox of anamorphosis
      (pp. 161-178)
      Margot Bouman

      How do we watch TV? Introduced into mass distribution after World War Two, in its first decade, economies of scale resulted in two concurrent sites of consumption for television: neighbourhood taverns, and the homes of the very wealthy (McCarthy 2001; Rose 1986). As prices for television sets fell, by the end of the 1950s television penetrated the homes of the middle class. The first wave of television scholarship consequently focused on the overwhelmingly domestic content of commercial broadcast network television (usually understood to be a family medium), the introduction of the public sphere into the home and thus the domestic...

    • Barry Chappell’s Fine Art Showcase Apparitional TV, aesthetic value, and the art market
      (pp. 179-192)
      Mimi White

      Barry Chappell sells art on television. If you believe him, he sells fine, even museum quality art at bargain prices onBarry Chappell’s fine art showcase.Fine art showcaseis not a particularly well-known programme and in many ways it defies the most common models of understanding American television and TV programming. Indeed, it is sufficiently marginal that I sometimes wonder if it really counts as a television programme at all, even though it airs, live, on a recurrent basis. It also subsumes many of the familiar tropes of the medium, variously engaging liveness, self-reflexivity, education, entertainment, domesticity, public service,...

  7. About the authors
    (pp. 193-196)
  8. Index
    (pp. 197-202)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)