My hope is that, as our conversations in class lead us to certain issues or examples, that we can follow on those conversations through the blog, including pointing to materials to read if you want to explore the issue. The discussion yesterday, about what we might count as new media’ for the purposes of the course, was largely an exercise, not to come up with a master list, but to begin to recognize the difficulty, the fluidity, and the contingent quality of the term itself. it doesn’t surprise me that we landed on the question of whether TiVo should count there: is it an evolution of a traditional medium, or a new technical phenomenon? Are we interested in changes in the experience of media, or the technology, or the industry? What kind of difference makes a difference?
If you’re interested, Dima brought to my attention this Washington Post article, about the possibility of dropping cable entirely for Hulu and Boxee; a similar article appeared in the New York Times last month. Josh pointed me to Christina Rosen’s article “The Age of Egocasting” in The New Atlantis, a more polemic essay that positions TiVo as the latest in a series of technologies, beginning with the remote control and the VCR, that give consumers control, but in ways that force television producers to change TV programs themselves in an attempt to discourage viewers from switching away, in ways that have consequences for creativity:
“By giving us the illusion of perfect control, these technologies risk making us incapable of ever being surprised. They encourage not the cultivation of taste, but the numbing repetition of fetish. And they contribute to what might be called “egocasting,” the thoroughly personalized and extremely narrow pursuit of one’s personal taste. In thrall to our own little technologically constructed worlds, we are, ironically, finding it increasingly difficult to appreciate genuine individuality.”
The article tends to overstate both the effects of these changes and the impact of these technologies, posing a singular effect when many conditional shifts may be underway. But it is an intriguing suggestion for our discussion, where TiVo has not only changed the way we consume TV but the production of TV in anticipation of it, and that devices that offer control may not therefore offer progress.
Reading the articles I point to is not required; explore if you like. If you have reactions to this, or to the discussion in class, or other relevant articles you’d like people to know about, add them as comments below.