Television, it feels strange to write about it now. It’s been around so long that it is easy to take it for granted. I grew up with it, alongside it, and watched it spread outside of the appliances to which it was once restricted. It used to be bound to that public domain known as the living room. You watched things with others, with the family and the rest of the “at home” audience.

Now video has spread across media from computers to phones. It is everywhere and all the time. The time shifting learned from the VCR and later TIVO have become common place, an expectation that you can watch things whenever and wherever.

But for all this technological shift, the format of some programming remains remarkably persistent. The “live” immediacy of the televisual makes it suited to sporting events, game shows, and daily talk shows. Even if prerecorded, these shows depend on the common denominator of immediacy. Raymond Williams refered to this interconnected immediacy in programming as flow, “the defining characteristic of broadcasting, simultaneously as a technology and as a cultural form” (1975, p.86, 93). Through a paradox, “constant interruption has been transformed into something like its opposite, continuity.” (Dienst, 26 1995).

This idea of flow could be extended to the continuity within online media. Content may no longer be “live” but there remains a realtime experience of consumption or viewership that links together disparate material. The blocks of half hour programming broken up by thirty second commercials has been spread out into an intermingling of content. Advertising, video, and editorial content exist within the same frame, the same flow. The blog or website has replaced the channel as the defining from.

What role then do we play as audience. Is our work of consumption, our role as consumers still the or a driving force? How does this work relate to the work of assembly line, the work of Charlie Chaplin and Karl Marx?

The Secret Life of Machines, BBC show on technology, episode on television

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