It is also interesting that much of what Williams says is endemic to the televisual medium has great relevance to the way we watch TV today. For instance, he notes that people “adapted to this inferior visual medium, in an unusual kind of preference for an immediate technology, because of the social complex...within which broadcasting, as a system, is operative” (Williams 21). Similarly, Feuer writes that the medium “insists” upon the “ideology of the live, the immediate, the direct, the spontaneous, the real” (Feuer 14). “Immediacy” and “directness” thirty to forty years ago seemed to be tied to the notion of the home. (I don’t have to go to the theater, the cinema, or the arena to see this; I can view it in my living room.) Today, these concepts are certainly tied to technological mobility, for one (I don’t have to wait until I’m home to watch this show; I can watch it on my phone now), and for another, streaming. (I don’t have to wait until this show comes on as a rerun; I can watch it now--or I can binge.) And Williams’s commentary around the television’s technological inferiority is reminiscent of similar conversations around the inferior video quality viewers have come to accept when they stream television.
I’m also curious as to how we might think of Williams’s (and Feuer’s) concept of flow and “liveness” in relation to television today. Feuer states that “only the ideological connotations of live television are exploited in order to overcome the contradiction between flow and fragmentation in television practice (Feuer 16). A contemporary example, I think, would be Williams’s discussion around news programs’ “cue formulas,” and how they work not only as transitions between fragments of information, but also as conveyors of the “liveness” and “instantaneousness” of the information (Williams 109-110). But how is this ideology realized today? Certainly, news programs adhere to the same types of formulas Williams describes. But I think the notion of bingeing and subscription (i.e., commercial-free) television might be a more modern actualization of this ideology. I think that, in a very interesting way, “fragments” in television today are not really segments of information or of television shows that are “interrupted” (to use Williams’s word) by commercials; the fragments are the shows themselves. Channels like HBO and services like Netflix have normalized the commercial-free viewing experience, to the point where we have become accustomed not to viewing segments of episodes in one uninterrupted flow, but rather segments of entire series or seasons. Bingeing is now the way that we “overcome the contradiction between flow and fragmentation,” and I think content creators do exploit this, as Feuer suggests, by writing series that try to draw us in for extended viewing sessions. It’s kind of funny how Williams talked about the first few minutes of shows being critical to getting viewers to stay on one channel. While that’s still important on Netflix, it’s now even more about those final few minutes--How can we get viewers to watch the next episode and stay on our platform for as long as possible?
This is somewhat unrelated, but I do find the way we talk about or qualify the “likeness” of television to be compelling. Feuer questions if this liveness “is not precisely an ‘effect’ at all, but rather a generalized ideological stance toward the medium itself” (Feuer 21). In reading this, I thought of Derrida’s commentary on “liveness,” which he does, interestingly, classify as an “effect.” Whereas Feuer seems to be concerned with that “contradiction between flow and fragmentation,” Derrida seems more preoccupied with the contradiction between the way in which television can be the “living image of the living” while also being “produced before being transmitted.” (I’m citing Derrida’s “Right of Inspection,” 39-40). Here the crux is more of the transmission itself, and how we control transmission and the production of the image. Just thought it might be worth noting!