Friday, February 10, 2017

Core Response - TV and Screens

In Beatriz Colomina’s “Domesticity of War,” she maps out the domestic sphere as a militarized response to the American desire for private, protective spaces post-WWII. She asserts this point by compartmentalizing the clear divisions between interior and exterior spaces that exist within suburban homes (living rooms, backyards, etc.), further asserting military instructor/contractor Jay Swayze’s point that the true Outside is “anything not enclosed in the shell” (pg 6). From this argument comes Colomina’s thesis that screens, starting with the mass consumption of the camera, serve as windows into the exterior world, creating the illusion of control and thus safety. Naturally, television screens are the ultimate illusion in that it exists as part of the architecture of the home, much like a cabinet which symbolically represents “protection, shelter, refuge, safety,defense . . . and also about display, show, parade, [and] spectacle” (19). Listing the example of many first time television owners purchasing TVs to “attend” John F. Kennedy’s funeral, Colomina creates a convincing argument for asserting television as a vehicle for engaging with the outside world from the privacy and safety of one’s own home.

After reading this article, I came to agree with Colomina’s point and found it fascinating that American suburbia, and the items that exist within it, are structurally influenced by the impact of war. It also made me wonder if the popularity of the multi-cam sitcom was a response to the limited, often domestic settings shown in these types of programs because they made viewers feel safe while validating their desire to stay home. Also, maybe if watching TV gives off the impression of looking into an outside world, then perhaps multi-cam sitcoms, with their digestible characters and story lines, existed to make outside world look less threatening. 

Moreover, the progression from television to computers also came into my mind as the internet allows further engagement with the outside world. Just as TV allowed viewers to attend JFK’s funeral, the internet allows people to engage in social interaction without the threat of the unknown that comes from leaving your house. With that, the internet can also offer more exterior engagement, and thus the opportunity to leave the private space, than TV because you can directly engage with people, not just pre-packaged content. We see this with online activism leading to physical, political marches and thus the internet, and whatever screens you access it on, can merge the inside and outside worlds more effectively. 


  1. Caitlin,
    I think your connection between Colomina’s discussion of Domesticity at War and sitcoms is an intriguing point to consider. Whether sitcoms are multi-cam or single cam, there is an undeniable importance of location. This location is almost always an interior. Thus domestic settings are elevated above the unsafe exterior where these “private” moments and conversations of the characters would not be able to take place since they are outside the safety of the protective “shell.”

    Also, including the internet in your discussion is an interesting idea to consider. The internet, like TV allows us to engage with the outside world without leaving our homes. But can the internet be considered part of the “shell” in Colomina’s article? Can the internet be considered a private space?

  2. I really like this theory of television being a 'safe' place for people. In the sense that, viewers use this as a way of experiencing the world and society, without having to go outside and do so.

    Also bringing in the internet and the concept of social media interaction and engagement, it could be arguable that although the internet could possibly merge the inside and outside worlds through activism for example, like Rachel mentioned could it be considered part of the 'shell', that prevents people from actually engaging with others without having to go outside and take part in the outside world?

    One example I can think of in terms of online activism relating with people physically taking part would be the women's march. This was of course something that people learned about through social media (for example, I got an invite on Facebook and honestly would not have been aware of it if not for social media hubs like Facebook and twitter). Through this social media engagement, people decided to leave their homes and actually attend the event. However, there were others who for one reason or the other did not attend (some people were wary of going due to the fear of them thinking that the protest could become violent), but became involved in their own way by live streaming the event and tweeting about their thoughts, in the safety of their own homes.

    So maybe the internet could be considered as a mixture of both? A safe place where people can still feel like they are a part of an event by being at home, or a hub that actually increases awareness for people to become more physically active.