Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week 7 Core Post (#3)

 A couple of points in Andrejevic's "Watching Television without Pity" stood out to me, particularly after reading Seiter's piece on audience studies and considering how both fit within today's televisual landscape. Towards the end of his essay, Andrejevic writes about the (perceived) "democraticizng" potential of fan forums and the internet: "Removed from traditionally male-dominated public spaces and accessible not just from the home but from the privacy of one's workspace, bulletin boards such as TWoP make it hard to differentiate posters based on gender" (Andrejevic 41). He and his survey participants note that the majority of posters are women--87% of the participants themselves were women, in fact (Andrejevic 28). This falls in line, too, with Jenkins's point around the preponderance of women participating in fan writing activities. I find it interesting, though, that Andrejevic moves beyond gender to allude to socioeconomic issues, but does not explicitly mention race or the socioeconomic statuses of the survey participants themselves. (And Jenkins does not move beyond gender at all.) It is entirely possible that he did not ascertain this information from his survey participants--but if he did not, I do wonder why. On a broader level, it seems that there may be some barriers to entry with TWoP that might not affect the average middle-class woman, but can still dissuade or prevent other viewers from participating.

I consider this point in light of Seiter's commentary around the fact that audience studies (at the time of her writing) has predominantly focused on members of the white middle class. She notes, for instance, that "the strain of caring for children and working long hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, will mean that many more impoverished informants will simply not have the time to be interviewed (Seiter 477). This calls to mind Andrejevic's note that 25% of his survey participants admitted to spending 5-10 hours a week on TWoP, with 13% spending over 10 hours (Andrejevic 29). It appears that time, then, is in part a necessary factor in determining the level of active participation on the site. Outside research and the crafting of quality posts and commentary can take a sizeable chunk of time. My guess, then, is that people without this sort of free time--the types of people that Seiter alludes to--are perhaps not afforded the opportunity to belong to this sort of community. Moreover, Andrejevic writes that many "lurkers" on TWoP are too "afraid" to actually write posts and commentary because they feel there is a high standard of wit, "snark," and presumably quality of writing (given the value participants seem to place on developing their critical writing skills) set by the regulars (Andrejevic 37). I wonder, then, if there is any correlation between level of education and intensity of TWoP participation. Does this "standard" act as a barrier to entry for people who don't meet a certain level of education or socioeconomic status? It seems that this would be important to consider, given that producers and marketers convert the information gleaned from these sites into profitable market research.

I think this is an issue that might also apply to a service like Netflix, which is becoming more and more of an integral player in television today. Netflix, like TWoP, is a site that capitalizes on the "free labor" that its users provide. This data is harvested as market research (among many other things, I'm sure) and informs the type of programming that Netflix decides to pursue. However, there is a certain barrier to entry with Netflix, too: its subscription cost. As this fee continues to rise, one must wonder if people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will be further deterred from the service, creating a feedback loop in which these groups of people are ignored in programming because they're not watching the shows (i.e., not buying the service to begin with).


1 comment:

  1. Hi Josie! I think your blog post brings up a lot of really interesting and insightful comparisons between the readings for this week. I would like to take a little closer look at what you have to say about the perceived education level among the women writing on a site such as TWoP. In her article, Seiter states that the women who turn away from "women's programing" are those with higher levels of education. As Seiter reports, "the more highly educated women...tend to share preferences with their partners...and the majority of them were keen to distance themselves from soap operas...and to align themselves with 'quality' products" I think with this information it would be possible to correlate participation on a site such as TWoP and education. As you mentioned, on the site there is more value given to those posts which are considered to be well written and witty or "snarky." Additionally, from the Andrejevic reading, it appears the majority of the shows discussed on TWoP are "quality" (or if not quality, at least mainstream reality programming) television programs which is in line with Seiter's research. So taking all of that into consideration, I feel like the correlation between the women who feel empowered enough to post on TWoP and education is fairly strong.
    However, like you mentioned with Netflix, I feel like biggest issue moving forward is not women or minoritie's participation, but a growing disparity based on economic lines. As it becomes more difficult to access television programming "for free" the number of lower income individuals engaging with this material is going to continue to decrease.