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Your window-on-the-world: interactive television, the BBC and the second shift aesthetics of public service broadcasting

By James Bennett

Abstract

The impetus for this project was to consider how the digitalisation of television stood as an important moment to re-evaluate key concepts and debates within television studies. To this end, my focus is on public service broadcasting and television studies' textual tradition. I examine how linear models of the television text are challenged, usurped and at times reinforced by interactive television's emergent non-linear, personalisable forms. In so doing, I am concerned to analyse interactive television's textual structures in relation to the BBC's position as a public service broadcaster in the digital television age. Across these two concerns I aim to historicise the moment of digitalisation, drawing on longer positionings of television's technological and cultural form as a 'window-on-the-world'. An introduction is followed by section 1 of the thesis that includes a review of key literature in the field, focusing particularly on work on the 'text' of television studies. The chapters in section 1 mix this review with an historical argument that understand the current digital television era as one of 'excess', placing television at the boundaries of new and old media concerns that can be usefully understood through the presence of a dialectic between television's position as window-on-the-world and its emergent position as 'portal'. Section 1 demonstrates how this dialectic is called up by the prominence of discourses of 'choice' in new media practices and textualities and, more importantly, the debates about public service broadcasting's role in the digital age. As I go on to show in section 2, this dialectic evidences a tension between the 'imaginative journeys' television's window offers and the way in which these are then 'rationalised'. The second half of the thesis maps out emergent textual forms of interactive television by analysing the way choice and mobility are structured, providing a series of case studies in non-fiction television genres. Chapter 4 demonstrates the persistence of key discourses subsumed within the window-on-the-world metaphor in the formation and 'everydaying' of interactive television, elucidating key institutional and gendered tensions in the way these discourses are mobilised in the digital age. In turn, Chapter 5 connects the kinds of mobility promised by interactive television's window to longer historical practices of public institutions regulating spectator movement. Chapter 6 examines how television's window has been explicitly remediated by interactive television, placing it within the 'database' ontologies of computing. Finally Chapter 7 demonstrates the way in which television's window increasingly comes to function as a portal through which to access digital media spaces, such as the Internet. Across the chapters I am concerned to connect the textual and discursive form of each case study to the academic debates and public service concerns of the various applications' generic identity. Although I am interested in the challenges television's digitalisation poses to both public service broadcasting and traditional television studies approaches to the text, a more important motivation has been to re-affirm the role of both in the digital television landscape. Thus through close textual analysis that connects aesthetics with production and regulation, the thesis aims to demonstrate the relevance of television studies and the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, as an 'old media' becomes a 'new' one

Topics: PN1990
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2424

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