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readings available

The readings for this week are now up. I decided to focus on the readings of greatest interest, in my view. So, we'll focus on Raymond Williams's classic book Television: Technology and Cultural Form (1974), and Dallas Smythe's essay "Communications: Blindspot of Western Marxism" (1977). Included in the Williams is a critique of McLuhan and other media theory, so it will at least offer a few perspectives for us to consider. You are to read Williams, ch. 1-5, focusing on 1 and 4, and the Smythe.

The "method" reading this week comes from the ecologically-inclined R. Murray Schafer, whose classic The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1994/1977) (pp. 123-168), includes a number of ways of analyzing sounds and soundscapes. Read the material selectively, for ideas on how one could develop projects, as well as for comparison with Williams's analysis of "flow." I'll try to dig around online for some kind of relevant object of analysis, please do the same yourselves. Unlike last time, I want to give more time to the "method" section, so apply your creativity in thinking of potential projects.


Raymond Williams considers planned flow as the defining characteristic of broadcasting. I agree with his statement, but considering the numerous advances in entertainment and media communication, the concept of flow is not nearly as evident as it was forty years ago. Today, media culture is much more democratic in the sense that DVR, the internet, mobile devices, satellite tv and so on, all give viewers the power and control to watch what they want when they want. Back in 1972 when Williams wrote Television, there were few channels to choose from, and therefore, less freedom of choice for the viewers. I believe his discussion of the flow of television programming is just as relevant today due to the fact that television has become such an integral part of everyday life in our culture. It is sometimes difficult to take a step back and analyze exactly what we are being shown and why. Williams’ prediction of the future of television was surprisingly accurate, especially the importance of every family owning a large screen television.
I found Williams’ difficulty in adjusting to the increase in commercial breaks while to watch a film on American television quite funny. He has a hard time distinguishing the difference between the plot of the movie he is watching, and the characters and stories he sees advertised over and over again during the numerous commercial breaks. We are constantly bombarded with so many advertisements and pointless information while trying to watch a show, that we have subconsciously learned to block out most of what we see during commercial breaks. I can understand how it would be difficult for someone coming from a culture where the flow of television is much smoother and consistent. Trying to remain focused on watching a movie here without the constant distractions must be hard to get used to. I noticed Williams’ situation in reverse while watching television while living in England. We had four BBC stations to choose from, and much fewer commercial breaks. I found tv watching more relaxing and drawn out, which actually lead to me wanting to watch less of it.