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It’s getting to be that point of the semester when some of the pieces of the puzzle start to snap together. As a result, there’s a lot to talk about in this blog posting, but I’ll limit myself to one main thing: the juxtaposition of “mass media” and “niche media.” Related to this are the notions of choice Lauren and Ross both alluded to. It makes me think of another well known market that exists in countless variegated niches. The music industry seems to be split up into all kinds of choices, and measuring the manner in which its commodities are consumed has proven to be rather difficult.
Like the pre-existing templates users employ in the creation of “new” new media objects (as described by Manovich), it’s hard to describe what television viewers do now as “choice,” and its not necessarily accurate. They do, however, have choice over other things, but I wonder how this relates to “mass media.” I will say that I appreciated that Lotz’s observation that television is not really being democratized, even if consumers are being given more control over how they consume. However, consumers gain more control over how they consume only as providers (who still essentially control production) gain valuable new tools for distribution.
I always have to remind myself when I’m reading about television that I stand on the edge of society on this one. It was literally just over this last winter break that I was introduced to hulu, and was able for the first time in two years to watch the daily show again. In fact, I sometimes watch it now while I eat my lunch (lonely, lonely lunch). Whereas in the past, watching it over lunch required rather deliberate timing on my part, now I can fire it up whenever I like. Sometimes, hulu even lets me watch a two minute commercial and see the rest commercial free. When I get the hang of this a little more, I’ll be able to play my obligatory add while I grate parmesan cheese on whatever it is I’m eating (everything tastes better with The San, as it were) and enjoy my 22 minutes of knee slapping hilarity, uninterrupted.
But I’m not certain I would describe my television viewing experience as “isolated”. Certainly, as Lotz points out, I am watching asynchronously. But I’m still watching the same programs as everyone else. And that’s the other thing, niche programming is still being watched by A LOT of people (at least if we are limiting ourselves to prime-time television, as Lotz helpfully does). And I’m still connecting with real people over mass marketed programs with which we are both familiar. My friend told me about hulu because he knew we had similar tastes and that I would enjoy watching Arrested Development (I do) and 30 Rock (I secretly do). There was no way I would have ever have seen either of those shows unless I was watching them with someone who had the DVDs (as was actually the case with the first season of Arrested Development), or I somehow managed to access them online (hulu has made this easy). But the point is, I was still connecting with real individuals, we were still referencing what I would still call mass media, and in many ways it looked just like the watercooler. Basically, all this talk about the agency of fans I feel excludes a discussion of the community building that takes place outside of fandom, even without the aid of internet blogs and chatrooms (or whatever those kids are using these days)
So I wonder, does any of this remind anyone else of music industry models? Niche genres have existed there for some time. How did they come into being? How do people consume music? I liked Lotz’s observation that people aren’t necessarily taking advantage of the access to other niches that television as a convergent medium could provide.
I’m really looking forward to our discussion tomorrow . . . .