viewing technologies


viewing technologies
   Watching television has traditionally been thought of as a passive activity. The viewer would watch television for several hours, only occasionally getting up to change channels. Television scheduling and advertising was built round this premise. The viewer would absorb advertisements between programmes while waiting for another programme segment. The true significance of the television experience was one of viewing programmes. However, with the development of video, the introduction of television sets with remote controls and with more channels being provided, questions have been raised about the way audiences view and use television. With new technologies of viewing, it would seem that the viewer is gaining new pleasures from watching and using television and is indeed more active than previously thought. It is now recognized that the tyranny of the schedule and the programme timetables, is no more: the viewer now has the freedom to watch when, what and how he or she likes.
   With the increased use of VHS video people are able to watch programmes at different times than originally shown. Thus they are able to reschedule or ‘time-shift’. No longer are they restricted to the carefully controlled and constructed television schedules, but can watch programmes hours, days or months after they were shown. Video technology has also introduced the ability for viewers to fast-forward through advertisement breaks. This has become known as zipping, and is a practise that worries the advertising industry as more and more people time-shift and are increasingly able to ‘miss out’ the advertisements. Video helped to introduce the remote control, since by using the video handset people could change video channels from the comfort of their seats. Most television sets now also come with their own remote control. This technology has also given the viewer the power to change channels quickly. So, for example, when an advertisement break comes on, viewers can switch to another channel for the duration of the break. This is referred to as zapping. Where the remote control is used to flick through many channels, increasingly possible in the multi-channel environment, a form of ‘channel surfing’ or ‘grazing’ occurs. Here, part of the pleasure is the experience of creating one’s own collage or programme experience divorced from that offered by the programmers of a particular channel.
   Further reading
    Silverstone, R. and Hirsch, E. (eds) (1994) Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces, London: Routledge.
   PAUL RIXON

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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