John McCann

Involved in a TV show

In Media involvement, Television on February 10, 2006 at 4:12 pm

In January, IBM released a document titled “The end of television as we know it” that makes several predictions about the future. They key element of the report is a graph of how the TV audience is changing in terms of two dimensions: 1) Content access (going from limited to open) and 2) Consumer media control: going from passive to involved. Here is what the report has to say about the latter:

“The spectrum for consumer media control ranges from Passive to Involved. At one end, the historical and still predominant passive experience represents a ‘lean back’ mode in which consumers do little more than flip on the remote and scan programming. At the other end are consumers who want to ‘lean forward’ for a PC-like experience. Involved users will self-navigate, toggle, search and self-author content — and, this interactive group is willing to invest heavily in its TV and media experiences.”

The aspect of this that struck me the most is their depiction of the “involved users” as consumers (I hate the practice of referring to us as consumers when that term has no meaning in the context in which it is used; just call us people, or folks, or humans) who self-author content.

The skeptic might be tempted to say: I don’t want to watch television created by mere consumers; I want the stuff made by professionals with big budgets. And there are many, many times when I want to watch the professional stuff. But an “involved” person does not have to be one who is creating television content. He or she can become involved in the TV series by participating in a forum about the show, by authoring a blog, and/or by producing podcasts about the episodes.

I regularly watch the TV show Lost by sitting in front of my TV set, thus making me a Passive. I also listen to the Lost Podcasting Network and the Lost Transmission podcast. In doing so, I have moved slightly towards the Involved group of people. If I were to call in to one of the podcasts and thus participate in the discussion I would be more directly involved.

My first exposure to this type of participation came about six years ago when my daughter began watching the TV show Charmed. She would spend hours on the Internet interacting with other teenage girls who were using fan sites to chat about the show and, for some, to write alternative endings to old shows or entire episodes that featured the characters on the actual show.

These kids were no longer passively sitting in a chair watching someone else’s work but were building upon the work of the professionals to create extensions of the show. They were participating by creating new material that extended the experiences of the show’s audience. This is a form of participation that is open to all of us.

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  1. […] In an earlier post, Involved in a TV show, I talked about involvement as a form of participation. I participate in my world via my involvement with the subject matter. […]

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