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  • Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition
  • Kathleen Quillian
Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition edited by Lynn Spigel. Duke Univ. Press, Durham, NC, U.S.A., 2005. 480 pp., illus. Paper. ISBN: 0-8223-3393-7.

Undoubtedly the Internet has changed the nature of mass communication from a centralized one-way model to a decentralized multi-directional model. How this will affect the industry of broadcast media has yet to be fully decided. While producers are falling over themselves to try to figure out how to successfully negotiate the media landscape in the age of the Internet, scholars are building upon their cache of expertise to develop a new dialogue of communications studies. In an attempt to give this new era some kind of identifiable form, Lynn Spigel has brought together the perspectives of several leading television scholars in Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition.

It seems that while the dialogue is still developing around the new nature of mass communication, so too is the language. Throughout the collection, no less than a dozen different terms are given in the attempt to identify the scope of contemporary media communications-terms ranging from "omni-media" (Martha Stewart's term for her own media empire) and "post-broadcasting" to "the neo-network era." The book is divided into four sections that, broadly speaking, focus on: changes in the television industry in the age of the Internet; television's social context in the larger scope of culture; how television defines or redefines community; and the educational potential of television studies. Aside from two essays devoted specifically to European television (lifestyle programming in Britain and the introduction of television in Sweden, respectively) and a look at the development of Hong Kong as a media capital, the majority of the book is devoted to the many ways that the industry of (U.S.) commercial television has evolved and how it influences, or is influenced by, the Internet. To those of us who cannot conceive of life without the all-pervasive influence of commercial television, this collection of essays certainly gives one pause to think as we work our way through the next generation of mass media. One of the more interesting angles on this is given in "Flexible Microcasting: Gender, Generation, and Television-Internet Convergence," by Lisa Parks, in which the author surmises how the rise and popularity of television game shows foreshadowed the interactivity of the Internet. She then goes on to address how certain forward-thinking big-budget television producers have successfully (or unsuccessfully) negotiated the territory between television and the Internet with programs designed to encourage the involvement of women and youth while still maintaining the dominant ideologies perpetuated by commercial television.

The "flow" of the book (referencing a term coined by early television scholar Raymond Williams, one mentioned consistently throughout this collection of essays) moves from a rather focused look at new forms of marketing in the television industry to a broader look at the influence of television on culture and society. Two notable contributions presented toward the latter end of the flow are by Anna McCarthy and Lynn Spigel, whose respective essays give two very different [End Page 81] spins on power and broadcast media. In "The Rhythms of the Reception Area: Crisis, Capitalism, and the Waiting Room TV," Anna McCarthy discusses how the market of closed-circuit television programs both manifests and perpetuates certain social and economic strata in relation to the measurement of time in public waiting areas. Spigel's own contribution to this collection, "Television, the Housewife, and the Museum of Modern Art," chronicles a lesser-known and otherwise short-lived era in the early days of television when the Museum of Modern Art experimented with the potential gains offered by the new, avant-garde medium. In this essay, Spigel weaves an interesting narrative around leisure time, niche marketing and the clash between "high" and "low" culture in post-war America. An image of Barbara Streisand posing while singing in the museum gallery, wearing a designer gown similar to the modernist paintings on the wall next to her, illustrates this essay quite well.

In the attempt...


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