Posts Tagged technology

Twitter & TV: Symbiosis

Television viewership has skyrocketed in recent years. It might seem surprising, but on-demand availability and time-shifted programming (such as ‘+1’ channels), as well as the range of viewing platforms now available has meant that the public can now fit viewing into their schedule better than ever before. On top of this, television is no longer seen as the ‘low art’ it once was; film’s black-sheep baby cousin has grown up and started garnering the attention it deserves.

Shows like Game of Thrones are receiving Hollywood-sized budgets, and others such as Breaking Bad are gaining the kind of universal critical acclaim once reserved for great literature or theatre, and only the greatest of film (see also this article, comparing the show to the fabled Great American Novel.)

Beyond this, the way we talk about television has changed too; it is now impossible to go on Twitter without risking seeing spoilers for your favourite shows. I caught up with the infamous (and controversial) Game of Thrones episode featuring The Red Wedding about three days after it first aired and in that time I had to enter into complete social media lockdown, lest I accidentally stumbled upon a list of who had died…. [SPOILER ALERT] Turned out it was pretty much everyone, so it was almost a waste of time, but that’s beside the point. Twitter has now become the first point of contact for reactions, discussions, news  questions, so much so that shows are being rated not by how many views they receive (incredibly difficult to measure in the age of aforementioned technological advances) but by how much Twitter buzz they generate.

In fact, nowadays it is arguable that you cannot properly engage with television without having a Twitter account. Even some of my more tweet-phobic friends immediately search for trending reactions to certain televisual events: from the last few months the finales of Breaking Bad, Broadchurch and The X Factor spring to mind. Sure, TV events will no doubt receive press coverage, generate Facebook statuses, inspire blog posts, but for immediate, concise reaction and discussion, nobody does it better than Twitter.

The industry is savvy to this fact as well; TV Line founder and CEO Michael Ausiello has nearly 20,000 tweets to his name and over a million followers. Twitter is allowing audiences to engage with television in a way only previously dreamed of. Watching a show is no longer the final step of the experience, we are implored to involve ourselves further in the world of the episode by becoming immersed in the forum surrounding it, and it’s not even a big commitment, you don’t have to have tons of time or a burning passion, just fire off those speedy 140 characters with the right hashtag at the end, read your ‘Trending’ page and you’re done. Suddenly, since Twitter established itself, television viewing has become a richer experience, more social than ever before; where it used to bring the members of your household together, it now brings you together with every other fan of your favourite show who has a Twitter account… Which every true television fan now does.

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Screen Exposure: Advantageous or Abhorrent?

It doesn’t matter if you approve or don’t, screens are now inextricably woven into the fabric of everyday life, and they’re here to stay.

It happened the other night. We (a group of four students) settled in to watch a TV show together, the final of I’m A Celebrity… (no judgement please). Halfway through the show I looked at the room, which had gone silent beyond the odd chuckle. I quickly realised why; between the four of us we were simultaneously using four smartphones, two laptops and two tablets, whilst ‘watching TV and chilling with friends’, which of course would’ve been the official party line had anyone asked what we were doing. It was in that moment I truly realised how digitised my generation has become; I can genuinely only think of two situations in which I am not constantly dipping in and out of various apps on my iPhone: 1) when I’m driving and 2) when I’m asleep.

This isn’t even exclusive to our particularly digitised demographic (i.e. young adults); in 2012 Google produced a study stating that 90% of the population’s media consumption was now screen-based, and beyond that, multi-tasking was reaching its pinnacle… 77% of the time we spend watching television was also spent using another device, such as a tablet or smartphone. A mere six months later, this infographic showed that those figures had risen again. The tide hadn’t so much turned as unleashed a tsunami upon the coast of the first world.

As with any new cultural trend, a discussion immediately erupted; for every person essaying the positives of this shiny, new digital world, there were naysayers concerned about the potential longer term developmental issues. However, the fact of the matter is that arguments about how good or bad this new global addiction is are somewhat irrelevant now, it functions simply as a habit nowadays. It is no longer a case of discussing the potential positives (greater ease of communication, increased cross-platform media engagement) or negatives (falsity of online relationships, decreased attention span, lack of ‘in-the-moment’ enjoyment), that proverbial ship sailed long ago.

Like it or not, it is now just another facet of everyday life, bringing with it a new vernacular of words and activities that even within my short 22-year life span have been ascribed new meaning or created altogether (selfie, Instagram, tweeting, snapchatting, online booking, app, I could go on…)  Whether the thought of spending 90% of your time attached to a screen fills you with joy or an Orwellian chill, it’s irrelevant because it’s already happened. The revolution was televised, but you might’ve missed it… You were probably playing Temple Run.

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