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The Evolution of Television

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DESCRIBE TELEVISION AS A DOMESTIC TECHNOLOGY? HOW DOES ITS PRIMARY POSITION IN THE HOME SHAPE ITS FORMS AND USES? The act of television consumption occurs in technological, social and cultural forms, which concurrently effect the impact television has on everyday life as a domestic technology.The relationship between these elements is the basis for understanding television consumption.Television today is among the most commonly undertaken leisure activities, yet it is typically viewed as a mundane activity as a result of it’s domestic introduction to households.

The initiation of television into the domestic home developed over time to become a routine leisure activity.

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For more than half a century television has been an intimate part of the life of most populations. ‘It can be extraordinarily powerful because it sits right in the middle of all that mundaneness’ (Potter, 1993). Television was first broadcast to the public in London 1929 by the BBC network. In the US, commercial broadcasting began in 1939 as a domestic medium developed to provide programming for entertainment.

Housing was democratized after the Second World War, and television made its domestic appearance as an essential part of that process. Prior to the 1940’s, private housing was not capable of facilitating a television set. Houses lacked proper electricity, gas facilities and hygiene causing incentive to spend as much time out of the home as possible. ‘Domestication became the solution to urbanization, industrialization and population explosion in the nineteenth century’ (Geraghty & Lusted 1998). Creating an incentive for domesticity solved the uncontrolled working class problem.

That incentive began with television. For TV to succeed, consumers had to be at home. To be at home, they needed both capital investment in the home to maintain activities there, as well as an ‘ideology of domesticity which would maintain their pleasures there rather than in the street, pub, cinema, music-hall or even in brothels or communism’ (Geraghty & Lusted 1998). Throughout the 1940s and 1950s ‘mass’ private housing was perfected as the necessary precondition for televisio. This movement promoted the values of domesticity by creating an incentive to spend time at home.

Television became a medium for the association of the home with the ideology of domesticity. It has grown to represent private life, suburbia, consumption, ordinariness, heterosexuality, family-building, hygiene and the ‘femininization’ of family governance (Geraghty & Lusted, 1998). Shortly after the domestication of television, women became the focus for a number of campaigns to achieve social compliance, focusing on hygiene and domesticity. Women attracted men towards the home as they promoted comfort, cleanliness, cooking, security and regular sex.

This ideology of domesticity was promoted through political and commercial campaigns. They were based upon existing aspects of respectable life like religion, femininity, thrift, shame, privacy, self-help and property. The home became a lifestyle in itself and the activities it was expected to sustain. These associations of domesticity have ineradicably become a part of the TV’s textuality. ‘Television viewing is integrated with the routines through which the rituals of everyday domestic life are constructed’ Grossberg(1987).

The ways television consumption is performed depends greatly on various types of social, cultural and household influences. Culture, domestic space, social structure, lifestyle and income, among many other factors all effect the consumption of television in any home. These influences concurrently determine the role of television and the way it is consumed. The television is ultimately a pervasive item of furniture, which is central to the contemporary concept of the home. The TV set is a symbolic object of commodity culture as the choice of television purchased reflects upon its owner.

Its relationship to commodity culture is further symbolized by its location in the household. Television is not only an integral part of individual’s lives; it has also become integral to their households physically, focally and socially. Most Western homes are arranged to accommodate the television rather than arranging the television to suit the home. Homes are typically organized to use the television as the main feature of the living space. Viewing is influenced greatly by the location of the TV in the home. The availability of space within a household impacts upon viewing practices.

This technology will often be used to create personal space in a restricted environment. The TV may be used in small homes to avoid conflict and lessen the tensions of spatial privacy. In small homes the room must be used for many purposes, which requires the need for negotiation between family members. Larger, wealthier homes may have more TV’s causing an increase in private space. This may lead to less conflict and friction because personal TV preferences are not an issue. While the television can be used as a medium for privacy it is also effective in terms of developing social relationships.

Families are considered to be the fundamental units of society. Examinations of family leisure have consistently demonstrated a positive relationship between family recreation and the success of family functioning. In modern society, leisure is the single most important factor in developing healthy relationships between husbands and wives as well as between parents and their children. The inclusion of the television in the home allows families to always have a leisure activity available to participate in together.

Such viewing experiences can provide one of the best opportunities for communication among families today. The household has become a major unit of consumptions and major market focus, yet the public is not well informed about the processes of consumption and its relationship with domestic time, space and actions. Though influences within the household can affect the ways in which television is consumed, television also affects the dynamics of household consumption and use of goods, services and meanings.

It defines that homes relationship to the outside world. The last forty years have shown major increases in the diversity of consumption of technologies in households. Advertising through television has greatly impacted this. Television as an object of consumption has a complex economy of meanings. It is both a technology as well as a carrier of meaning. The purchase of televisions as a commodity gains meaning by the intention of the consumer. The type of TV purchased, its location in the home, and its use all signify something about the owner.

The associations, which develop as a result of purchase, are all influenced by social measures. Consumption is a general process of the construction of meaning. (Douglas & Isherwood. 1978). It is concerned with ‘the internalization of culture in everyday life’. Which is the re contextualization of the alienating possibilities of everyday life. (Miller,1987, 212) Television is often assigned a kind of everyday piority which means that other interactions take place around and throughout the watching of it. Television is a catalyst for forms of domestic organization of time and space.

It is often a determining factor in how households organize their setup and everyday timetables. Disagreements may arise about the choices of broadcast content, or sheer quantity of viewing as well as differences of opinion about whether the set should be on in shared living spaces. Television content can often take priority for some over the more monotonous aspects of the household, a spouse for example. Most domestic conflicts today are not concerned with what is on television but rather about completing chores when opposed to luxury of viewing.

TV today has become so entwined with every day culture in the home that people will often constantly be watching television while concurrently doing other things. The television continues to prevail over other outdated technologies, as it is so deeply immersed in everyday life that it would seem outrageous for the television to be excluded from the home. Historians and theorists of mass culture have commented widely on the electronic foundations of the mass media and their role in the evolution of modern consumer capitalism.

Following the decline of a competitive market structure and furthering it, advanced capitalism creates an expanded sphere of consumption where the needs of the individual are defined, shaped and administered in the interest of high consumption levels and increased market control (Baran & Sweezy 1966). A culture of consumerism meeting these requirements has been largely through mass communications, representing an unprecedented joining of economic and cultural forces through which the meanings and structure of consumption are constituted throughout the realm of daily life.

Previous research into the television audience does not consider the new environment in which television exists; the environment today is both technological and social. This new environment needs to be taken into account when studying the effects TV has on everyday lives. The consumption habits among households need to be viewed with the social, economic and technological aspects of the domestic sphere as central influences.

Televisions audience needs to be understood in terms of a set of practices that are routine and ritual yet also embedded in the various multiple dimensions of domesticity. References. Dennis Potter, Potter on Potter, ed. Grahem Fuller, 1993:122. Douglas, Mary & Isherwood, Baron. The World of Goods. London and New York Press. 1978 Geraghty, Christine & Lusted, David. The Television Studies Book. Arnold Publishing. 1998. Isherwood, Baron. The World of Goods. 1978. Grossberg, L. ‘The In-Difference of TV’. Screen, 28, 2. 1987 Sweezy, P. & Baran, P. A. – Monopoly Capital [1966]

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