Television: Technology and Cultural Form

Television: Technology and Cultural Form

Television: Technology and Cultural Form

Television: Technology and Cultural Form

Synopsis

Twenty-first century TV offers an apparently endless stream of images, unfolding at high speed. We no longer watch individual programmes but flick from channel to channel, absorbing a continuous flow of news, game shows, comedy, drama, movies, advertising and trailers. Television: Technology and Cultural Form was first published in 1974, long before the dawn of multi-channel TV, or the reality and celebrity shows that now pack the schedules. Yet Williams' analysis of television's history, its institutions, programmes and practices, and its future prospects, remains remarkably prescient.Williams stresses the importance of technology in shaping the cultural form of television, while always resisting the determinism of McLuhan's dictum that "the medium is the message". If the medium really is the message, Williams asks, what is left for us to do or say? Williams argues that, on the contrary, we as viewers have the power to disturb, disrupt and to distract the otherwise cold logic of history and technology - not just because television is part of the fabric of our daily lives, but because new technologies continue to offer opportunities, momentarily outside the sway of transnational corporations or the grasp of media moguls, for new forms of self and political expression.

Excerpt

The space between the first sentence of this book, ‘It is often said that television has altered our world’, and its last, in which Raymond Williams, with characteristic passion and intelligence, insists that the future of our media will depend on our capacity to make informed judgements and decisions about that future, is filled by a critical, insightful, iconoclastic and humane reading of television’s first half-century.

It is a reading which is informed, perhaps more than anything, by a night in Miami and a year at Stanford. It might appear that the latter was needed to enable him to understand the former, a night during which Williams, newly landed by boat from Europe, found himself entirely bemused by the flow of U. S. television, a flow in which one programme blended into another, in which advertisements were seamlessly threaded through the texts of soap operas, and in which trailers for one film provided a kind of invasive sub-text for the unfolding of another. At Stanford, in the Department of Communications, where this book was written, he worked through this confrontation, and in . . .

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