How Television Invented New Media

How Television Invented New Media

How Television Invented New Media

How Television Invented New Media


Now if I just remembered where I put that original TV play device--the universal remote control...

Television is a global industry, a medium of representation, an architectural component of space, and a nearly universal frame of reference for viewers. Yet it is also an abstraction and an often misunderstood science whose critical influence on the development, history, and diffusion of new media has been both minimized and overlooked. How Television Invented New Media adjusts the picture of television culturally while providing a corrective history of new media studies itself.

Personal computers, video game systems, even iPods and the Internet built upon and borrowed from television to become viable forms. The earliest personal computers, disguised as video games using TV sets as monitors, provided a case study for television's key role in the emergence of digital interactive devices. Sheila C. Murphy analyzes how specific technologies emerge and how representations, from South Park to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog, mine the history of television just as they converge with new methods of the making and circulation of images. Past and failed attempts to link television to computers and the Web also indicate how services like Hulu or Netflix On-Demand can give rise to a new era for entertainment and program viewing online. In these concrete ways, television's role in new and emerging media is solidified and finally recognized.


Hi, I’m Conan O’Brien and I’m here to tell
you about an exciting new technology called
television! Television allows you to watch
things just as you would on your computer
or cell phone except while seated in a
more comfortable chair. Television, why not
watch some tonight?

—June 2009 promotion for The Tonight Show

I had a show. Then I had a different show.
Now I have a Twitter account.

—Conan O’Brien’s Twitter bio, 2010

AS A CHILD I WAS FASCINATED by television— not just the programming, which I was enthralled by, but the set itself. The 1970s-era television set I knew as a girl had UHF and VHF knobs for selecting channels, and smaller, stick-like, twistable controls to adjust tint, vertical hold, horizontal hold, and other elements related to picture quality. A speaker was hidden behind a plastic grill and the sides, though they were also plastic, had faux wood-grain patterns on them. This set, a nineteen-inch color model, sat on a cart with chrome legs and “wood” shelves. It was what we now call, in retrospect, analog television (figure 1). Early on, the TV wore a “rabbit ears” antenna, which my brothers and I continually adjusted so a program would “come . . .

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