Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste

By David Bell; Joanne Hollows | Go to book overview

2
2 From television lifestyle to
lifestyle television

Tim O'Sullivan

‘Rearrange television around your life!’ proclaims one of the current slogans of satellite and digital television broadcaster Sky, advertising its Sky+ Box in the UK. With a seductive swirl of visuals and music, the advert foregrounds and idealizes the power of the modern, ‘state-of-theart’ television viewer, free to watch just what they want, just when they want to. Advertising, it would seem, remains the ‘magic system’ (Williams 1980), continuing to deal in the alchemy of turning abstract objects into desirable things, the ‘must haves’ of contemporary lifestyle culture. In what is a magically reversed panoptic environment, itself epitomizing an appeal to a particular lifestyle with its fashionably minimalist, ‘loft living’ and ‘discerning’ cosmopolitan vista and contemporary aesthetic, two dimensions are significant. First, in the flat plasma screen ‘on the wall’, television as a material, designed object or apparatus appears to contradict history and to defy established technical and domestic convention: the ‘box in the corner’, replaced by ‘the window on the wall’ (if not ‘the world’). Second, this transformation is reinforced by the image of the viewer/consumer's apparent ability and power to construct and navigate their own schedule, at a time of massively expanded menus of television ‘choice’, across terrestrial and digital systems, channels and programmes. Thus the advert doubly marks and celebrates a watershed, the passing of an era, whereby the historically established technical and cultural relationships, the ‘oneway’ constraints between the producers and viewers of television have tilted, are now confounded, ‘thrown off’ and made to look obsolete. To paraphrase Berman (1988), ‘all that was solid now melts into air’.

In the world of this ad, ‘keeping up with television’ is posed as a matter of the utmost importance and urgency. This involves investment in new aspirational hardware. The return from this is entry into a world of ultimate television control, one that reverses the historical logic of the institutionally scheduled, national menu; this is redefined according to the priorities of your own lifestyle and taste culture. With a hard-drive recorder and access across the full range of analogue and digital channels, the conditions are ripe for you to assert/navigate your own lifestyle and its particular requirements. What you select as live or

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