Introduction: Research and Criticism
THIS book looks at some of the ideas about television which have emerged in academic study. It does this through a sequence of ten short interconnected chapters, each one of which cuts into the protean character of the medium under headings indicating broad aspects of form and function. Just how any commentary such as this is divided into parts is, of course, a key feature of its intellectual design. My headings have a certain obviousness, going with the grain of current usage (e.g. institution, reception, production) but I have tried to use them flexibly. They are also, necessarily, neither fully comprehensive nor free of that lumping and splitting whereby things which for some purposes are best kept apart are put together and vice versa. At times, the connection is horizontal, with other ideas; at other times, it is vertical, either in the direction of particular substantive studies or of more general theoretical perspectives on media, culture, and society.
The treatment is mostly cross-generic and at a level of generality which precludes any proper synopsis of the dense academic literatures which have now grown up around many dimensions of television. There is a growing number of volumes which seek to carry out the latter task and, indeed, it is only by such specialist attention that a referencing of the full range of work can be anything other than indicative.
Although I hope it will be found accessible by students, and will stimulate their reading of the wider literature, it is not designed primarily as a textbook.
There are many aspects of television which are not touched on and even within the realm of ideas about it, although I have tried for a fairness of approach, I have worked from my own sense of the significant and the promising in ways which cannot be other than selective, occasionally partisan, and sometimes virtually autobiographical. My own career has involved working with both the social science and the humanities' approaches to television and my discussion attempts to make connections with both, giving particular emphasis to work which bridges the two. Some chapters (e.g. that on knowledge) can obviously achieve this more easily than others (e.g. that on narrative) which lean much more towards one than the other. In every chapter, I start my discussion by considering the relevant aspect of television itself and those questions about it which it would seem most useful to ask, introducing classifications and ideas of my own in the course of reviewing those of others. Often, I have made use of lists and typologies to improve the clarity of my exposition and to counter what I regard as a tendency in the