CS 100B INTRODUCTION TO MEDIAHISTORY
Dr. Martin Morris
8. TV Times
Introduction: Three Types of Interaction
1. Facetoface interaction
2. Mediated interaction
3. Mediated quasiinteraction
[On this typology, see Thompson, “Three Types of Interaction” from our MYLS]
Edmund Carpenter, “The New Languages”
What is the bias of television compared to other media?
“The child is right in not regarding commercials as interruptions…”
— TV is a flow in contrast to the photograph and other media.
“This is real drama, in process, with the outcome uncertain. Print can't do this; it has a different
bias. Books and movies only pretend uncertainty, but live TV retains this vital aspect of life.
Seen on TV, the fire in the 1952 Democratic Convention threatened briefly to become a
conflagration; seen on newsreel, it was history, without potentiality.
“It is significant that of the four new media, the three most recent are dramatic media,
particularly TV, which combines language, music, art, dance.
“Media differences such as these mean that it's not simply a question of communicating a single
idea in different ways but that a given idea or insight belongs primarily, though not exclusively,
to one medium, and can be gained or communicated best through that medium.
“Each medium selects its ideas.”
“Facial expression is a human experience rendered immediately visible without the intermediary
of word… Printing rendered illegible the faces of men…
—“Just as radio helped bring back inflection in speech, so film and TV are aiding us in
the recovery of gesture and facial awareness
For example, the Caine Mutiny
“…new languages, instead of destroying old ones, serve as a stimulant to them. Only monopoly
1 —“Print, along with all old languages, including speech, has profited enormously from
the development of the new media.
—theatre acquires more freedom and evolves in reaction to cinema
“Yet a new language is rarely welcomed by the old [language].”
“This same statement goes for all media: each offers a unique presentation of reality, which when
new has a freshness and clarity that is extraordinarily powerful.”
The University of Toronto lecture experiment conclusion: “…each communication channel
codifies reality differently and thus influences, to a surprising degree, the content of the message
communicated. A medium is not simply an envelope that carries any letter; it is itself a major part
of that message.”
Lynn Spigel, “Making Room for TV”
“…in postwar years the television set became a central figure in representations of family
The family united
Where to put the TV?
“In 1951, when American Home first displayed a television set on its cover photograph, it
employed the conventionalized iconography of a model living room organized around the
fireplace, but this time a television set was built into the mantelpiece. Even more radically, the
television was shown to replace the fireplace altogether, as the magazines showed readers how
television could function as the center of family attention.
“More typically, the television set took the place of the piano… The new ‘entertainment centers’
comprised of a radio, television, and phonograph, often made the piano entirely obsolete.
— decline of performed music in the home
“The home magazines helped to construct television as a household object, one that belonged in
the family space… television itself became the central figure in images of the American home; it
became the cultural symbol par excellence of family life.
—The TV was meant to bring the family together (especially after WWII)
“The emergence of the term ‘family room’ in the postwar period is a perfect example of the
importance attached to organizing household spaces around ideals of family togetherness.
“What was needed was a particular attitude, a sense of closeness that permeated the room.
2 — the family circle with all members of the family present represented pictorally
Family life or single life? — postwar challenges to ‘normality’ and gender roles (M&F)
—advertising says: TV has the ability to bring the family together around it.
One respondent from a Southern California survey boasted that his “family now stays home all
the time and watches the same programs. [We] turn it on at 3 P.M. and watch until 10 P.M. We
never go anywhere”
— keeping the kids home and off the streets
Mitchell Stephens, “Television Transforms the News”
“Radio gave newsmongers back their voices; television restored their faces. Indeed, the
television newscast seems to resemble that most ancient of methods for communicating news: a
person telling other people what has happened. But this resemblance … can be misleading.
“The technology of television was perfected by radio networks. And by 1941 CBS was
broadcasting two fifteenminute