TV Guide: From tele to Twittervision

2012-08-04 15:20

New social media are encroaching into the space of TV.

Ok, perhaps the situation is not that martial, but media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have changed how people watch television.

Just pay attention to what happens on timelines every weekday from 7.45pm, for instance. It’s that 15 minutes before the start of Generations, that much-loved soapie on SABC1.

People give a line-by-line update of what they are watching.

So as Khethiwe gets walloped by Mam Ruby for transgressing whatever urban sexual etiquette, you do not miss out even when you are far from a TV set.

The twitterati will ensure that you keep abreast of the unfolding story line. People tweet, update their BBM and Facebook statuses, declaring their disappointment or happiness with the plot and the characters playing it out.

In fact, this also happens before big sporting events like soccer Cup finals or the Olympics, as is the case now.

Facebook and Twitter, coupled with the proliferation of smartphones, have created a situation where people no longer watch TV passively.

This extends the reach of the programming beyond the glowing screen to taxi ranks, coffee shops, toilets and other places.

Audiences have become involved in the broadcasts. The story is not just on the screen; it is in our pockets and we spur it on with the click of a tweeting thumb.

This must be a digital nerd’s oyster box.

Think what Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan would make of this development. A quick recap for the ­uninitiated squares.

McLuhan wrote a seminal book on the nature of media titled Understanding Media.

He ­develops a theory through which he argues that different media invite different degrees of participation from the audiences.

McLuhan then divides TV, movies, books, comics and so on into “hot” or “cool”. Movies were seen as a “hot” ­medium since they involve one single sense, vision or sight.

Since TV had increasingly become like movies, with the development of technology, it would be a hot medium.

Unlike things like comic books which, due to their minimal presentation of visual detail, require a high degree of effort to fill in details that the cartoonist may have intended to portray.

They require more effort on the part of the viewer to determine meaning.

The new social media are making ­passive audiences into active ­participants. So television has become “cool” again.

And if the programmes are boring, don’t worry, you’ll know about it in a tweet.

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