Television and Cultural Citizenship

Authored by: Nick Stevenson

Routledge Handbook of Leisure Studies

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415697170
eBook ISBN: 9780203140505
Adobe ISBN: 9781136495595

10.4324/9780203140505.ch29

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Abstract

One of the most interesting developments in Leisure Studies since the early 1970s has been the fragmentation of general awareness into specific interest. Nowhere is this trend more well established that in the critical study of television. The topic of this chapter, that the way we understand television has wider implications for questions of cultural citizenship, is well established amongst media scholars. The development of a genuinely mass medium that was able to beam into people’s homes a sense of the wider world has obvious implications for how we understand questions of rights, obligations and a shared sense of cultural identity. However, if we want to understand the shifting role of television in contemporary life we need to do so historically. During the 1960s, as we shall see, many radical democratic writers saw the arrival of mass television as potentially strengthening a shared civic identity. Much of the contemporary argument around new media (especially the Internet, mobile phones and blog sites) now carries the burden of radical hope for building a more civically engaged society. Television is now increasingly written about as the domestic medium, or through notions of the commodified spectacle. In current debates about the ability of media to help citizens imagine political alternatives to the present, television has seemingly a rapidly diminishing presence. Here I want to investigate how we might understand the civic role of television, given its continued power to help to inform the subjectivities of modern citizens. I aim to avoid the tendency within some work to juxtapose mass television to the more ‘liberating’ quality of new media. Television remains important as a common mass-mediated experience that is able grant modern citizens access to a plurality of narratives, stories and perceptions that communicates to them a shared and differential sense of their shifting identities.

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