book review

Television Culture

John Fiske (1987)

Recently it occurred to me that there are some interesting parallels between computer games and television series. So I picked up a copy of John Fiske's Television Culture. This book acknowledged these parallels, but it also did something more.

At the heart of Television Culture is Fiske's trust in the plurality of modern television. Television literally needs speak with different voices and accents to reach the many groups in our contemporary, heterogeneous, capitalist and democratic society. Popular television does uphold the dominant ideology but needs to subvert it a the same the same time. Otherwise it will not appeal to a broad audience which social identity is rarely compatible with the dominant ideology. Fiske re-evaluates the active role of the television viewer in creating meaning from broadcasted texts. This active stance does not stop at the interpretation of an episode or news item, for viewers often discuss the television events with other viewers. The richness of the fan material that is produced by this active audience is testimony to the importance of this type of cultural and social expression. All this has some effect on the type of narratives delivered by television series. Most importantly television narrative resists closure. The narrative events of a single episode might be resolved the underlying paradigmatic oppositions are never resolved.

There is much more subtlety and layers to Fiske's book than can be presented here, the capitalist ideology that is dormant in ideals of realism or Brechtian alienation that serves as a counterstrategy to inspires more open readings of texts, to name but a few. You can expect this book to appear in the bibliography of a few articles I have planned for the near future.