Internet television remediating conventional structures, practices and power dynamics
As all major American broadcast and cable networks now provide some form and amount of online distribution of their television programming, we are beginning to see more interactive features being attached to this distribution to remediate the conditions of television consumption in the physical world. Attaching such interactivity to their online distribution creates cyberspaces of consumption that become places for virtual audiences to congregate as they view the program. To illustrate how the virtual environments and worlds are constructed to become places for virtual audiences, four case studies of virtual places are analyzed in terms of how interactivity is being managed. Two types of interactivity are used to compare these case studies: social interaction and narrative interaction. Broadcast networks CBS and NBC separately created virtual places to imitate “living room” conditions of social interaction. Cable network SciFi Channel produced “live events” to allow limited narrative interaction. Independent producer Metanomics created a virtual “talk show” to encourage both social interaction and narrative interaction. The analysis is set into a larger theoretical framework considering how these Internet-based interactive television examples demonstrate the remediation of conventional conceptualizations of television distribution structures and consumption practices, which then indicate the power dynamics of the producer-consumer relationship. The form in which the interactivity occurs is controlled by the producers of the programs through the structuring of the online distribution spaces. These structures constrain and cue how the virtual audience is expected to, allowed to and desired to engage with the program.
internet television; interactivity; virtual worlds; television distribution