Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Soft control: Television's relationship to digital micromedia
by Lahey, Michael, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2013, 253; 3607011
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the role soft control plays in the relationship between the television industry and short forms of digital media. Following James Beniger and Tizianna Terranova, I define soft control as the purposive movement by the television industry towards shaping audience attention toward predetermined goals through a range of interactions where development happens somewhat autonomously, while being interjected with commands over time. I define such things as media environment design, branding, and data collection as soft control practices. I focus on television as a way to understand how an industry historically patterned around more rigid forms of audience control deals with a digital media environment often cited for its lack of control features. And while there is already a robust discussion on the shifting strategies for the online distribution of shows, there is less of a focus on the increasing importance of shorter forms of digital media to the everyday operation of the television industry. Shorter forms of media include digitally circulated short videos, songs, casual digital games, and even social media, which is itself a platform for the distribution of shorter forms of media. I refer to all these forms of short media as "micromedia" and focus my interest on how various television companies are dealing with media environments saturated with it.

To do this I look at, for instance, how television companies use the data available on Twitter and appropriate the user-generated content of audiences, as well as how standard digital communication interfaces are utilized to more easily retrofit previous audience retention practices into new digital environments. Through the investigation of how television creates and appropriates micromedia as a way to reconfigure practices into the everyday lives of participatory audiences, I argue that we can see soft control elements at work in structuring the industry-audience relationship. These soft control features call into question the emancipatory role attributed to participatory audiences and digital technologies alike. If we think about media forms in their specific contexts, making sure to focus on their intermedial connections and their materiality, we can complicate ideas about what the categories of audience or industrial control mean.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Striphas, Ted
Commitee: Gray, Mary L., Gutjhar, Paul, Klinger, Barbara
School: Indiana University
Department: Communication and Culture
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Communication, Web Studies, Mass communications
Keywords: Intermediality, Internet, Micromedia, Television
Publication Number: 3607011
ISBN: 9781303643866