What Does It Mean to Describe Television as a Domestic Technology? How Does Its Primary Position in the Home Shape Its Forms and Uses?

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DESCRIBE TELEVISION AS A DOMESTIC TECHNOLOGY? HOW DOES ITS PRIMARY POSITION IN THE HOME SHAPE ITS FORMS AND USES?

The act of television consumption occurs in technological, social and cultural forms, which concurrently effect the impact television has on everyday life as a domestic technology. The relationship between these elements is the basis for understanding television consumption.

Television today is among the most commonly undertaken leisure activities, yet it is typically viewed as a mundane activity as a result of it’s domestic introduction to households. The initiation of television into the domestic home developed over time to become a routine leisure activity. For more than half a century television has been an intimate part of the life of most populations. ‘It can be extraordinarily powerful because it sits right in the middle of all that mundaneness’ (Potter, 1993).

Television was first broadcast to the public in London 1929 by the BBC network. In the US, commercial broadcasting began in 1939 as a domestic medium developed to provide programming for entertainment. Housing was democratized after the Second World War, and television made its domestic appearance as an essential part of that process. Prior to the 1940’s, private housing was not capable of facilitating a television set. Houses lacked proper electricity, gas facilities and hygiene causing incentive to spend as much time out of the home as possible. ‘Domestication became the solution to urbanization, industrialization and population explosion in the nineteenth century’ (Geraghty & Lusted 1998). Creating an incentive for domesticity solved the uncontrolled working class problem. That incentive began with television. For TV to succeed, consumers had to be at home. To be at home, they needed both capital investment in the home to maintain activities there, as well as an ‘ideology of domesticity which would maintain their pleasures there rather than in the street, pub, cinema, music-hall or even in brothels or communism’ (Geraghty & Lusted 1998). Throughout the 1940s and 1950s ‘mass’ private housing was perfected as the necessary precondition for televisio. This movement promoted the values of domesticity by creating an incentive to spend time at home.

Television became a medium for the association of the home with the ideology of domesticity. It has grown to represent private life, suburbia, consumption, ordinariness, heterosexuality, family-building, hygiene and the ‘femininization’ of family governance (Geraghty & Lusted, 1998). Shortly after the domestication of television, women became the focus for a number of campaigns to achieve social compliance, focusing on hygiene and domesticity. Women attracted men towards the home as they promoted comfort, cleanliness, cooking, security and regular sex. This ideology of domesticity was promoted through political and commercial campaigns. They were based upon existing aspects of respectable life like religion, femininity, thrift, shame, privacy, self-help and property. The home became a lifestyle in itself and the activities it was expected to sustain. These associations of domesticity have ineradicably become a part of the TV’s textuality.

‘Television viewing is integrated with the routines through which the rituals of everyday domestic life are constructed’ Grossberg(1987). The ways television consumption is performed depends greatly on various types of social, cultural and household influences. Culture, domestic space, social structure, lifestyle and income, among many other factors all effect the consumption of television in any home. These influences concurrently determine the role of television and the way it is consumed. The television is ultimately a pervasive item of furniture, which is central to the contemporary concept of the home. The TV set is a symbolic object of commodity culture as the choice of television purchased reflects...
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