TeleVision is a simple idea - A Vision from Afar. Just as a TeleScope allows us to See from a Afar; when images can be sent through the air to become a vision for someone at a distance we have TeleVision.
Yet of course the notion of what we think of as Television is not so simple. From the technical infrastructure of Broadcast Towers and TV studios, through the makeup of TV in the form of Schedules and Episodes, to the tone and culture of TV as a creative cultural institution - TV is a complex idea.
This is of course leaving aside the all together even more complex concepts leveled upon TV by the digital age - TV Series on DVD box-sets, Video on Demand, HULU and iTunes, streaming media, social TV, interactive TV, second screen, downloadable and time-shifted TV. Not to mention WebTV and the very contemporary idea of Webisodes and the Webseries.
As with much of my thinking around new media expressed on this site, I tend to baulk at overt expressions of ‘newness’. In essence I don’t believe it helpful or useful to extol and perpetuate ‘difference’ as it is to connect with ‘similarity’ and extend upon it. I’ve given a number of public presentations of late that have dealt with this perspective - the Sydney Film Festival panel on Interactive Narrative, the London Literary Conference on immersive experiences and the forthcoming London Futurebook Innovation workshop.
When we get obsessed with the ‘newness’ and focus on difference, we loose sight of the point. When it comes to online, interactive, multi-platform, social, transmedia, streaming, WebTV… Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: Everything a good writer knows still counts. Character, drama, tension, action, catharsis, conflict, genre. They as much a part of new forms of narrative as they are of books, plays, TV and movies. Despite the oft-cited rhetoric of new-media ‘gurus’ there is no precedent in human history for a new technology or platform ever changing what a story is. No technological change has ever been so humungous as the introduction of Radio to an otherwise theatrical and oral narrative culture. Yet radio did not change any ideas of character, drama, tension, action, catharsis, conflict or genre which are the substance of all narrative irrespective of medium. Nor is there any precedent for a new narrative medium replacing or supplanting a previous medium. Despite the glories of of online and interactive technologies we still have radio, theatre, cinema and TV. Each platform adds to the others rather than remove them. Writers in the new media space should concentrate more on technology agnostic core principles of what motivates a viewer to watch, play or interact - what makes them give a shit about the story - and less on shinny newness or platform specificity
And this is what leads me to thinking about WebTV. In the rush of excitement over SocialTV, Interactive TV and Transmedia TV its worth remembering the ‘TV’ bit and in doing so remind ourselves to engage with the core essence of what makes ‘television’ so damn compelling. Ultimately Television - meaning a Vision broadcast from Afar - has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with episodic storytelling. Things such as TV schedules and time-slot viewing will disappear, broadcast towers will be replaced by streaming data as the infrastructure of transmission, but Episodic Narrative will remain.
It’s on this topic that i’ll be speaking at the mercury theatre in Adelaide as part of the Media Resource Centre WebTV Seminar on the 7th of July. The 1-day program brings together some very interesting experts and practitioners in the space and serves as the foundation for a develop fund for Adelaide WebTV makers to apply for to bring their ideas to fruition.
The program is a partnership between the MRC and YouTube and aims kickstart emerging WebTV producers, writers and directors with cash investment and in-kind production sponsorship in equipment and resources. From the WebTV program website:
Featured speakers at the Let’s Make Web TV seminar include Mike Jones, AFTRS Senior Lecturer, on serial narrative and the secrets of how to construct a successful webseries; Simon Britton, MediaWave Editor and Content Strategist, discussing online branding, content awareness and crowd-funding; and Wynston Alberts from Google/YouTube, offering advice on the hows and whys of marketing webseries for profit and partnerships with YouTube.
The seminar also features Q&A case studies from successful South Australian YouTube content creators Dario Russo (Italian Spiderman), Jeff Wong and Vihn Giang (Encyclopedia of Magic), Kirsty Stark and Victoria Cocks (Wastelander Panda) and Alex Williamson (‘Shooter’ Williamson Comedy).