Derek Kompare’s “Publishing Flow”

I am intrigued by Kompare’s distinction between the publishing and flow models and his investigation of actions like timeshifting, which disrupt television flow and reconceive television as a medium. His article heavily reminded me of Kristin Thompson’s discussion of television flow in Storytelling in Film and Television. Like Thompson, Kompare begs the question, “When the specificity of television no longer lies in flow (re: the introduction of DVD box sets, digital video recorders, and dissemination via the Internet), where does it lie?” Moreover, do new options, such as the ability to watch an entire season of a series straight through on DVD, detract from the traditional viewing experience? Commercials, for instance, have conventionally provided individuals and their fellow viewers with a social intermission of sorts and have not necessarily eroded momentum because an episode’s pacing is designed around commercial breaks. Furthermore, weekly broadcasting allows for the development of anticipation, as one episode’s cliffhanger leaves us anxiously awaiting the next episode’s resolution—and its continuation of the cycle. Kompare cites a thought-provoking quotation by Brian Winston: “There is nothing in the histories of electrical and electronic communication systems to indicate that significant major changes have not been accommodated by pre-existing social formations.” Kompare explicates that the allegedly “revolutionary” technological advancements of the past fifty or so years signify a shift from “live” media forms to the assemblage and distribution of existing bodies of work. As such, these changes are little more than representations, or manifestations, of inconstant consumer values at work. Kompare goes on to recognize that the DVD player was introduced not only as a novel technology but also as an upgrade from preceding systems like the VCR, as indicated aesthetically, practically, and by other criteria. He concludes that developing technologies have indeed served to “wow” consumers with improved quality, convenience (consider the sense of urgency in watching several consecutive episodes in one sitting, for example), and individualization (greater freedom of choice). However, they have in turn objectified television. Are these dramatic alterations of the traditional television viewing experience commendable, negative, or an immeasurable function of the changing times? Has television been enhanced, devalued, or simply updated?

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