4976 television

and feared by corporations) who use TV
like an appliance, choosing what they want
from its programming.
2 All powerful interpreters (invented and
loved by utopic sociologists and cultural
critics, investigated and led by corpora
tions) who use TV to bring pleasure and
sense to their lives.

These models have a common origin. In lieu
of citizen building, their logic is the construc
tion and control of consumers. Instead of issuing
the jeremiads of rat catching psy doomsayers,
they claim that the TV audience is so clever
and able that it makes its own meanings from
programs, outwitting institutions of the state,
academia, and capital that seek to measure and
control it. Ownership patterns do not matter,
because the industry is wildly volatile, ani
mated entirely by the unpredictable choice of
the audience (De Vany 2004: 1, 140). The first
approach demonstrates a mechanistic applica
tion of neoclassical economics. The second var
ies between social psychological tests of viewers
gratifications and a critical ethnography that
engages cultural and social questions.
A summary of sociological approaches to tele
vision up to the present might look like Table 1.
And the future? What are we to make of
digitally generated virtual actors (synthespians),
desktop computers that produce and distribute
expensive looking images, the New Interna
tional Division of Cultural Labors simulta
neous production work on TV programs
across the world, and broadband home video
access (Miller et al. 2005)? The rhetoric of the
new media is inflected with the phenomenolo
gical awe of a precocious child who can be
returned to Eden, healing the wounds of the
modern as it magically reconciles public and
private, labor and leisure, commerce and cul
ture, citizenship and consumption. Television
is dead (de Silva 2000) and the interactive web
is the future. That may be. But it is worth
remembering that television stations continue
to multiply around the world, that TV is adapt
ing to the use of Internet portals, and that the
digital divide separating the poor from high
technology is not changing. Two billion people
in the world have never made a telephone call,
let alone bought bookshelves on line.
In any event, the questions asked of television
today illustrate its continued relevance. For
example, leading bourgeois economist Jagdish
Bhagwati (2002) is convinced that TV is partly
to blame for global grassroots activism
against globalization because television makes
people identify with those suffering from capit
alism, but has not led to rational action (i.e.,
support for the neoclassical economic policies
he supports, which many would say caused the
problem). Just a few pages further on in Bhag
watis essay, however, cable is suddenly a savior.
There is no need to litigate against companies
that pollute the environment, or impose sanc
tions on states that enslave children to become
competitive in the global economy, because the
rapid flow of information via the media ensures
that multinationals and their host governments
cannot afford to alienate their constituencies

Table 1 Sociological approaches to television
Origins Topics
Objects Methods

Allied disciplines

Global Regulation, industry
State, capital,

Political economy,
Economics, political science, law,
US Genre

Text Content analysis Communications
Global Genre

Text Textual analysis Literary/cultural studies
US Uses

Audience Uses and
Communications, psychology,
Global Uses

Audience Ethnography Anthropology, cultural studies,
US Effects

Audience Experimentation,
Psychology, marketing,