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Television and the Meaning of 'Live': An Enquiry into the Human Situation

Television and the Meaning of 'Live': An Enquiry into the Human Situation

Paddy Scannell

ISBN: 978-0-745-67964-8 January 2014 Polity 272 Pages




This book is about the question of existence, the meaning of ‘life’. It is an enquiry into the contemporary human situation as disclosed by television.

The elementary components of any real-world situation are place, people and time. These are first examined as basic existential phenomena drawing on Heidegger’s fundamental enquiry into the human situation in Being and Time. They are then explored through the technological and production care-structures of broadcast television which, routinely and exceptionally, display the situated experience of being alive and living in the world today. It shows routinely in the live self-enactments of persons being themselves and the liveness of their ordinary talk on television. It shows exceptionally in television coverage of great occasions and catastrophes as they unfold live and in real time. Case studies reveal the existential role of television in salvaging the possibility of genuine experience, and in revealing the world-historical character of life today. To explore these questions, the agenda of sociology - its concern with economic, political and cultural life - is set aside. Being in the world is not, in the first (or last) instance, a social but an existential question, as an existential enquiry into television today discovers.

Passionate and sweeping in scale, this new book from a leading media scholar is a major contribution to our understanding of the media today.

Acknowledgements vi

Preface viii

Part one: An introduction to the phenomenology of television

Prologue: Heidegger's teacup 3

1. What is phenomenology? 5

2. Available world 14

3. Available self 27

4. Available time 39

5. Turning on the TV set 60

6. Television and technology 78

Part two: Television and the meaning of live

7. The meaning of live 93

8. How to talk – on radio 107

9. How to talk – on television 128

10. The moment of the goal – on television 153

11. Being in the moment: the meaning of media events 177

12. Catastrophe – on television 191

13. Television and history 209

Notes 225

References 245

Index 253

“Television and the Meaning of Live is an important and exciting book, which helps one to see television, and media in general, in new ways. More than this, it is a book that can help one to see the world as a whole anew, as befits the task of ‘unconcealment’ that was Heidegger's goal. It cannot be recommended highly enough.”
Critical Studies in Television

''Taking a refreshing phenomenological perspective, Paddy Scannell offers a thoughtful and compelling analysis of the way live radio and television capture and disclose the everyday human situation. A remarkable intellectual achievement by one of the most influential theorists of communication, this book will definitely enrich and deepen our understanding of the central role of broadcasting in our lived experience.''
Milly Buonanno, La Sapienza University of Roma, author of The Age of Television

''Can a phenomenology of « live » broadcasting illuminate the nature of everyday human situations? Paddy Scannell daringly answers : yes. The meaning of « Live » has much to tell us about the meaning of « Life » . Inspired by Heidegger’s Being and Time, this brilliant and provocative book challenges us to unlock media theory from the relentless embrace of sociologism.''
Daniel Dayan, Centre National de la Recherche scientifique & Institut d’études Politiques, Paris

''Using television, Paddy Scannell examines our situatedness in the world and carves out a strikingly fresh approach to media analysis. A seminal contribution--perceptive and humane.''
Carolyn Marvin, Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania

  • A major contribution to our understanding of the media today
  • Written by a leading expert in the field of worldwide reputation
  • Compelling assessment of the contemporary human situation as disclosed by television
  • Written in a very engaging style, building up its arguments through clear worked examples