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The Future of Live

Karin van Es

ISBN: 978-1-509-50263-9 December 2016 Polity 180 Pages


Liveness is a persistent and much-debated concept in media studies. Until recently, it was associated primarily with broadcast media, and television in particular. However, the emergence of social media has brought new forms of liveness into effect. These forms challenge common assumptions about and perspectives on liveness, provoking a revisiting of the concept.

In this book, Karin van Es develops a comprehensive understanding of liveness today, and clarifies the stakes surrounding the category of the ‘live’. She argues that liveness is the product of a dynamic interaction between media institutions, technologies and users. In doing so, she challenges earlier conceptions of the notion, which tended to focus on either one of these contributors to its construction.
By analyzing the ‘live’ in four different cases – a live streaming platform, an online music collaboration website, an example of social TV, and a social networking site – van Es explores the operation of the category and pinpoints the conditions under which it comes into being. The analysis is the starting point for a broader reflection on the relation between broadcast and social media.

Contents page
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Constellations of Liveness
Chapter Three: Liveness and Institutionalization
Chapter Four: “Live” as an Evaluative Category
Chapter Five: Social TV and the Multiplicity of the Live
Chapter Six: Social Media’s New Relation to the Live
“‘Liveness’ for decades has been a distinguishing feature of mass media, but on what terms will it survive in the era of social media? In this important book, Karin Van Es dissects the circuit of forces which underpin ‘liveness’, acknowledging the changing role of media institutions and media users alike. Sharply perceptive and historically well-grounded, Van Es’ book is a landmark in our understanding of how media are socially constructed.”
Nick Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science

“Karin Van Es has made a key contribution to the study of liveness. She takes the topic beyond its original focus on broadcast television and live performance in the era of recording technologies, and explores it in relation to the internet and social media. The Future of Live is a fascinating and thought-provoking addition to a question of growing interest and importance. Strongly recommended!”
Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan