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Avatars, Audiences and Interactive Television

This presentation was given at the 100th National Communication Association Conference in Chicago on November 21, 2014. This presentation reflects the work I have done with Pooky Amsterdam to understand the nature and potential of virtual world television as reported in the Journal of Virtual World Research. This presentation was awarded one of the Top Paper Awards for the Communication of the Future Division.

The current state of affairs brings what is “television” into question. Amongst the various layers of activity and discourse that surround it, “television” can, and perhaps should, be deconstructed into at least two primary components: the content it relays, “television-as-content,” versus the technical interface it is, “television-as-technology”. There may soon come a time when the idea of watching television does not involve the use of a television set. Instead, television content will be increasingly divorced from the medium for which it was developed: over-the-air broadcasting of audiovisual content. At that time, television-as-content will become another aspect of the Internet.

These challenges to what is “television” are also challenges to the traditional models of production, distribution, exhibition and consumption that have for so long defined it. These challenges are also implicated in the move toward higher interactivity. The traditional models are predicated on transmission and passivity, whereas the interactive models require dialogue and activity. Concepts and technologies like video on demand, time-shifting, and social television are all part of these challenges. This paper explores yet another, virtual world television or VWTV. With VWTV, we are seeing another possible location for the evolution of television.

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Virtual World Television as Interactive Television

This presentation was recently given at the 2013 Popular Culture Association conference in Washington, D.C.  The presentation focuses on an analysis of our Virtual World Television project, which will be ramping up as the year continues.  You can find the PowerPoint, with notes, at this blog post.  And stay tuned to this blog and that blog for more analysis, discussion, and illustration of Virtual World Television.

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CBS, Hawaii Five-O and Content Interactivity

CBS is no newcomer when it comes to experimenting with giving their audience a more interactive experience with their television programming.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, the television network in the past had offered their audience a chance to engage in social interactivity while watching their favorite shows online.  The network had structured online spaces to become chatrooms wherein viewers could congregate and talk amongst themselves while watching the show — and earlier versions of these virtual living rooms even permitted the viewers to superficially engage with the content via reactions and trivia.

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Virtual Worlds Television and Metanomics: Innovating or Remediating?

I’ve been using this blog to deconstruct research I’ve done that are interesting vignettes of findings, but perhaps in need of a non-traditional method of publication.  In one such paper that I’ve been deconstructing,  I’ve already discussed the Ghost Hunters live special episodes for how they incorporated online technologies as well as the virtual living rooms created by NBC and CBS.  The final piece of that paper is the basis for my current research on virtual worlds television; in this post, I discuss the first virtual worlds television programming I studied, the series Metanomics, for how it demonstrated the potential for social and content interactivities.

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Virtual Ghost Hunting: Ghost Hunters and Content Interactivity

With Internet-based television on the rise, we are seeing various producers experimenting with at least three types of interactivity.  The most common is access interactivity, which provides control to the television viewer over what to watch, when and where.  Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and Facebook are examples of channels experimenting with this access interactivity.  Another type is social interactivity, which provides the online television viewer a series of chat room and discussion board options for engaging with fellow viewers during the viewing of the content.  A third type is content interactivity, which provides the television viewer some control over the progression of the content, such as what will happen and when.

This idea of experimenting with interactivity is a topic I’ve been working on for the past several years.  Over the next several posts, I will share some of my observations on experiments with social and content interactivities. The first experiment I’ll discuss here is an attempt by a corporate producer to encourage an aggregated version of content interactivity.  This case describes a special event in the season of a television series, Ghost Hunters.

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