Sunday, May 27, 2007

Notes from EuroITV 07 part one

Astrid Weiss of University of Salzburg, the host city of next year’s event, presented findings on how the TV audience perceives their living rooms. It plays a role of a recreational area yet at the same time as a place for socializing. She quoted a woman saying she wants to watch TV in her living room, read and be lazy but the same room is where her son plays PS. A truly multi functional space, it appears. I’ve always been fascinated by how people act, when they have friends over; do they kill the tv or do they actually turn it on, as a background noise or perhaps as an aid or instigator to get the discourse going. But now, when I'm in the middle of a moving process where the function and roles of new rooms are designed, I started reflecting on how I perceive my living room and the role of TV. I chose to have a different room for media. It’s quite small, with a blood red wall, Kill Bill motives painted on the walls and b/w curtains. It’s a place for playing WoW and watching movies. In the living room on the other hand, the only media will be piano music and talk. I see that primarily as a place for socializing and resting. Interestingly, many seem to combine these two, but I’m not comfortable with that solution (anymore I should add).

I have a thing for jewelry, especially rings, but it’s definitely not precious metals and stones that set me off, neither do “bling bling”. Anyways, in Amsterdam I wore one of my favorites I got in London, a black ring by a Japanese designer, made of sponge. Suddenly I overhear a participant commenting it to my colleague: “Susanne is wearing a very special ring. Is it very common to be that different in Finland?” I started laughing, and contrary to the question raiser’s fears, I wasn’t offended at all. Quite the opposite really, I don’t mind wandering off the beaten tracks at times. That doesn’t however mean I don’t possess a sense of community, a desire to belong to a Gemeinschaft. This division between individualization and community characterized many of the presentations and issues raised, in my view, during the conference. That is, especially these days, many long for expressing themselves in a highly individual way whereas the need for belonging to a group and being part of a community of own choice is very important as well. Many TV viewers want to enjoy the social experience that TV consumption is, via watching shows or programs with family and friends, and discuss the shows the next morning over coffee with colleagues at work but highly personalized, niched content is also appealing to them. This is evident even in a concrete and physical manner, at times you watch the news in the living room with your family, at other times you watch them in bed upstairs in your own room on your own TV-set or via mobile TV. So how do you combine the desire for expression of individuality and the desire for belonging to a community? (If you find the recipe, you’re likely to do good. I think the popularity of services such as Flickr lies in the fact that it combines these two factors.) And is the need for belonging to the group (who watched the Eurovision for instance and thus can discuss whether the right song won, the clothes of the artists etc) transforming? This is what comes to my mind when reading the long tail theory, which I largely agree on. According to it, small (as opposed to hit products and mega markets with more, bigger, better) is beautiful and even profitable, the future is all about giving the consumers the choice to choose what they want, when they want it, and niche content will be prevailing. But doesn’t this imply that colleagues around the coffee table have each seen different Sunday night movies, instead of earlier when many watched the 9 o’clock movie on Channel X? There’s no sense of belonging to a group when every colleague watches different, personalized content. The question is, does it matter? Will people be satisfied with the fact that the group they belong to (say those who watched the Eurovision) is likely to be scattered around the world, instead of geographically close, as friends’ and colleagues’ TV guide may look completely different? Will the habit of chatting about last night’s 9 o’clock TV series or movie at work slowly disappear? Qui vivra verra (He who lives, shall see).

Photos from the conference here.

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