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July 2010, Week 1


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
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Tue, 29 Jun 2010 16:41:10 -0500
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When Bobby Allen compiled the original edition of *Channels of
Discourse*(1987) -- the TV-studies manifesto for those of us trained
in film studies
-- he felt compelled to define television studies as a reaction to
mass-communication research. And when I first put together my TV-studies
textbook, *Television: Critical Methods and Applications* (1994), I elected
to do the same. I constructed a TV-studies methods chapter that begins by
explaining the mass-comm approach and then explains how critical studies of
television are different.

But now, some sixteen years later, as I ponder the revisions for *Television
*'s fourth edition, I wonder if this is still necessary. Can't television
studies stand on its own two feet? Must it continue to think of itself in
negative, reactive terms -- as providing what MC research cannot?

Certainly the flurry of books that have appeared in the past 12 years with
"television studies" in their titles (see below) suggests that the
discipline is quite well defined and that it need not present itself as
"analyzing TV, but not from that mass-comm angle." Sure, it's hard to *
precisely* define television studies and, sure, we all wonder what
"television" will be in the near, media-converged future; but the
discipline's general parameters are clear and network television refuses to
die, despite the pundits' eulogies.

Second, the use of ethnographic methods *within* television studies
illustrates that it's now less of an "us-versus-them" scholarly environment.
In both audience studies and production studies, we are seeing the
profitable blending of empirical methods with critical methods. The
imperative to define television studies in opposition to old-school,
statistics-based empiricism is quickly eroding.

So, I take the opportunity of this textbook revision to ask the practical

Can/should a survey of television studies' research methods begin without
first explaining, "Here's how television studies is different from mass-comm

As I stumble through this revision, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

-- "Television Studies" books, 1998-2010 --

    1998:  The Television Studies Book
    1999:  Critical Ideas in Television Studies
    2002:  Television Studies:  The Key Concepts
    2002:  Television Studies
    2004:  The Television Studies Reader
    2004:  An Introduction to Television Studies
    2009: Television Studies After TV
    2010:  Television Studies: The Basics

Jeremy Butler

Professor - TCF Dept. - U Alabama

Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: