How digital media has changed everything about television: A research study by Alex Bodkin

My topic is evaluating television shows and their relationship with digital media. My initial “guiding question” for the project is: How has the growth of digital media affected the way the audience interacts/engages with television shows, and how does that affect the way shows are now structured?

The reason I want to study this is mainly because I find this topic incredibly fascinating. I used to be somewhat ashamed of this fact, but I love television. Now the reason I’m not ashamed of this is because it’s not out of sloth-like laziness that I love tv, but rather because I love storytelling. TV shows are just another medium to share a message, help communities relate, exist as a comfort or escape, or one of many other reasons.

Television evolved from the original storytelling medium, radio. As it has grown, it’s continued to adapt with the times. From silent black and white pictures to 80” curved 3D and 4K Smart TVs, the hardware has clearly evolved with changing technology. That’s obvious. However, looking at how shows have changed throughout history, and especially the last few decades, is even more drastic. A show’s fate can be made or broken by the amount of tweets gone out while it airs. New storylines evolve from seeing fans’ reactions to relationships or developments in the plots. And through social media, an audience can actively chat with the cast and writers of shows while they all watch! Television has gone from a passive activity done in your home with family or friends, to a social experience you can share with the whole world. We can learn a lot about how things grow and affect us as a society, so I plan to explore this. Do people watch shows more because it “trends” on Twitter? Does have a podcast that exists as an after-show experience increase engagement or viewership? How does the social experience surrounding a shows fan base on Twitter, Reddit, blogs and podcasts affect the show itself? These are all questions I hope to find the answer to.

As far as research goes, I’m hoping to be able to interview people involved in television or the social aspects of such. Thanks to the open avenues of our social environment, being able to reach out to a team of writers who work on a show is easy through their Twitter accounts. I also plan on interviewing a few people who work on popular podcasts for shows. Lastly, networks release all sorts of data about viewership and through sites like Nielsen and PEW Research Center, I can get stats about behavioral patterns for television shows. Additionally, Northwestern has a great Radio/Television/Film department, of which I hope to interview one or more professors who have insight to the growth the industry has experienced. 

I believe the base of this project relates a lot to what we studied this past week, about our relationships with digital media and how it is an extension of ourselves. Additionally, the target audiences and biases in culture can be explored in television shows as well. The effects digital media has on us is another piece to this project I could explore, not just how digital media has affected television but how that in turn affects us as an audience. I’m sure as we continue to learn more over the coming weeks, I’ll find even more ways it connects.

For the presentation of my project, I hope to do a digital project, as previewed here. As much as I love writing papers, the web is my home and where I thrive. My goal is to develop a sort of interactive experience online for this assignment. I'm not 100% certain this is how it will look, but this is my initial design from which it will grow. I think television creates a very interactive world, and since that's what I plan on exploring, it seems fitting to present it in such a manor.