Broadcast and the Everyday
The other day, I found half a dozen or so friends of mine gathered around a laptop, watching and discussing an event being replayed online just hours after it had been watched live by many around the world. I’m talking about the London Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Not only did such a sight evoke questions of new age media use investigated last week, it also raised notions of the day-to-day presence of certain television broadcasts. Watching the broadcast of the Opening Ceremony (live or delayed within the period of global Olympic Games hype) affords the viewer access to a worldwide festival and, by extension, “cultural citizenship” (Morley, p. 109). To watch the Opening Ceremony is to be a member of the public sphere; a global citizen who can contribute to local, national or worldwide debate. Since its inception, broadcast television has increasingly acted as a mechanism that pulls down the geographical barriers that prevent a globally shared experience of calendical events. The broadcasts of both the Beijing and London Opening Ceremonies recognise this effect of television yet have approached them in different ways.
Beijing and the Mediated Spectacle
2008 men each pound a different screen. Many of the screens are struck simultaneously and become briefly illuminated when hit, creating visual tapestries. This is truly a visceral experience for those in the stadium watching the ceremony, but why should the rest of us miss out?
Enter broadcast television. Citizens from all over the world can now watch and engage in the events unfolding at the Beijing Opening Ceremony. Such unrestricted access to the ceremony gives weight to the idealistic vision of Jurgen Habermas’ open bourgeois public sphere, disrupting the notion of a private sphere and consequently allowing for an almost-universally shared space where “unconstrained debate” occurs (Finlayson, 2005).
London and the New Age Nation
Watching the ‘Internet revolution’ sequence during the lecture, I couldn’t help but feel the London Opening Ceremony was catered for me – the television viewer. Film director Danny Boyle was at the helm of the ceremony production and while the Beijing ceremony was also directed by a fellow filmmaker in Zhang Yimou, the overall presentation of the ceremonies were vastly different.
Graphic superimpositions of text messages and mobile applications, cutaways to pre-recorded material and particular shot constructions of live footage were integral to Boyle’s coverage of the London ceremony. The privilege of attending a live event is in some way stripped from the ceremony-goer, who must turn their attention to stadium screens to experience the Olympic journey as intended by Boyle.
Yimou acknowledged both the appeal of the live spectacle for the ceremony-goer and broadcast television’s capacity to mediate such a spectacle so that those unable to attend the ceremony can experience a sense of what it would have been like inside the Beijing National Stadium. It is this latter aspect that Boyle extends on: the hypermediacy of his ceremony reflexive of a global “imagined community” (Anderson) who have embraced new age media.
Turner, G: ‘Television and the Nation’ in Television Studies After TV: Understanding Television Studies In the Post-Broadcast Era. Ed. Turner, G and Tay, J. 2009: Routledge. Pp 54-56
Finlayson, G: ‘The public sphere as idea and ideology’ in Habermas: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2005.