iTV and Surveillance

I'm not sure I've made it clear that I am a new (emerging) media skeptic. As an individual, I did not get my first VCR until 1988 (because I thought I'd watch too many movies along with waiting for the price to drop). Just because my teaching and research interests surround emerging new media does not mean I am on the sidelines cheering them on.

I was reminded of this when I came across an abstract from New Media & Society, Vol. 8, No. 1, 97-115 (2006). This comes from a full article by Professor Matt Carlson of Penn, and quoting the abstract here is for educational purposes and to push some of you to getting the article:

This article explores the early stages of the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) market, with particular attention paid to brand leader TiVo. The television industry, which relies on schedules to organize the audience commodity, faces threats from DVR technology. Initially, broadcasters and advertisers reacted with fear, but also came to realize the potential of using the technology for data collection and target marketing. These firms employed a mix of investment and litigation to shape the developing industry. Simultaneously, TiVo characterized its relationship to broadcasters and advertisers as advantageous rather than contentious. As a result, the emerging DVR model offers users greater control through time-shifting and increased functionality with content playback, while presenting existing television firms with a platform for audience surveillance.

My personal belief about companies and surveillance is that any who do this with their customer data surreptitiously will create mass defections and anger from customers if and when they find out. Businesses know this. It is also one thing to show aggregate numbers (i.e., "57% of TiVo users rewound the Janet Jackson boob fiasco at least 10 times") does not single out any one user (of course, if 100% did it would, but "if everyone else is doing it" probably would make that a wash).

A larger issue is the Patriot Act (e.g., http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:H.R.3162: and many other sources) and the extent to which media companies comply with demands from the government to see their records ("why does Sissy Daffodil watch the new English version of Al Jazeera so much?"). That conversation is a vital one, but outside of the focus of my work at this time.

You may use this content (better still, argue with me!), but please cite my ideas as © 2006, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. Find any typos! Don't smite me, let me know!


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