Twittering TV – when old meets new

by / Wednesday, 29 September 2010 / Published in Blog

Last night I sat watching the live broadcast of Later… with Jools Holland on BBC2. I’ve been doing this for years, it being one of the better TV music shows, despite Jools’s awkward style of presentation.

But last night’s live show, though not particularly exciting, had an added twist I’d never explored before. At the start of the show #laterjools appeared at the bottom of the screen, opening up a whole world of ‘wit’ inside the Twit stream.

That’s because, for any media studies graduates out there, TV is often termed a cold medium. It doesn’t require the active engagement of our brains as both the sounds and pictures come ready supplied. All we have to do is sit there and soak it up. By contrast radio has always been described as a hot medium as it requires your imagination to fill in the visual blanks as someone describes a news event.

The web is much harder to pigeon-hole as it can be quite chameleon-like in use – being neither one nor the other, but anywhere across the spectrum, depending on the nature of the site and service you’re logged into.

But Twitter is clearly a hot medium. Its short bursts of words require readers to engage their brain and create those mental pictures. So, in a TV show piggy-backing on social media in this way, what would otherwise have been a one-way live broadcast, became a two-way (multi-way) interaction between the audience and the show, and among the audience members themselves.

In practice it brought a whole new aspect to the viewing experience as we laughed at various acerbic, uncharitable and witty comments flowing onto my mobile’s screen in real time as the programme’s guests appeared. Jamiroquai – the spelling of which was joyfully massacred time and again – got a roasting for repeating a well-trodden musical path, whilst KT Tunstall suffered similar 140 character assassinations. Favourite tweet of all has to be from @leefreeman (“Lovin’ Jamiroquai… Smoother than an Eel in a bow-tie… Wearing a silk scarf & holding a cigarette holder”).

It highlights just how quickly the worlds of the Web and social media are overlapping, creating new opportunities for the old to mesh with the new. It bodes well for a future where TV and radio aren’t simply subsumed by an always-on and mobile culture but become a fully integrated part of the experience.

That’s a picture that not many would have predicted for TV just a few years back. But then, nothing is quite as black and white… other than your very first telly.


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