Post-Flow thoughts

I got back from the Flow conference on Sunday night, but it’s taken a few days to catch up on some stuff before I could get back to processing the event. I recommend both the conference blog, and Tim Anderson’s roundtable transcripts if you want a fuller account of what went down.

The idea was to open up the usual conference panel formula (i.e., four 20-minute papers, followed by about 15 minutes of discussion) to allow for much more interaction. For the most part, this worked well, with most sessions that I attended having active, engaging discussions for most of their allotted time. However, some panels had too many “official” participants (one that I went to had eight), which sucked up a bit more time and attention. It took almost an hour to get through the panelists’ statements a couple of times on panels this size. So, in future, I’d cap the number of participants per panel at six, and more strongly suggest the 2-3 minute time limit on their statements; again, let’s get to the discussion.

As for the overall discussions, the prevailing perception of television’s uncertain future (as medium, cultural node, commercial enterprise, and academic field) loomed fairly large. Familiar structural elements like networks, genres, and formats are fracturing, making it difficult to use familiar modes of analysis; the phrase “moving target” came up often this weekend. The entire point of Television Studies was questioned along the way as well. The US-centric nature of the conference (and by extension, Television Studies) was critiqued at several points. The future of television’s past (i.e., television history) was the subject of an entire panel, which lamented the seeming lack of new historical studies in the field, as interest focuses increasingly on the “new.” Finally, the notion of “taste” not only arose in several panels; it was itself the subject of one of the more interesting panels. Is a study of “taste” a viable endeavor for Television Studies? I’m not convinced, but I do admit that the question is intriguing.

Hopefully the discussions will continue online, and Flow can serve as a continual, ever-evolving series of discussions about the state of the field. Moreover, hopefully it can expand beyond the medium-specificity of “television,” as Tim argued, and the cultural-specificity of “America,” as Sharon Shahaf argued. And on top of that, Austin is lovely in October. Count me in from here on out.

I’ll post some more specific thoughts on the conference over at the official blog, and in the special issue of Flow coming out on November 17.

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