chapter  2
14 Pages

TV as time machine: television’s changing heterochronic regimes and the production of history

ByWILLIAM URICCHIO

Most of the existing scholarly literature on television texts focuses on particular programmes. This chapter, however, will consider television’s dynamics as a larger textual composite. At a moment when, to invoke Raymond Williams, television’s technology and cultural form are very much in transition, the medium’s fast-changing textual mix and our access to it merit closer consideration. In considering this mix, I will focus on a particular aspect of television’s temporality that in effect makes it a time machine, allowing viewers to experience a distinctive kind of time, and possibly even notion of history. Television’s temporal regime has been in flux since the start of the broadcast era, and I am interested above all in how changing configurations of time and the (re-)sequencing of programming units themselves constitute key elements of the medium’s relationship to historical representation. I am interested in using medium-specific attributes to explore television’s changing role as a site for the personal construction of historical meaning and as a vehicle for public history. Although the broad contours of this short narrative – the shift over the past 60 years from relatively stable and widespread textual sequences to highly variable and personalized constellations – will not be surprising, by limiting my focus to the interplay of certain televisual logics, I hope to at least shed some light on an under-illuminated aspect of television’s historical capacities.