Families in front of the screen : everyday contexts of television use : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University
Although the experience of watching television has assumed a position of prime importance, not only in the lives of families, but also as a central component of the advertising industry, we know very little about what people actually do when they are infront of the screen. Using innovative technology which allowed the researcher to record eight selected families watching television, this thesis argues that our conceptions of families closely scrutinising the texts of television programmes are misplaced. Following the work of Lull and Morley, who emphasise the importance of the social context over the predominance of the text, the evidence presented in this qualitative study suggests that instead of a 'spectorial' medium in which audiences sit captured by programmes, television acts rather as a kind of 'moving wallpaper' against which the everyday events of family life are played out. This means that our understandings of television watching must therefore be based on the social relations of the family as they use television in their spatio-temporal domestic contexts. Significant shifts are therefore necessary in media research agendas.