Towards an Expanded History of Television
This Living Book has several objectives. First, it aims to show the generativity of research on an object, television, still in search of academic and institutional legitimacy. Secondly, it intends to promote and extend a historiographic renewal that has been observable for the last fifteen years: in this sense, our ambition is to lay the foundations for an expanded history of television at the intersection of media archaeology, intermedial perspectives, and a comprehensive analysis of vision and remote communication.
This approach is the fruit of "Beyond Public Broadcasting. Towards an Expanded History of Television in Switzerland” (Au-delà du service public. Pour une histoire élargie de la télévision en Suisse). Financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and co-directed by the two authors, François Vallotton and Anne-Katrin Weber of the University of Lausanne, the project has nourished three doctoral theses and a website, which notably won the 2020 Memoriav Prize. The present anthology also allows us to return to the historiographic and theoretical context that served as a backdrop for our communal reflection; a long introductory article offers a critical assessment of television studies in Switzerland. As for the anthology proper, it is intended to be a vade mecum that we hope will be valuable for anyone working or teaching in the field of media history.
Emblem of the consumer society for some, vehicle for a new era in the history of communications for others, television has gained an important place not only in cultural practices but also in historical discourse of the second half of the 20th century.0 Recently, however, the medium has undergone a spectacular transformation that tends to blur the rather circumscribed definition that both the public and the analyst had accepted over time. The domestic device embodied in the metaphor of the "window on the world" has given way to multiple forms of distribution and consumption, nomadic or fixed, ‘round the clock, and on-demand. Moreover, the recent changes to television have profoundly impacted its associated modes of production, political and economic actors, programs, and more broadly, its aesthetic at their very core.1
These new configurations alter the way we look at the "small screen". In the public discourse, we speak of the disappearance of the medium or its dissolution in connection with the digital convergence of production on the one hand, and increasingly fragmentary programming, consumed individually, on the other.2 In the scientific discourse, these very rapid transformations tend to foster those perspectives that focus on logics of rupture and radical otherness. For example, the American media specialist Amanda Lotz dedicated a work in 2007 to the "television revolution".3 Taking up Umberto Eco's canonical opposition between paleotelevision and neotelevision, which we might describe as "supply-side television" versus "demand-side television", Lotz narrates the medium's transformations from the 1950s onwards in three stages, each of which refers to a set of specific technologies and modes of reception. Thus, the years 1950-1980 - the era of "network TV" in the United States - were characterized by the quantitatively and temporally limited broadcast of television programs intended for a mass audience. The following years until 2000 saw the emergence of "multichannel TV". Made possible by new technologies such as satellite and cable, this phase broadened content options and allowed for niche programming. Television's third "age" - that of the all-digital and media convergence - is definitively shattering traditional definitions of the medium, which is now shared between several platforms and technologies. According to this model, the history of television can be described as the gradual evolution from a medium with fixed contours (public/commercial television in the family living room) to a medium managed by multiple content providers and dispersed among our cell phones, computers, and other devices.
Operating as a quick sketch of recent changes, this three-stage narrative is challenged by scholarship that underscores television’s continuous instability. In these works, historical perspective reveals a medium that is in fact in constant transformation and whose economic and technological stability in the years immediately following WWII represents the exception rather than the rule.4 The present anthology intends to contribute to this historiographical discussion by highlighting the complexity and diversity of televisual systems well beyond the traditional distinction between private and public institutions. It also wishes to take into account a new periodization of the medium that in many recent surveys no longer begins with the first essays of the Scotsman John Baird but rather situates the appearance of the device within a longer history of different forms of remote transmission going back at least to the last third of the 19th century.5 While privileging interdisciplinary views and approaches, we have selected papers with one common denominator: their authors put historically and methodologically grounded insights into dialogue in order to deconstruct the image of a monolithic medium or of a linear and homogeneous evolution.
To envision television’s flexibility from a historical perspective, we mobilize the notion of an "expanded" history. As we set forth below, this notion allows us to think an inclusive history of the medium, namely a history attentive to the margins of television institutions, to intermedial exchanges, and to the continuous transformations of practices and technologies. Contrary to the notions of "post" or "neo-" television, the notion of "expanded" television does not postulate a succession of media models but underlines the historiographic and methodological necessity of thinking television outside the fields traditionally assigned to it, i.e., mass media and public broadcasting, and even outside of the framework of domestic reception.
This conceptual framework is linked to a research project financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation entitled Beyond Public Broadcasting: Towards an Expanded History of Television in Switzerland (Au-delà du service public : pour une histoire élargie de la télévision en Suisse), which we co-directed from 2016 to 2021. The focus on the Swiss audiovisual field was intended to allow the concrete experimentation of an approach that sought to distance itself from institutional and program history in order to shed light on the multiple appropriations of televisual techniques by actors located on the margins or outside of public service. Three axes, each of them taken up by a doctoral student, constitute the different approaches to the subject: the technical dimension emphasizes the impact of new forms of distribution, in this case satellite, on the media landscape’s reconfiguration; the social dimension examines the professionalization of the director's role and the mapping of individual careers spanning public broadcasting and private enterprise, television and film, or even national and international productions; finally, the discourse analysis component focuses on television’s staging of and by itself in the context of the audiovisual sector’s liberalization and of media policy developments at the federal level. The notion of an "expanded history of television" is implemented on these three levels with the explicit invitation to integrate marginal actors or failed initiatives; similarly, the archives consulted for the project substantially exceed the bounds of regional and national television.
Approaching the History of Television: An Object in Search of Legitimacy
Despite rather important advances in recent years and divergent situations in different national contexts, the study of television history has long suffered from a general lack of legitimacy within the intellectual sphere, and more specifically, the academic one. Historically, interest in this object first emerged from the anxiety it generated.6 Thus, in Great Britain in the early 1960s, James Halloran, then active in adult continuing education, was invited by the Secretary of the Home Office to assess of the media’s effects on juvenile delinquency. His study - which strongly relativized this influence - would lead to the creation of the Centre for Mass Communication and Research at the University of Leicester. At the same time, it took the rise of cultural studies, particularly at the University of Birmingham, and feminist studies to bring consumer media out of its academic ostracism. This interest in popular practices and the distancing of an approach to mass culture analysis that sees its objects in terms of alienation and acculturation represent major milestones within the field of media and cultural studies. Nonetheless, severely deprecating views of the cultural industries epitomized by Richard Hoggart’s writing7 would contribute to the enduring association of a medium like television with productions of lesser value, whose only ambition is to capture attention in the name of commercial and advertising logics. This is the same criticism Pierre Bourdieu delivers with particular force at the College of France in his (televised!) lectures published under the title On the Television.8
Television’s stigmatization - relatively common to mass media, a fact to which comics or, more recently, video games attest - is reinforced by its initial status as family media, generally associated with a female public. The latter, according to the dominant representation of gender relations, is allegedly easily seduced by culturally minor productions. Television is seen as having attributes suitable to reach and adapt to this specific audience, i.e., it tends to support distracted and intermittent listening compatible with the execution of domestic tasks and to offer programming that mixes entertainment and publicity. It will take many years and the emergence of a new feminist historiography to get these productions, often wrongly described as feminine, out of the ghetto to which they had been relegated and to emphasize their very diverse receptions, which were much less passive than previously admitted.9
For all these reasons, unlike cinema, which attained the status of “seventh art”, television did not undergo the process of artification.10 Certainly, the notion of "eighth art" - for the few who remember it - includes "media arts", meaning radio, television, and photography. However, the "small screen" suffers the symbolic domination of the "big one": the image is of inferior quality; it does not offer the same level of attraction as the magnetic environment of the theatrical projection; its biased and partial definition as a live medium tends to emphasize its ability to capture reality rather than its artistic dimension. Some publications have tried to bring atypical approaches to television to the fore through consecrated figures, for instance, television’s integration into the field of modern art by someone like Jean-Christophe Averty or Jean-Luc Godard with his use of video.11 However, the artistic and innovative dimension of television, to which works of Gilles Delavaud or Guillaume Soulez in the francophone context attest, has not been sufficient for the term "telephilia" to enter into common usage. This situation can also be explained by the absence of intermediaries capable of contributing to the television’s legitimization over time, as exemplified by the disappearance of the tele-club movement. This movement was as ahead of its time as it was short-lived.12 In opposition to the dominant idea of television as a popular rather than artistic medium, the new wave of works on "quality TV" must not go unmentioned. The notion of "quality TV" covers a diverse set of audiovisual productions but has the merit, in the scientific literature, of updating knowledge about the construction of value both at the level of the broadcasters and that of the programs.13
Switzerland does not escape this broader context. The institutionalization of (historical) studies on television remains limited in spite of the fact that, with the advent of the video tape recorder but more generally with audiovisual equipment found in lecture halls and auditoriums, television and video have long been abundantly mobilized in the classroom and in very diverse disciplines.14 In addition to the question of archives to which we will return, two factors help explain the lack of scientific and historical reflection on television. As in several neighboring countries, television studies has mainly been the domain of other disciplines, starting with sociology and, in the German-speaking world, Medienwissenschaften, which took off in the 1980s. If we add to this the reluctance - until the 1990s - of Swiss historians to tackle post-1945 history, it is understandable that the study of electronic media has not generated much interest from academic institutions. A second explanation can be found in the more generally underdeveloped state of the history of communications and media. As Peter Meier has shown in a thematic issue of the Revue suisse d’histoire devoted to media history, this field has enjoyed little institutional recognition in Switzerland. Though audiovisual sources are invoked with more or less regularity, reflections on the emergence and development of media, methodological studies, and approaches going beyond the monographic are rare.15 The situation at the end of the twentieth century, however, suggested a promising turn. In 1989, Yves Collart, a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, founded the Centre d'historiographie et de recherche sur les sources audiovisuelles (CHERSA), which granted special attention to the study of television. In 1994, Collart was one of the moderators of a one-day symposium organized by the Swiss Historical Society devoted to the subject of audiovisual conservation. This symposium led to the creation of Memoriav, an association that has managed a network of institutions interested in the preservation and promotion of archives in the fields of photography, sound, film, and video since 1995. However, it was not until several years later that this first breakthrough could create a lasting effect. The CHERSA found neither a successor nor institutional continuity after Yves Collart's retirement. A center for the history of the audiovisual that draws upon significant synergies between the history and film departments is progressively developing within the Faculty of Arts of the University of Lausanne.16 The project Towards an Expanded History of Television (Pour une histoire élargie de la television) is one of its manifestations.
Writing the Story of Television: From the Commemorative Object to an Expanded History
Given the above, it is not surprising that television historiography in Switzerland appears to be somewhat anemic; an assessment that is also reflected in the weak academic institutionalization of television studies, with no professorship is currently dedicated to the medium. For a long time, the majority of historical publications have been the result of commemorations or various anniversaries proposing a chronology of the "great" moments of television.17 Often written by agents close to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (Société suisse de radiodiffusion et television, henceforth SSR) and taking advantage of access to the institution's iconographic sources to illustrate major events, these publications contribute primarily to the memory of the public broadcasting service, reminding the readers of their (first) memories as television viewers. As part of an institutional and, in this case, regional history, works such as Show - Information - Kultur. Schweizer Fernsehen von der Pionierzeit ins moderne Medienzeitalter18, " 50 Jahre Schweizer Fernsehen " : Chronik : Hauszeitung von SF DRS19 or La TSR a 50 ans : album de famille : 1954-200420 gather key moments of one of the company’s entities, omitting however a national or international contextualization. A welcome exception is the book Voce e Specchio. Storia della radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana, which, while privileging the regional focus, places this history in a much broader media and historical context.21
In a more "intimate" tone, the (auto)biographical writings of radio and television personalities reveal individual trajectories that have marked audiovisual history in Switzerland. The portraits of Roger Schawinski (Einer gegen Alle: das andere Gesicht des Roger Schawinski and Wer bin ich? 22 ) and those of Raymond Vouillamoz23 or of Leo Fischer, proponent of the first Swiss cable network (Leo Fischer: die Erinnerungen des Schweizer Kabelfernsehkönigs24), certainly make it possible to reconstitute aspects of national or regional television history but lack the scientific rigor and in-depth problematization that characterize academic studies.
Research carried out since the mid-1980s within the various Swiss institutes for Communication and Media Sciences has nourished an abundant gray literature mainly oriented towards the political and social analysis of the effects, significance, and functions of mass communication. These studies privilege sociological approaches to the contemporary media landscape and focus more on a systemic analysis than on historical approaches. This is the case for Medienlandschaft Schweiz im Umbruch. Vom öffentlichen Kulturgut Rundfunk zur elektronischen Kioskware, co-authored by Werner A. Meier, Heinz Bonfadelli, and Michael Schanne within the framework of the Swiss National Science Foundation Project, "Cultural Pluralism and National Identity" (“Pluralisme culturel et identité nationale”)25 (NRP21). This study provides an overview of the Swiss media landscape a few years after the introduction of the Local Broadcasting Ordinance of 1982, which led to the abolition of the SSR monopoly on radio and television broadcasting. Conceived as a scientific contribution to the contemporary debate on the links between public broadcasting and cultural identity, the work is geared towards a pragmatic assessment of media politics in Switzerland, including the SSR and "new media" (private radio, satellite, paid television). This work launched several studies, often comparative, on the specificity of the Swiss audiovisual landscape and on the terms and conditions of its liberalization.26
Published under the aegis of the Institut für Publizistikwissenschaft und Medienforschung of the University of Zurich in 1998, the volume Fernsehen DRS: Werden und Wandel einer Institution marks the first introduction to the history of the SSR.27 Bearing the subtitle A Contribution to Media Historiography as Institutional History (Ein Beitrag zur Medienhistoriographie als Institutionsgeschichte), this work explicitly claims to be based on historical methodology, but limits its analysis - like the majority of works for the "general public" - to the development of regional institutional television, in this case Swiss German broadcasting. The launch of a vast national research project that led to the publication of the collective work La radio et la télévision en Suisse : histoire de la Société de radiodiffusion SSR28 proved an especially important milestone. Initiated by the director general of the SSR at the time, Antonio Riva, this project stands out for its scope - three volumes constituting a total of 1,000 pages, a study that spans almost 20 years -, its ability to unite a multidisciplinary network of researchers from all linguistic regions of the country, and for the total intellectual freedom enjoyed by the authors. Beyond the synthesis it offered, this vast project would be closely linked to the classification and digitization of the public broadcaster’s paper and audiovisual archives. The organizing principles of the volumes vary. The chronological logic favored in the first part is then replaced by a thematic approach that enriches the institutional perspective with transversal views on technical developments, links with politics, cultural issues, and the history of programs.29 In this sense, following a more general historiographical trend on the international level, the three-part publication intends to transform a "history of media" (“histoire des médias”) into a "history through media" (“histoire par les medias”)30 by demonstrating the potential of audiovisual sources for a social, political and cultural history of Switzerland. For example, the history of the SSR is a privileged observatory for the analysis of neoliberalism and its effects on the dismantling of public broadcasting. More broadly, and as many recent studies have shown, the history of television is a fascinating vehicle for thinking about the construction and reshaping of gender relations through the analysis not only of programming but also of reception and consumption practices.31 Attention to televisual everydayness highlights its ambivalent character, which includes the reinforcement of patriarchal values as well as strategies for evasion and resistance.
This first attempt at an "expanded history of television" is limited, however, by a normative definition of the medium, which reduces it to a domestic mass media structured by the public broadcasting service. It is therefore necessary to reference other scholarship, in this case three recent PhD theses that have been major milestones for the larger paradigm shift that we intend to illustrate with this publication. First, we would like to mention Caroline Meyer's research on the Eidophor, a device for projecting the television image in a closed circuit and on a large screen.32 The Eidophor embodies another dimension of television less oriented towards the production of programs than towards educational uses and the retransmission of major events. Developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) before being commercialized by the Basel-based pharmaceutical company Ciba, it testifies to Switzerland’s role in the development of alternatives to public broadcasting in terms of technologies, distributors, and audiences.
SSecond, Dominique Rudin's thesis focuses on Swiss counterculture and its use of video, mainly in the context of the youth protests in Zurich in 1980.33 This look at collective production, often a refusal of official television, covers a field of research that is fairly well delineated in the context of the American Guerrilla Television and with regard to community television in other national spheres, but which remained in the shadows in Switzerland until now.34 It opens new perspectives linked to new modes of production associated with lightweight video and to the development of a critical approach conferring a new role to the medium as it was reappropriated by non-professionals.
The third approach to this "expanded history" is Anne-Katrin Weber's PhD thesis on the television exhibitions of the interwar period, which is scheduled for publication in early 2022.35 Already the editor of an acclaimed collective volume, La télévision, du téléphonoscope à YouTube36, which reflects the revitalization of approaches and the chronological dilation of studies on television, the researcher here proposes another "sidestep". From a discussion of television's specificity, we move to the analysis of the medium's location in public space. In this respect, the industrial exhibition, like museums, schools, or department stores, constitutes a relevant observatory. Beyond the comparative approach to interwar television in Germany, Great Britain and the United States, the study shows the essential role of exhibitions in the invention of differentiated uses, not yet mainly oriented toward domestic viewing. This focus on modes of appropriation and consumption has a heuristic value that goes beyond the chosen geographical and chronological framework: it invites us to take neglected devices and prototypes into account while emphasizing a history of possibilities that clearly breaks with the traditional, teleological history of media.
At the international level, the history of the industrial television and closed-circuit television (CCTV) represents an emerging field for the renewal of television studies. Inspired by the historiography of "utilitarian cinema", the works in this category analyze the use of television in the fields of industry, science, research, the army, or medicine.37 They show that, parallel to the definitive rise of television as a domestic mass media in the post-war period, it was also conceived on the model of a closed circuit that links camera and receiver in an audiovisual loop. CCTV or industrial television is the result of military research conducted during the 1940s. Its technology responds to demands to increase its adaptability through simplification and miniaturization; its field of application includes the automation of industrial manufacturing processes but also traffic management, the streamlining of information systems in libraries, or the surveillance of indoor and outdoor spaces. As a highly flexible device used in non-domestic settings and for purposes ranging from military to educational, the closed circuit perfectly illustrates the need - and the urgency - of writing an expanded history of the television medium.
Opening Up the History of Television, Rethinking the Toolbox
In other words, an expanded history of television aims not only to study the most exploratory configurations of the televisual medium, but also to envision displacements, which concern both the periodization and the very definition of the object of study. Thus, considering an expanded history of television invites us to be attentive to the multiple transformations that historically characterize the medium and to construct an analysis that moves between the center and the margins of its developments. Consequently, the contributions to this anthology make us see the history of "a multidimensional media".38
Overall, the expanded history of television relies on recent scholarship engaged in methodological revitalization; two fields of research have been particularly valuable for our reflection. The first, media archaeology and its multiple branches in the Anglo-Saxon and German-speaking academic landscapes, offers an invitation to explore heterodox, even forgotten objects of media history. Going against technological and institutional histories based on a linear notion of "evolution" and "progress", media archaeology explores the margins of "traditional" mass media - radio, cinema, television - and brings multiple experiments and other failed or ephemeral developments to light.39 Insisting on the "unspoken" and the "unseen" of media history, the archaeological approach recalls the technical, economic, and cultural flexibility of the medium by including not only machines, but also discourses and imaginaries in its analysis. In the field of television studies, a significant number of works can be associated with media archaeology, even if their authors do not always claim this filiation.40
The second, the notion of the viewing and listening dispositif, provides a powerful heuristic tool for a detailed study of numerous televisual applications. In particular, the propositions of François Albera and Maria Tortajada have made possible the establishment of an internationally recognized research hub that brings together researchers from Cinema and Media Studies.41 Defined as a conceptual schema connecting media technology, media user-spectators, and media content, the dispositif allows us to apprehend media’s multiple configurations on three levels: material, textual and cultural; it is also attentive to the epistemological dimension of media as producers of (audio)visual knowledge. While offering a rigorous framework for analysis, the dispositif makes it possible to think media forms that are a priori different together. The concept of the device thus favors the decompartmentalization of television history, from big screen television to bi-directional television by way of VHS and television for medical use.42
If the two approaches each refer to a circumscribed body of research, they nonetheless both participate in the renewal of media history, which they consider in an "expanded" light. Both underscore the epistemological importance of television history’s openness to the multiple technologies and practices existing beyond a history of programs, on the one hand, and of the public broadcasting service on the other. From a pragmatic point of view, these approaches also invite us to extend our fields of archival research and to integrate new sources that do not emanate from the television institutions themselves. As part of our Beyond Public Broadcasting project, we have assembled a map of the archives we consulted in our research. This cartography is marked by the geographical and thematic fragmentation of the archives enlisted and reflects the expansion of our questions and objects of interest. Including international (ITU), local (Vaud cantonal archives), and national archives (federal archives), as well as those held by associations such as the Protest Archives (les Archives contestataires) in Geneva, this cartography constitutes an important tool for future explorations of an expanded history of television in Switzerland.
Embodying the History of Television: Selection Criteria and Table of Contents
For this collection, the selection of the texts obviously depends on their accessibility in terms of rights. We have favored texts in English and French for practical reasons; we recognize that, although we are very much interested in a global and transnational approach, German-speaking, Portuguese-speaking or Spanish-speaking papers are missing from our selection. Though the impossibility of translating certain texts for the present publication limits the representativeness of certain choices, we have favored several existing translations in order to promote the geographical and linguistic decompartmentalization of media history and to encourage students to integrate and cross-reference the different schools and critical traditions.
It is also necessary to add that our table of contents could not represent all the dimensions of contemporary television historiography. As has been stated, our selection illustrates above all a series of approaches giving theoretical substance to the notion of "expanded television". Insofar as this idea seems to us representative of a particularly dynamic research movement, we hope that it will be able to stimulate researchers and students interested in a cultural history of the audiovisual in a global and intermedial perspective. We also hope that this frame of reference will lead to further Swiss case studies that extend our own research project, the first results of which can be found on the project’s dedicated website.
Finally, each section is complemented by a website, which offers resources both in terms of literature and audiovisual sources; as the present volume attests, research on television is increasingly written via the use of multimedia, which allows this research field to act as a laboratory for new modes of writing history.
The first section, "Methods", privileges the sources that are in our eyes essential to the recent historiography of television but also more widely of media studies. While many of them are part of the field of media archaeology mentioned above, these studies cannot be attached to a one-dimensional approach but rather constitute as many complementary insights having as a common denominator the decompartmentalization of the object "television". All the contributions initially make a case, implicitly or explicitly, for the pluralization of the term to reflect the way that, in every historical period, television has assumed multiple unstable identities in constant reconfiguration. These methodologies, while distrusting technological determinism, aim to integrate the technical and scientific parameters that condition media development into their analysis. They do so in close dialogue with practices and modalities of appropriation by the public, which would make or break certain innovations. From this perspective, a major emphasis is placed on certain experiments and on the context of technical "domestication" but also on failures, setbacks, and discontinuations. Two other elements common to these texts need underlining: on the one hand, a lengthening of the traditional periodization, which ceases to be limited to the small screen’s entrance into the home and places this moment within a longer history of remote transmission and communication; on the other hand, the consideration of new sources that surpass the framework of media and institutional actors to integrate, for example, industrial and technical exhibitions, public sites of reception, or advertisements in the popular (women’s) press.
The exploitation of new sources is at the heart of the second section entitled "Imaginaries". At stake in this section is a reflection on the contribution of utopian literary and graphic sources, or science fiction, to think about the possible uses of a given media system. We should not limit ourselves here to a reading underscoring the predictive capacity of the authors in question. More importantly, their texts bring the interdependence of imagined and realized media into relief. Moreover, the hybrid character of any media production and specific manifestations such as live transmissions can be emphasized to integrate television within an intermedial network of devices. We can observe this phenomenon in the oft-cited example of the telephonoscope imagined by the novelist and illustrator Albert Robida (1848-1926). Combining the properties of the theatrophone, which allowed the audition of plays in the home, and of the projection lantern, the device allows the user live access, through voice and image, to spectacles or information, or to enter in direct communication with third parties. As Gabriele Balbi and Simone Natale have shown, media’s imaginary dimension is just as heuristically fruitful as a place for thinking the possible applications of a media already in use (the radio, for example) as it is for reflection, dystopian or nostalgic, on the supposed disappearance of a platform, for instance, when we speak about the death of the book or the end of television.43
The third section, "Machines", returns to a history of televisual technical devices. But while this history is often limited to early television and to the passage from the mechanical to the electronic system, this series of articles revisits the narrative of one immutable technique and of inevitable broadcasting modalities. In the post-war period, cable imposed itself as an alternative broadcasting mode to the Hertzian before the satellite inaugurated an era of retransmissions on a global scale. Echoing the historical approach of infrastructure studies, the technical dimension of these communication networks must always be articulated alongside a reflection on the political and economic stakes of their control and on the new forms of representation that they authorize. On another level, an intermedial perspective leaves behind the genealogical, teleological approach that still dominates the historiography of technologies and of media. Rather than conceiving of these as part of a continuum characterized by the ideas of improvement and progress, this perspective highlights the technological transfers that take place between different media and underscores the interdependence of the world of communication and related sectors, in particular military industry. This dimension takes on a very particular resonance in our contemporary world with the multiplied uses of the drone as an instrument of surveillance and weapon of destruction but also as a camera for aerial shots increasingly mobilized in television productions.
With the fourth section, "Transmissions", we address the television productions and broadcasts that generally escape mainstream readings, which tend to focus on the development of programs for large-scale audiences in the context of private domestic reception. However, since the end of the 1960s, more voices have been calling for an exploration of alternative television programming to that of public broadcasting channels and large networks. The advent of lightweight devices such as the Sony Portapak camera allowed non-professionals to appropriate television technology and to develop other constellations of interactive exchange between producers and consumers. In Switzerland, as in many other countries, video would become one of a set of countercultural tools tied to the political protests that characterize the end of the 1960s. However, the principle of collective viewing, which contributes fully to this participative approach, is not specific to this historical moment. The experiment, rather short-lived, of tele-clubs, - associated with the very beginnings of the television and a still experimental period - aimed to connect this new spectatorial practice with village sociality. This approach was generally facilitated by the teacher insofar as the receiver set was installed in the school. The development of educational television as a pedagogical vehicle, but also the pilot experiments aimed at training pupils in the use of filmic media including sound, constitute a fascinating investigative terrain. If the screen’s presence has been multiplied to a formidable extent since the 1980s, there is still a relative dearth of studies on the various modalities of the audiovisual’s integration into the school classroom or the university lecture hall, from light projection to the closed-circuit television studio.
This aspect brings us to the last section, "Teaching (with) Television". The least quantitatively dense, this subsection honors what makes the Living Book unique, namely the possibility it gives to the reader to propose his or her own texts to enrich the anthology. These articles should thus encourage teachers working in the field of television history to share their daily experiences. Here, we are particularly interested in the use of audiovisual material and, perhaps above all, the "invention" of new narratives to enhance the value of historical research. The period of resource scarcity has been superseded by the current profusion of audiovisual sources made possible by the multiplication of web platforms, patrimonial or commercial. How can we sensitize students to the particularities of each archive and teach them to take the specific characteristics of the audiovisual archive’s production, preservation, and consultation into account? How to establish new types of reports that offer both the desired rigor in terms of citation and an attractive integration of analytical text and documentary resources?
These are some of the questions we wish to explore with the aim of further reinforcing the attention paid to audiovisual sources. In this sense, an expanded history of television is undoubtedly the right ferment to renew our practices, both pedagogical and editorial, via new formats but especially via the invention of new modalities for our own historical narratives.
0 This general introduction and other texts of this Living Book have been translated from French by Simona Schneider.
1 There are many analyses of digital television. In French, see for example, Boni, Marta (Hg.): Formes et plateformes de la télévision à l’ère numérique, Rennes 2020; an early contribution in English is Spigel, Lynn; Olsson, Jan (Hg.): Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, Durham (N.C.) & London 2004.
2 Missika, Jean-louis: La Fin de la télévision, Paris 2006 (La République des idées).
3 Lotz, Amanda: The Television Will Be Revolutionized, New York 2007.
4 On this subject, see the papers in the "Methods" section, and in particular Keilbach, Judith; Stauff, Markus: When Old Media Never Stopped Being New. Television’s History as an Ongoing Experiment, in: Valk, de, Marijke; Teurlings, Jan (Hg.): After the Break. Television Theory Today, Amsterdam 2013, S. 79–98., as well as the work by William Uricchio, for example, Uricchio, William: Television’s First Seventy-five Years. The Interpretive Flexibility of a Medium in Transition, in: Kolker, Robert (Hg.): The Oxford Handbook of Film and Media Studies, 2008, S. 286–305. In his analysis of television in West Germany, Daniela Zetti likewise underscores this transformability of the medium: Zetti, Daniela: Das Programm der elektronischen Vielfalt. Fernsehen als Gemeinplatz in der BRD, 1950-1980, Zürich 2014.
5 On this subject, see the two recent publications by Ivy Roberts and Doron Galili: Roberts, Ivy: Visions of Electric Media. Television in the Victorian and Machine Ages, Amsterdam 2019; Galili, Doron: Seeing by Electricity. The Emergence of Television, 1878-1939, Durham 2020.
6 With regard to the Swiss context, see Cordonier, Gérald: Une guerre des ondes autour de l’arrivée de la télévision en Suisse, entre craintes sociales et défense spirituelle du pays, in: Berton, Mireille; Weber, Anne-Katrin (Hg.): La télévision du téléphonoscope à Youtube. Pour une archéologie de l’audiovision, Lausanne 2009, S. 181–196.
7 Mattelart, Armand; Neveu, Érik: Introduction aux Cultural Studies, Paris 2003 (Repères), especially pp. 19-27.
8 Bourdieu, Pierre: Sur la télévision. Suivi de L’emprise du journalisme, Paris 1996 (Raisons d’agir). In this context, we can likewise cite the writings of Adorno and of Günther Anders: Adorno, T. W.: How to Look at Television, in: The Quarterly of Film Radio and Television 8 (3), 1954, S. 213–235; Anders, Günther: Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen 1: Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten industriellen Revolution, München 2010 .
9 By way of example, see the pioneering volume edited by Brunsdon, Spigel and d’Acci in 1997 : Brunsdon, Charlotte; D'Acci, Julie; Spigel, Lynn (Hg.): Feminist Television Criticism. A Reader, New York 1997.
10 On this notion, Heinich, Nathalie; Shapiro, Roberta; Collectif: De l’artification: Enquêtes sur le passage à l’art, Paris 2012.
11 Recently, the question of the relationship between television and the “arts” was discussed in several francophone publications: Boisvert, Stéfany; Paci, Viva (Hg.): Une télévision allumée. Les arts dans le noir et blanc du tube cathodique, 2018; Hamery, Roxane; Collectif: La télévision et les arts . Soixante années de production, Rennes 2019. Morrissey, Priska; Thouvenel, Eric (Hg.): Les Arts et la télévision. Discours et pratiques, Rennes 2019.
12 Delavaud, Gilles: L’art de la télévision. Histoire et esthétique de la dramatique télévisée (1950-1965), Bruxelles 2005; Soulez, Guillaume: Télévision et esprit de recherche : rouvrir les dispositifs, E-Dossiers de l’audiovisuel « Pierre Schaeffer : quel héritage ?», in: ina.fr, 11.2010; sur les télé-clubs, voir Lévy, Marie-Françoise: La création des télé-clubs. L’expérience de l’Aisne, in: La Télévision dans la République des années 50, 1999, S. 107–131, as well as Ira Wagman's paper included in this Living Books.
13 See, among others, Jost, François (Hg.): Pour une télévision de qualité, in: INA, 2014.; McCabe, Janet; Akass, Kim (Hg.): Quality Television. Contemporary American Television and Beyond, London New York 2007.
14 It should also be noted that many historians, ahead of their times, would be interested in television as an instrument of popularization, as shown by the often-mentioned examples for France of Marc Ferro and Georges Duby, while in Switzerland Georg Kreis and Jean-Claude Favez are associated, in 1986, with the realization of the production of the SSR Dernières nouvelles de notre passé, which presents Swiss history in the format of TV news.
15 Meier, Peter: Die Lücken schliessen. Zum (Zu-)Stand der Schweizer Mediengeschichte. Eine synoptische Bestandesaufnahme, in: Revue suisse d’histoire 60 (1), 2010, S. 4–12.
16 On this aspect, see Vallotton, François: Introduction. Pour une histoire culturelle de la production audiovisuelle, in: Décadrages (44–45), 2020, S. 201–206.
17 See, for example : Pünter, Otto: Société suisse de radiodiffusion et télévision, 1931-1970, Berne 1971; Bouvier, Nicolas: Télévision Suisse Romande, 1954-1979. 25 ans TV ensemble, Lausanne 1979.; Mascioni, Grytzko: 25 anni di Televisione della Svizzera italiana 1958-1983 tra ricordi e prospettive, ed. della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera italiana, 1983; Vallotton, Paul: Radio et télévision de Suisse romande, 1922-1997. Pour un 75e anniversaire, Lausanne 1997.
18 Danuser, Hanspeter: Show, Information, Kultur. Schweizer Fernsehen: von der Pionierzeit ins moderne Medienzeitalter, Aarau 1993.
19 Bardet, René (Hg.): Live-Spezialausgabe «50 Jahre Schweizer Fernsehen», Zürich 2003.
20 Vouillamoz, Raymond; Société de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision de la Suisse Romande, Télévision suisse romande: La TSR a 50 ans. Album de famille. 1954-2004, Genève 2004. This publication would, however, play an important role in the intensification of the program to digitalize and promote the archives of the French-speaking Swiss television, Télévision Suisse Romande (TSR), with the release, the same year, of a DVD box set entitled, Label TSR, cinquante ans d'images 1954-2004.
21Sala, Paolo; Hungerbühler, Ruth; Marcacci, Marco u. a.: Voce e specchio: storia della radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana, Locarno 2009.
22Spring, Roy: Einer gegen alle. Das andere Gesicht des Roger Schawinski, Zürich 1999; Schawinski, Roger: Wer bin ich? Autobiografie, Zürich 2014.
23 Vouillamoz, Raymond: Zapping intime, Lausanne 2014.
24Fehr, Christian: Leo Fischer. Die Erinnerungen des Schweizer Kabelfernsehkönigs, Frauenfeld 2008.
25Meier, Werner A.; Schanne, Michael; Bonfadelli, Heinz u. a.: Medienlandschaft Schweiz im Umbruch. Vom öffentlichen Kulturgut Rundfunk zur elektronischen Kioskware, Basel 1993.
26 Bonfadelli, Heinz; Meier, Werner A.; Schanne, Michael u. a.: Öffentlicher Rundfunk und Kultur. Die SRG zwischen gesellschaftlichem Auftrag und wirtschaftlichem Kalkül, Zürich 1998; Künzler, Matthias: Die Liberalisierung von Radio und Fernsehen. Leitbilder der Rundfunkregulierung im Ländervergleich, Konstanz 2009; Jarren, Otfried: Rundfunkregulierung. Leitbilder, Modelle und Erfahrungen im internationalen Vergleich. Eine sozial- und rechtswissenschaftliche Analyse, Zürich 2002; Puppis, Manuel: Media Regulation in Small States, in: International Communication Gazette 71 (1–2), 01.02.2009, S. 7–17.
27 Saxer, Ulrich; Ganz-Blättler, Ursula: Fernsehen DRS. Werden und Wandel einer Institution. Ein Beitrag zur Medienhistoriographie als Institutionengeschichte, Zürich 1998.
28 Drack, Markus T.; Egger, Theres: La radio et la télévision en Suisse. Histoire de la Société suisse de radiodiffusion SSR jusqu’en 1958, Baden 2000; Mäusli, Theo; Steigmeier, Andreas (Hg.): Radio und Fernsehen in der Schweiz. Geschichte der Schweizerischen Radio- und Fernsehgesellschaft SRG 1958-1983, Baden 2006; Mäusli, Theo; Steigmeier, Andreas; Vallotton, François: La radio et la télévision en Suisse. Histoire de la Société suisse de radiodiffusion et télévision SSR de 1983 à 2011, Baden 2012.
29 The digitization of audiovisual sources, which is almost complete at the moment as far as public service television is concerned, and their availability online through Memoriav, certain media libraries and the SSR, constitutes a major turning point, which is still not sufficiently accompanied by a methodological reflection on the representativeness of the preserved corpus; see Pradervand, Olivier: Sauvegarde du patrimoine audiovisuel de la Télévision suisse romande : le Projet Archives, in: Revue historique vaudoise 155, 2007; Gogniat, Laurence: Neuchâtel, un canton en images. Apport de la source télévisuelle à une filmographie régionale, in: Décadrages. Cinéma, à travers champs 44–45, 2020, S. 257–268.
30 To take up Jérôme Bourdon’s classification : Bourdon, Jérôme: De, par, avec, à travers : bilan critique des relations entre histoire et télévision, in: Delporte, Christian; Gervereau, Denis Maréchal (Hg.): Quelle est la place des images en histoire ?, Paris 2008, S. 79–94.
31 Nobs, Lise-Emmanuelle: Les femmes du Syndicat suisse des Mass media. Une impulsion décisive pour l’égalité (1974-2001), in: Cahiers d’histoire du mouvement ouvrier 29, 2013, S. 77–95.; Steinmaurer, Thomas: Tele-Visionen. Zur Theorie und Geschichte des Fernsehempfangs, Innsbruck 1999 (Beiträge zur Medien- und Kommunikationsgesellschaft 3).
32 Meyer, Caroline: Der Eidophor. Ein Grossbildprojektionssystem zwischen Kino und Fernsehen 1939-1999, Zürich 2009 (Interferenzen : Studien zur Kulturgeschichte der Technik 15)..
33 Rudin, Dominique: Video Heterotopia. Linksalternativer Videoaktivismus in der Schweiz 1970-1995, Thesis, University of Basel, Basel 2014. Online: <https://doi.org/10.5451/unibas-007104807>, Stand: 21.12.2021.
34 On guerrilla television, see Boyle, Deirdre: Subject to Change: Guerrilla Television Revisited, New York 1997; Goddard, Michael: Guerrilla Networks: an Anarchaeology of 1970s Radical Media Ecologies, Amsterdam 2018; On the Swiss case, see also Vallotton, François; Weber, Anne-Katrin: Un scandale télévisuel dans l’été chaud zurichois, in: Études de lettres (312), 15.03.2020, S. 63–68. Online: <https://doi.org/10.4000/edl.2349> and Weber, Anne-Katrin: La télévision communautaire. Un dispositif télévisuel sous tension, in: Zéau, Caroline; Turquety, Benoît (Hg.): Le « direct » et le numérique. Techniques et politiques des médias décentralisés, Paris 2022, S. 210-228.
35 Weber, Anne-Katrin: Television before TV. New Media and Exhibition Culture in Interwar Europe and the USA, Amsterdam 2022.
36 Berton, Mireille; Weber, Anne-Katrin (Hg.): La télévision du téléphonoscope à YouTube : Pour une archéologie de l’audiovision, Lausanne 2009.
37 Keilbach, Judith; Stauff, Markus: When Old Media Never Stopped Being New. Television’s History as an Ongoing Experiment, in: Valk, de, Marijke; Teurlings, Jan (Hg.): After the Break. Television Theory Today, Amsterdam 2013, S. 79–98. Weber, Anne-Katrin: « L’œil électrique » et « la torpille volante » : pistes pour une histoire du drone à partir de l’histoire télévisuelle, in: A contrario 29 (2), 2019, S. 81–98; Hughes, Kit: Television at work. Industrial media and American labor, New York 2020; Murray, Susan: The New Surgical Amphitheater: Color Television and Medical Education in Postwar America, in: Technology and Culture 61 (3), 01.09.2020, S. 772–797.
38 Weber, Anne-Katrin: Télévision(s): fragments d’histoire d’un média éclaté, in: Blandin, Claire; Fantin, Emmanuelle; Robinet, François u. a. (Hg.): Penser l’histoire des médias, Paris 2019, S. 103–104.
39 Parikka, Jussi: What is Media Archaeology?, Cambridge 2012. For an introductory historiographic report, see Fickers, Andreas; Weber, Anne-Katrin: Editorial: Towards an Archaeology of Television, in: VIEW Journal of European Television History and Culture 4 (7), 2015, S. 1–7.
40 Two recent monographs offer an exhaustive analysis of the archaeology of the television in the 19th century: Galili, Ebd.; Roberts, Ebd. Philippe Sewell’s study analyzes discourses and representations of American television in the interwar period: Sewell, Philip W.: Television in the age of radio: modernity, imagination, and the making of a medium, New Brunswick N.J 2014. William Boddy discusses the imaginaries accompanying « new media » in Boddy, William: New Media and Popular Imagination: Launching Radio, Television, and Digital Media in the United States, Oxford 2004. In addition, the work of William Uricchio has nourished the field of television archaeology since the 1990s, as has that of Siegfried Zielinski. Uricchio, William: Television, Film and the Struggle for Media Identity, in: Film History 10 (2), 1998, S. 118–127; Zielinski, Siegfried: Audiovisionen: Kino und Fernsehen als Zwischenspiele in der Geschichte, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1989.
41 Berton, Mireille; Weber, Anne-Katrin: Télé-Visions: une introduction à l’histoire des dispositifs télévisuels, in: Berton, Mireille; Weber, Anne-Katrin (Hg.): La télévision du téléphonoscope à Youtube: pour une archéologie de l’audiovision, Lausanne 2009, S. 13–32; Albera, François; Tortajada, Maria (Hg.): Cinema Beyond Film: Media Epistemology in the Modern Era, Amsterdam 2010.
42 For a first « implementation » of the notion to the history of television, see the contributions in Berton, Mireille; Weber, Anne-Katrin (Hg.): La télévision du téléphonoscope à YouTube : Pour une archéologie de l’audiovision, Lausanne 2009.
When Old Media Never Stopped Being New
Judith Keilbach & Markus Stauff:
When Old Media Never Stopped Being New. Television’s History as an Ongoing Experiment, Amsterdam 2013.
This text by Judith Keilbach and Markus Stauff, specialists in the history and theories of television, is a key reference for the development of an expanded history of television. Through an analysis that incorporates historiographic reflection and an empirical approach, the authors propose to think of the televisual medium as an "experimental system," whose different technological, discursive, institutional, or cultural components have been constantly reconfigured not just recently but throughout its history. Keilbach and Stauff thus criticize the commonly held notion that television passed through a period of slow socio-technical maturation between 1920 and 1940 before finding its vocation as domestic mass media. To conceive of the television as an experimental system makes it possible to take the opposite of a linear and teleological approach and to consider permanent adaptability as constitutive of the television medium.
Television’s First Seventy-five Years
Television’s First Seventy-five Years: The Interpretive Flexibility of a Medium in Transition, Oxford 2008.
William Uricchio's work in the field of television archaeology is essential reading. Through his own research, and in bridging between the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon academic and scientific traditions, Uricchio has greatly contributed to our historical knowledge of television, especially in the National Socialist context of the 1930s. He has never ceased to revitalize historiographic schemas, especially when they still rely too heavily on the history of television institutions. The article taken from the Oxford Handbook of Film and Media Studies gathers the author’s main arguments for an intermedial – and, we suggest, expanded – history of television technology. He questions notions of a single moment of "invention" by emphasizing the slow emergence of television while discussing its "long-term flexibility" in a way that invites us to think of its history beyond the domestic model. Finally, Uricchio borrows the notion of "interpretive flexibility" from the sociology of technology to analyze the multiple definitions of the medium carried by diverse user groups. Both concise and sufficiently problematized, this article constitutes the best introduction to a historiographical reflection on television.
L’intermédialité, une nouvelle approche interdisciplinaire
L’intermédialité, une nouvelle approche interdisciplinaire : perspectives théoriques et pratiques à l’exemple de la vision de la télévision, 2000.
Professor emeritus at the University of Bayreuth, Jürgen E. Müller has been working from an intermedial perspective that he develops starting from audiovisual history since the 1990s. Attentive to hybridizations, rapprochements and crossovers between media, Müller contributes to a decompartmentalized history concerned with analyzing media identities in transformation. In particular, he privileges a genealogy of the notion of intermediality in the German context. The text published in 2000 is among the first in the French-speaking world to discuss the televisual imaginary of the 19th century. Gilles Delavaud took this issue up anew in 2003 in an issue of Dossiers de l'audiovisuel. The special issue, "Un siècle de télévision : anticipation, utopie, prospective," sheds light on the long history of television while underscoring its constant dialogue with other media forms.
Audiovisions : Cinema and Television as Entr’actes in History
Audiovisions : Cinema and Television as Entr’actes in History, 1999.
Siegfried Zielinski's work is marked by a curiosity for the forgotten in historiography, a great erudition, and a penchant for the media archaeological method, which he implemented in Archäologie der Medien: Zur Tiefenzeit des technischen Hörens und Sehens (2002, 2006 for the English translation Deep Time of the Media). In this book, the author examines media technologies from antiquity onwards, but does not adopt a linear perspective, which would see media development only in terms of gradual improvement. The book Audiovisionen, published in 1989 and translated into English in 1999 as Audiovisions, looks at an intertwined history of television and cinema from the 19th century to the end of the 20th. By highlighting the multiple links between the two media, Zielinski insists on the transformations that accompany their history, which he analyzes starting from the historical moment of their dissolution, i.e. what he names "audiovision". This notion returns a sense of historical depth to these communication media, but also gives a primordial place to sonic forms of communication often neglected by specialists of the moving image.
La télévision dans le cercle de famille
La télévision dans le cercle de famille, 1996.
Lynn Spigel is a leading figure in television studies, to which she brings an original perspective linking technical history, a gender approach, and reception theory. The present article is an adaptation into French of a chapter from her seminal book Make room for TV. Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America, 1992). By relying on certain documentary resources that were still atypical at the time (in particular, magazine inserts), Spigel analyzes the paradoxical mechanisms at work in the domestication of television in American homes. On the one hand, the television is seen as the device that reunites a family unit thrown into crisis by the Second World War and the social and professional reconfigurations of the post-war era; on the other hand, it tends to restructure family dynamics by challenging not only parental authority but also marital power.
The Emergence of Television as a Conservative Media Revolution
The Emergence of Television as a Conservative Media Revolution. Historicising a Process of Remediation in the Post-War Western European Mass Media Ensemble, 01.02.2012.
Andreas Fickers, current director of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH), has uniquely explored the history of television from the perspective of the history of technology, from a transnational, European perspective, and from a digital history perspective. His thesis applied these perspectives to the debates surrounding the introduction of PAL-SECAM processes in Germany and France. He is also the author of several articles on the historiography of television. In this contribution, Fickers seeks to break away from the predominantly national focus of television studies, while at the same time rejecting linear and compartmentalized approaches to media history. His recourse to the oxymoron "conservative innovation" underscores the paradoxical character of television in the post-war period as neither completely new on a technical level nor revolutionary on an ideological one.
Is the End of Television Coming to an End?
Is the End of Television Coming to an End?, 16.05.2018.
Jérôme Bourdon, Professor at Tel Aviv University, is part of the first circle of audiovisual historians in France and was a participant in the seminar directed by Jean-Noël Jeanneney at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) since 1977. After a thesis devoted to television under de Gaulle, Bourdon developed several pioneering approaches to the sociology of media professionals, to a cultural history of European television programs, and to the technical and stylistic characteristics of the medium. This article presents an atypical look at the discourse on the end of television. It is less a question of thinking about television in the age of the "post network" (Amanda Lotz, The Television Will Be Revolutionized, 2007) than of questioning the recurrence of "telephobic" positions and the reasons for their relentlessness. The article also points, however, to a recent shift in perspective with the emergence of nostalgic media discourses and the success of TV series.
How television used to be made. ADAPT: Researching the history of television production technology
How television used to be made. ADAPT: Researching the history of television production technology
Led by Prof. John Ellis at Royal Holloway University (London), the ADAPT project is part of Hands on Media History. Through the reconstitution of pre-digital television techniques, this method focuses on the conditions of production but also on the consequences on the scientific analysis of the disappearance of agents and the obsolescence of equipment. The main part of the project consisted in recreating the conditions of television production in Great Britain since the 1960s. To this end, ADAPT brought together retired television professionals and now obsolete equipment to recreate production conditions that were as historically accurate as possible. This reenactment process, understood as an experimental archaeological approach, has resulted in a series of videos accessible on the site.
Histoire de la télévision
Histoire de la télévision, 2018.
A reissue of the site "Histoire de la télévision" launched in 1999 by André Lange, former head of department at the European Audiovisual Observatory (Council of Europe), the site histv.net gathers a very large number of sources and resources, in French but with a broad international perspective, on the beginnings of television and beyond. The site, which is fully in line with the current of television archaeology, provides access to many documents, both textual and audiovisual, on the transmission of remote images from the 1870s to around 1945 ("Anthologie des premiers textes").
Media and the Imaginary in History
Gabriele Balbi & Simone Natale:
Media and the Imaginary in History, 2014.
Professors of Media Studies at the University of Lugano and Turin, respectively, Gabriele Balbi and Simone Natale situate their media research within a longue durée perspective. This article concerns media imaginaries not only within a broad historical approach but also by considering the rhythms of development and obsolescence proper to all media production. These rhythms are: a prophetic phase, which anticipates the invention itself; the stage of implementation and institutionalization that follows, which is often hectic and filled with power struggles and competition; and finally, the moment when the technology becomes obsolete. In these three moments, an analysis of multiple imaginaries makes it possible to approach the development of media by underscoring their diversity but also the continuously changing perceptions of them.
Tom Swift’s Three Inventions of Television
Tom Swift’s Three Inventions of Television. Media History and the Technological Imaginary, 09.09.2015.
Doron Galili is among the scholars who have helped to expand the traditional periodization of television history. Inspired by works on early cinema, but also by seminal works such as Jonathan Crary's Techniques of the Observer (1990), Galili links the beginnings of television to a transformation of the notion of vision as early as the late 1870s. The article selected here is part of an interest in the forgotten "inventors" of television technology. Its focus is on the American Tom Swift series, a collection of works for young people published between 1910 and 1941. The series features three televisual dispositives: a photo telephone, a domestic receiver for musical or theatrical performance transmitted via the airwaves, and a device that allows one to see through walls and other obstacles.
The Promise of Television
The Promise of Television, 14.10.2017.
Erik Born's text is part of a project to translate and publish (early) theoretical texts on cinema published in Germany before 1933. The resulting anthology is complemented online by a website with additional sources, bibliographies, but also analyses of various aspects of German media history before the rise of National Socialism. Born discusses the question of television from an archaeological perspective, focusing primarily on the imaginary of remote viewing as it emerged in the 19th century (see his doctoral dissertation Sparks to Signals: Literature, Science, and Wireless Technology, 1800-1930). Born looks specifically at the new arrangements and revivals of this imaginary in the cinema from its early days to the 1930s. His analysis, informed by valuable film excerpts, can be read in conjunction with the annotated database Television in the Cinema by Richard Koszarski and Doron Galili (see below).
Television as new media
Television as new media: Raymond-Millet’s ‘Télévision: Oeil de Demain’ (1947) and the politics of French experimental TV, 2019.
Television historian and co-editor of this anthology, Anne-Katrin Weber works primarily on the historical moments that characterize television as a "new media." Through a case study that takes a largely forgotten French film from 1947 that seems to anticipate the contemporary mediascape with its smartphones and other portable screens as its starting point, the author dissects the filmic discourse that insists on the novelty of television. She argues that the discursive construction of novelty must be understood within the framework of the rebirth of television in post-war France, made possible largely by the development of television under the National Socialist occupation a few years earlier. To position television as a "new medium" obscures this problematic historical legacy.
Media specialist Jeffrey Sconce’s work manifests a particular interest for the links between electronic media and occult and supernatural phenomena. In this text, which is a translation of an excerpt from the book Haunted Media : Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television (2000), the author highlights the specificity of television, whose "living presence" makes its role of interface between the everyday and another dimension even more tangible. Two emblematic American series of the 1960s, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, show the "spectral" character of this television. No longer the much-praised "window on the world" of previous periods, it instead came to represent an external eye that takes control of the home, in accordance with the phantasms specific to the Cold War.
Streaming: A Media Hydrography of Televisual Flows
Streaming: A Media Hydrography of Televisual Flows, 09.09.2015.
Ghislain Thibault's work contributes to a media archaeology that is equally attentive to machines, imaginaries, discourses, and theories. His article, published in a special issue of the journal View on the archaeology of television co-edited by Andreas Fickers and Anne-Katrin Weber, explores the "aqueous" metaphors used to describe digital media. Streaming is the most obvious example, alongside notions of "navigation" and torrents. Thibault situates these liquid metaphors, already employed in the 19th century to designate telegraphy, within a longer history and discusses their use by media theory starting in the 1950s. Examining the notion of streaming, which is often associated with values such as participation and freedom of choice, Thibault shows how the term in fact masks the continuation of industrial media logics and mono/oligopolistic forms of content production and distribution.
Television in the Cinema Before 1939
Richard Koszarski & Doron Galili:
Television in the Cinema Before 1939. An International Annotated Database, 2016.
This filmography, compiled in 2016, brings together fiction films before 1939 that feature "television," whether through an imaginary of remote viewing, fantasized machines, or more or less truthful accounts of recent inventions. The filmography is annotated and links to films are included if available. Doron Galili continues to update the filmography on his site.
The Audiovisual Telephone
The Audiovisual Telephone. A Brief History, 2012.
Mara Mills is a specialist in sound studies, among other areas, which has led to her work on the history of the telephone as well as on the history of voice and aurality. As a media historian, she emphasizes the foundational role of the telephone system in the development of later sound recording techniques; moreover, like Mireille Berton and Anne-Katrin Weber in Switzerland (La télévision, du téléphonoscope à Youtube. Pour une archéologie de l'audiovision, 2009), she advocates for television’s integration into a history of audiovisual devices, of which the televisual modality represents only one of many possible variations.
Recording on Film, Transmitting by Signals
Recording on Film, Transmitting by Signals. The Intermediate Film System and Television’s Hybridity in the Interwar Period, 01.07.2014.
Written by this anthology’s co-editor, this paper analyzes the intermediate film system, a system developed in the interwar period. The particularity of this television technology was to translate the image fixed on silver-gelatin film into signals transmitted by cable or waves. Profoundly heterogeneous, the system embodies the fundamental hybridity of the televisual medium, which the author locates both at the epistemological and economic level; just as the machine itself is the fruit of a media convergence at its inception, television is marked by its hybridity, existing between "old" and "new media". In fact, the development of the intermediate film system resulted from an industrial convergence bringing together agents from the cinematographic, optical, and television industries.
Record/Film/Book/Interactive TV. EVR as a Threshold Format, 01.01.2016.
A historian of television and utilitarian media, Kit Hughes focuses on that which has been forgotten in audiovisual history. In her 2020 book, she analyzes the television medium’s use by American industry and corporations since the 1950s (Television at Work: Industrial Media and American Labor). In this article on Electronic Video Recording (EVR), she puts into perspective the discourses and practices that accompanied this almost unknown video technology. The EVR project, whose history is partly Swiss since it was developed by an international consortium including the CIBA, Geigy, in association with Les Éditions Rencontre, was quickly doomed to failure. For Hughes, certain "failures" can open up "new avenues of research into the margins of media history while deepening our understanding of history at the center”. This sensitivity to the margins fully inscribes her research in an expanded history of television.
Apollo TV. The Copernican Turn of Gaze
Apollo TV. The Copernican Turn of Gaze, 2012.
Lorenz Engell is a specialist in media theory and professor at the Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar. He is the author of, among other works, a book on Fernsehtheorie, published in German in 2012. His interest in the televisual object is primarily epistemological. In his article on the televised transmission of the moon landing in 1969, Engell discusses how the view of the earth from the moon extends the Copernican project of the modern period, producing knowledge about our place in the universe that is now visually accessible. Theoretical reflections on "pre-" and "post-Apollo 11" television are preceded by an analysis of the "televisual-spatial complex", where Engell demonstrates the importance of the television medium to the NASA project. This section resonates particularly well with the other papers in the section on Machines in that it demonstrates the expansion of television’s network hardware to the moon.
Blue Skies and Strange Bedfellows
Blue Skies and Strange Bedfellows: the Discourse of Cable Television, Boca Raton, FL 2013.
Internet specialist Thomas Streeter has devoted a book, Selling the Air: A Critique of the Policy of Commercial Broadcasting in the United States (1996), to the cultural and ideological prerequisites that led to the commercialization of the airwaves in the United States. It is within this framework that he became interested in cable TV and in the context that led to the legitimization of a technical device initially opposed by local broadcasters. Streeter's approach has the advantage of focusing on the various social, political, and economic agents who, in a sort of coalition as unlikely as it is motley, brought the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to integrate cable into the federal media landscape.
Earth Observation and Signal Territories
Earth Observation and Signal Territories: Studying U.S. Broadcast Infrastructure through Historical Network Maps, Google Earth, and Fieldwork, 14.09.2013.
Recipient of the prestigious McArthur Award for her work in Media Studies, Lisa Parks explores the history and politics of planetary communication media from satellites to drones. Her 2013 paper articulates three perspectives for studying telecommunication infrastructures from the 19th to the 21st century. Historical analysis draws on geographic maps of telegraph networks, an analysis of the contemporary broadcasting landscape using Google Earth, and a creative approach based on the in situ exploration of a transmission facility located via geolocation software. Through these three case studies, the author argues for a better understanding of media infrastructures, often neglected in favor of approaches focused on the production and reception of content.
Launched by Anne-Katrin Weber, dronetv.lu is a multilingual platform on the history of military, industrial and educational television. Through contributions in different formats (text, audio, video, photography), it seeks to highlight the applications and uses of utilitarian television. The platform comes out of and extends a post-doctoral research project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation; its elaboration and publication was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) at the University of Luxembourg. Dronetv.lu is a collection of texts by the project leader as well as works by students of the Seminar für Medienwissenschaft at the University of Basel during the pandemic semester of autumn 2020. The website will be enhanced during future teaching and research; it thus also serves the exploration of new forms of historical narratives. A more detailed presentation of the project can be found here.
From Screen to Site: Television’s Material Culture, and Its Place
From Screen to Site: Television’s Material Culture, and Its Place, 01.10.2001.
Anna McCarthy, Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University, has contributed to an important revitalization of television historiography; rather than focussing on the TV as domestic receiver and program broadcaster, her research considers the multiple presences of the screen within public space. McCarthy gives great importance to the materiality of these devices as well as to their resonance with their architectural, commercial, or professional environments by including the presence of television in bars and restaurants, shopping malls and medical offices. In this article, published the same year as her book Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space, she focuses on the functions of television as an a priori unremarkable material object alongside its peculiar aesthetic and temporality.
Histoire d’une illusion
Histoire d’une illusion. La télévision scolaire de 1945 à 1985, 2013.
After a thesis directed by Robert Mandrou and devoted to the pamphlet literature of the seventeenth century, Hélène Duccini came to work on the audiovisual via the creation of teaching modules that took up both contemporary history and electronic media. She herself produced programs for school television from 1965 to 1970. In this contribution to Le Temps des Médias, she focuses on the genesis of this pedagogical usage, which started in 1945 and gained considerable speed in the 1960s. A part of the article emphasizes Marly-le-Roi (1966) and the pilot experiment that equipped each classroom with receiver units connected to a studio with the purpose of facilitating the collaboration between teachers and pupils in the production of programs.
Tele-clubs and European Television History Beyond the Screen
Tele-clubs and European Television History Beyond the Screen, 29.11.2012.
Like the French historian Marie-Françoise Levy, Ira Wagman, Professor of Communication Studies at Carleton University (Ottawa), is interested in the ephemeral phenomenon of television clubs, which constitute a foundational step in the geographical, but also social and cultural, installation of the small screen in France. Generally hosted within the framework of village schools, tele-clubs were supported by a considerable associative movement and the production of specific programs. They were part of the vast post-war cultural action movement, of which television was both the heir and a catalyst. The originality of Wagman’s contribution is to emphasize how this installation phase allows a revitalization of television studies. Firstly, the history of the tele-clubs gains not only from being approached from a transnational perspective but also by resituating the novelty of the participative experience in context with certain previous approaches. Secondly, notably through Joffre Dumazedier’s study on tele-clubs (1956), it is possible to situate UNESCO's television initiatives within the more global discourse on the role and function of the medium in this phase of its development.
Half-Inch Revolution, 10.2013.
Kris Paulsen is a specialist in the history of contemporary art, in particular video art, and is an associate professor at Ohio State University. In her article published in a special issue on the "archaeology of networks", Paulsen analyzes the emergence of Guerilla Television, the alternative and protest television movement that emerged in the late 1960s in the United States. She pays particular attention to the modes of distribution favored by audiovisual collectives. If certain initiatives of this "counter-television" sought diffusion over public channels, more informal networks based on the exchange of video cassettes constituted the true backbone of the movement. The movement thus relied on a decentralized and non-hierarchical dissemination network that functioned in close collaboration with journals published by agents from the milieu, rather than on centralized institutional infrastructures.
Modern Art as Media Event
David Rynell Åhlén:
Modern Art as Media Event. Early Swedish Television and the Communication of Art Appreciation, the Case of «Multikonst» (1967), 2016.
Developped within the framework of a PhD thesis on art programming on Swedish television in the 1950s and 1960s, this case study looks back at a unique experiment, Multikonst (1967). Television was directly involved in this event, since the project was characterized by the presence of screens in 100 locations that simultaneously hosted an exhibition of contemporary art, while being supported by five special programs broadcast to homes and museums. Taking up the definition of the media event developed by Katz and Dayan, the author shows the social impact of live broadcasting; on another level, television was not only put in the service of art promotion but exploited as a new form of broadcasting where the reproduction and commercial exploitation of artworks were supplanted by their simultaneous distribution and reception.
Les archives de la RTS
Radio Télévision Suisse:
Les archives de la RTS
Many television institutions now offer online access to (part of) their audiovisual heritage. These platforms provide for the wide diffusion of images and sounds that can foster research and teaching. For French-speaking Switzerland, RTS offers a site dedicated to the promotion of archives and an editorial selection of contents curated in response to current events. The historical resources of the Swiss German television, SRF, are accessible on the Play SRF platform, unfortunately not very efficient in terms of its search functionalities. Overall, the provisions for metadata accompanying historical programs is still lacking on these sites, which makes them unsuitable for scientific use if one limits oneself to them.
A part of the television archive is also accessible on the Memobase database of Memoriav, the Association for the Preservation of the Audiovisual Heritage of Switzerland. In addition to access to the SRF's flagship programs such as Rundschau, Memobase gathers more than 200,000 videos from various collections, including the audiovisual holdings of the PTT and Swisscom, which are housed at the Museum of Communication in Bern.
For Europe, the EUSCREEN project, a consortium of audiovisual institutions and affiliated partners, aims to make the European heritage visible and to give access to the most significant events of the 20th and 21st centuries. Finally, we would also like to mention the website of the the National Audiovisual Institute (INA) in France, a flagship institution created in 1974 that has provided access to radio and television copyrighted since 1992.
Teaching (with) Television
The Bad Object: Television in the American Academy
The Bad Object: Television in the American Academy, 2005.
The historian of radio and television Michele Hilmes has closely accompanied the emergence of Anglo-Saxon Television Studies. In this short article from the early 2000s, published as part of a dossier on the teaching of television and the emergence of digital technology with its new forms of distribution and reception, Hilmes looks back at the beginnings of the discipline by placing it in parallel with film studies. Although the article is almost twenty years old, both its characterization of television as a "bad object" for many scholars and its call for a media history that is attentive to the convergences between film, radio, television, and the internet remain highly relevant. According to Hilmes, in order to understand the contemporary media landscape, students must be able to take courses that cover the (historical) spectrum of media.
L’audiovisuel dans l’auditoire
François Vallotton & Nelly Valsangiacomo:
L’audiovisuel dans l’auditoire. L’intégration des sources radiophoniques et télévisées au sein de l’enseignement académique, 2010.
Since 2006, François Vallotton and Nelly Valsangiacomo have been developing a teaching and research center for a "audiovisual history of the present" within the University of Lausanne’s history department. After discussing the slow process of legitimizing audiovisual sources, in addition to that of conserving and making them available in the Swiss context, the article aims to relate the experience of integrating radio or television material into a set of seminars. The necessary criticism of documentary resources must be accompanied by the wider availability of not only the raw material of said resources but also of metadata. This accessibility should not come without more methodological and theoretical reflections on a carefully thought-out usage of the sources' potential in order to make the most of students’ growing interest.
«Les jeunes vont s’éclater!»
Les jeunes vont s’éclater!» Apocalypse, la Premiére Guerre mondiale ou l’enseignement au defi du spectaculaire, 2015.
Film historian Séverine Graff, author of a PhD thesis on cinéma-vérité (Cinéma-vérité, films et controverses, 2014), looks back at the successful French historical television series Apocalypse Première Guerre mondiale. The essay analyzes the numerous controversies that the program provoked through the writing of several specialists in visual cultures or media. Should these criticisms, which point to a problematic treatment of the archive (colorized and sonorized), prevent the documentary from being used in the classroom, especially in view of its attractivity and its identificatory power for a young audience? The author concludes with a few pedagogical approaches for overcoming the opposition between academic and popular history.
Au-delà du service public
François Vallotton & Anne-Katrin Weber:
Au-delà du service public – Pour une histoire élargie de la télévision en Suisse, 1960-2000.
The tvélargie website, awarded the Memoriav 2020 Prize, is the result of the research project “Beyond Public Broadcasting: Towards an Expanded History of Swiss Television (1960-2000)”. Led by François Vallotton and Anne-Katrin Weber, this project was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation from 2016 to 2021. It has produced numerous results, some of which are made available on the site. The website has been carefully maintained by the two PhD students on the project, Roxane Gray and Marie Sandoz and offers a broad overview of our activities, including texts written by us, articles resulting from courses given by the project leaders, and a lively blog that relays international news about audiovisual research.