Binge-Watching and The Future of Television Research (UEA)

By Charlotte Stevens on June 26th, 2019

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in Marieke Jenner’s Binge-Watching and The Future of Television Research workshop, held in two parts at the University of East Anglia. Rather than holding a traditional conference and subsequently proposing an edited collection, this event was designed with the publication in mind, and was structured to collaboratively design what that output might look like.

The first meeting was a two-day event, with the first day focusing on shorter (5-10 minute) presentations from each participant about different aspects of binge-watching, and the second day used for group discussions around how to shape a book section of related chapters. Instead of a run of 20-minute papers, with limited time for discussion of each, this format means there is more time to shape research in progress in line with immediate feedback. Also, it’s far more fun to gather in a room for a day and hear each other’s ideas, which are all works in progress. The atmosphere of the first day was very refreshing and exciting, and everyone seemed committed to this novel way of working.

Over the intervening year, we have stayed in touch to contribute to the writing of the book proposal (and its revisions) and to share ideas and drafts in the different sections. The volume will be published by Edinburgh University Press, and will be titled Binge-Watching and Contemporary Television Research. In our second meeting, coming up this September, we will be sharing and peer-reviewing our drafts.

My contribution to the original workshop was titled ‘Historical Binge-Watching: 1980s ‘Marathon Viewing’’, in which I discussed some of the ethnographic and primary-source evidence of time-shifted television viewing at home, with friends, and at conventions. These ways of watching television resemble binge-watching in that they are about consuming a number of episodes in a compressed time-frame, but they pre-date the DVD box sets and streaming services that tend to be credited (and/or blamed) for this behaviour. In the intervening year I’ve undertaken research at two different archives (in person at the Merril Collection, and through remote access to Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives) to look at convention reports and fan letters about how they have used videotape. Out of this primary source research, I am looking forward to shaping a story of the way a novel media technology rapidly became central, and then somewhat background, to media fan experience in the US, the UK, and around the world.