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Talking with Television

Women, Talk Shows, and Modern Self-Reflexivity

Talking back to TV--women viewers' participation with TV talk shows

Over the past decade, television talk shows have proliferated and diversified in style. One of the most demonized of television genres, talk shows have fueled debates about television's faltering role as a medium for social interaction. Overlooked in all this discussion is the fact that many viewers don't just absorb the shows but react to them and even talk back to their televisions.

Focusing on the political and everyday nature of talk, Talking with Television explores the relationship between talk on TV, talk about TV, and, most dynamically, talk with TV. By observing and analyzing the daily viewing habits of a dozen women viewers, Helen Wood captures how television dynamically unfolds alongside the viewers' own personal opinions, experiences, and life stories. She interprets these experiences as daily rituals of self-reflexivity, focusing on the performance of gender as a doubling of place in contemporary conditions of modernity. Offering a critical analysis of the ritual communication of talk television, Wood argues for a more sustained focus on the mechanics of mediated interaction in media studies, particularly as the field attempts to theorize the characteristics of "old" and "new" media. Directly challenging the fundamental assumption that new media forms are uniquely interactive, Talking with Television reveals that televisual styles, particularly talk-based TV, have always sought to encourage a participatory relationship with viewers at home.

"A rare product: a theoretically informed empirical study, using data in sophisticated ways to produce far-reaching insights into the practice of television viewing and the construction of gendered subjectivity. A significant contribution to sociology, media and cultural studies, and gender studies."--Ann Gray, author of Research Practice for Cultural Studies: Ethnographic Methods and Lived Cultures

Helen Wood is principal lecturer in media studies at De Montfort University in Leicester, England.

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