I found Ann Gray’s article on the way women watch television especially interesting this week, and very relevant to the topic of surveillance and self. One aspect of that that comes through really strongly is the guilt that the married women in the article describe when they watch too much television during the day, and the fact that they’re so critical of the types of media they enjoy when compared to the types their husbands like. Both of these things reminded me of Foucault’s ideas on self-surveillance.
I also thought about the way their husbands controlled so much of their viewing, which is perhaps another source of surveillance, and the way they always take priority when they are present, displacing both the women’s preferences as well as their television-viewing with friends. Perhaps, too, the indirect and/or imagined surveillance of the husbands contributes in some way to the guilt and self-criticism that the women experience while alone?
The one glaring limitation of the article seemed to be that it was only about married women and only about heterosexual women, and all of its analysis was built on that assumption without even acknowledging it. Quite a lot of the article also seems to assume that the married heterosexual women don’t have jobs outside of the home. So I’d be really interested in reading something that takes into account these complications, like who has control of the television in queer relationships, or whether single women still feel guilt when watching television.
I found it really interesting to think about how music can bring people together in a shared experience (as in the Gilroy article) while at other times shut out the rest of the world and grant privacy (as in Bull). The emotional experiences that music creates or elevates for the people in these articles reminded me of another article I stumbled across a couple days before doing the readings about the benefits of listening to sad music when you’re sad.
I also ended up thinking about how various technological developments since the articles were written would fit into their argument. One obvious change is how common smartphones have become, to the point that most people already have a music-playing device with them wherever they go without the need for an iPod… and smartphones even seem to create an additional level of the “private world” that Bull mentions for their users, since they can create a visual as well as listening experience.
Another shift that seems to be happening is the rise of music subscription services like Spotify or Apple Music, where people pay a monthly fee to listen to all the music they want but don’t really own any of it. Michael Bull mentions dreaming of a machine that can play “any song there is” and says that the iPod comes close to that, but with subscription services that stream music on-demand we get even closer.
This shift to subscription services also seems to have huge implications for Sterne’s article on the mp3 format, since with this system users are no longer collecting music in the same way – their collection is nearly unlimited, but they can only listen to their “collection” for as long as they continue paying a monthly fee. I’m guessing the shift had a lot to do with the way piracy created an expectation for music to be widely and conveniently available.
I was happy to have a chance to read bell hooks for this week’s seminar, since I’ve heard a lot of people talk about and recommend her but haven’t had the opportunity to read her before. I’m used to hearing a lot about “the gaze” through feminist studies and film criticism, so it was fascinating to see the concept expanded on in this way, to think about how it can be used for these different purposes that are sometimes quite positive.