Chuck Tryon: On-Demand Culture

Of the Trump supporters and Clinton supporters, there were practically no television shows in each group’s mutual top 25... There’s almost no overlap, not just in terms of political messaging, but also in cultural messaging.
profile photo.jpg

Chuck Tryon discusses his book On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies with Chris RichardsonHe is a professor of film and media studies at Fayetteville State University and the author of three books: Political TV (Routledge, 2016), On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies (Rutgers University Press, 2013) and Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence (Rutgers University Press 2009). He has also published in academic journals including Screen, Popular Communication, and The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, as well as Vox, The Week, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

RECOMMENDED READINGS

Lotz’s book is the authoritative analysis of the transition of television from the network era into our current digital age. The book is accessible and informative and makes the case that digital technologies have revolutionized the medium, expanding choice and providing greater flexibility for consumers. She is also attentive to the ways in which the proliferation of cable channels and streaming options has contributed to the rise of niche audiences and increasingly targeted advertising. Her book was very much a model when I was writing both Reinventing Cinema and On-Demand Culture, as I attempted to make sense of the ripple effects of digital technologies on cinema.

When I was writing Reinventing Cinema and On-Demand Culture, I found myself constantly referring to and struggling against Klinger’s brilliant and insightful book. Beyond making observations about industrial shifts related to digital delivery, Klinger offers sharp-eyed critical analysis of consumer experiences, including the role of home theaters and the ways in which DVDs enabled the rise of new forms of film fandom that cultivated expertise and insider knowledge through DVD extras. Klinger’s discussion of repeat viewing also proved to be insightful, as she traced out motivations for why people return to the same movies again and again.

This has been a profoundly influential book on my scholarship. Spigel brilliantly analyzes newspaper articles, advertisements, and other forms of promotional discourse to show how families were conditioned to accept television sets—which were often viewed as intrusive or distracting—into the family home. However, these discourses not only promoted television, but also promoted ideal family structures and normalized traditional gender roles.

Acland provides a powerful overview of the rise of multiplex—and eventually megaplex—cinemas, viewing the transition to megaplexes as being connected with the development of an accelerated movie culture, in which film audiences across the globe gain access to new releases simultaneously. This contributes to what Acland describes as a growing “casualization” of moviegoing, as movies become increasingly integrated into a wider entertainment culture. I found his close reading of movie theaters as cultural spaces especially persuasive, and his analysis of moviegoing anticipates many of the current shifts, including the proliferation of theaters that provide beer and wine, recliners, and other comforts associated with home theaters. But his discussion of the globalization of Hollywood is also vital for understanding Hollywood’s current production and distribution practices.

Herbert’s book offers a readable, engaging history of what he calls the “tangible phase” of consumer home video. Herbert traveled to dozens of locally owned video stores across the country, interviewing owners and longtime employees to trace out how video stores operated and what role they served in their communities. Released at the moment when the last video store chains were falling into bankruptcy and when most mom-and-pop stores were starting to fade away, Herbert powerfully reads the decline of video stores alongside of economic shifts toward flexible distribution models that helped make video stores appear obsolete.