I N T R O D U C T I O N
T H E P U B L I C L I V E S O F T V
We tend to think of the location of the tv screen as the home, or even
the living room, but this book is about television’s presence in the rou-
tine locations we move through when we leave the house—the store, the
waiting room, the bar, the train station, the airport. These sites of com-
merce, bureaucracy, and community, constituting the landscape of public
life today, are also arenas in which we commonly encounter the television
screen.TV enters the everyday built environment under numerous guises,
from art to advertising, from entertainment to information. Sometimes
it is in the form of a commercial tv system especially dedicated to one
type of location, like cnn’s Airport Network. At other times, particularly
in retail stores, it is in the form of ‘‘point-of-purchase video,’’ designed
by marketers to motivate acts of consumption on the sales floor. And in
other locations still, a monitor sits where it can fit, on an overhead shelf
or on top of a refrigeration unit, placed there for the viewing pleasures of
the space’s users and employees. We don’t always pay much attention to
these various forms of ambient television, although, as I will suggest, they
can teach us a great deal about the power politics of spectatorship and
commerce in contemporary public space. What the tv set does outside
the home—what social acts it performs, or is roped into, what struggles
it embodies and intervenes in, what agencies speak through it, and which
subjectsitsilencesoralternatelygivesavoice—arethequestionsthatdrive
this book.
The quotidian geography of tv in public is composed of sites where
commerce and bureaucracy, purpose and drift, routine and event inter-
weave, places in which television’s presence remains largely unexamined
by scholars and critics. In these places, as at home, the screen serves site-
specific purposes, its placement and use carrying out local tasks and chan-
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