Despite consumption patterns gradually changing, the notion of flow (Williams, 1974) remains a key concept drawn on by scholars (e.g. Kompare, 2006, Johnson, 2013, Kackman et al., 2011) to understand television. As a concept ‘flow’ is connected to an understanding of the difference of television from other media as far as the viewing experience is concerned: rather than a single film, audiences encounter a number of small units that are combined in the process of audiences’ sense making. In this understanding, ephemera become as important as programmes as they interlink to create a meaningful whole. On the other hand, John Ellis (1992/1982) argues that the more typical form for television is actually the segment which contains a separate meaning within itself. Using an audience ethnography, this article argues that in the experience of audiences, the concepts of flow and segmentation are both in evidence. Rather than seeing them as opposing, therefore, they must be understood as complementary in order to fully account for audiences’ experiences and sense making of television.
- audience ethnography
- watching television