10 blog posts and 188 tweets later, and I have reached the conclusion of my Webification Project. What a journey!
Coming up with my concept for this assignment was so much easier than I thought it was going to be. I have a great interest in reality television as well as new media, so this project seemed perfect. Each week, I watched a reality television show and tweeted throughout it on Twitter. Afterward, I wrote a blog post about the television show episode and also made comments about the reality television genre and how ‘real’ the content we are watching actually is.
I did blog posts on ‘Send in the Dogs‘ (Channel 9), ‘RBT‘ (Channel 9), ‘World’s Strictest Parents‘ (Channel 7), ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife‘ (Channel 9), ‘The Secret Millionaire‘ (Channel 9), ‘The X Factor‘ (Channel 7), ‘Four Weddings‘ (Channel 7), ‘MasterChef‘ (Channel 10), ‘Cops‘ (Channel 10), ‘The Commonwealth Games‘ (Channel 10) and ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians‘ (Channel 7).
I learnt a lot from this project. In terms of the blog posts, I really began to see how unreal the reality television genre is, and how reality is manufactured by the producers. Shows such as ‘World’s Strictest Parents’ and ‘Four Weddings’ were clearly edited and revised in a way that affects how real the content actually is. Every episode of these types of shows follows the exact same format – this is not a feature of real life. The editing process changes the meaning of the show’s content. I also noticed how these shows which feature people being followed by cameras often result in the people overreacting or playing it up for the cameras. When the presence of the camera is known, they change their behaviour so as to result in more exciting television (for example, ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ and the phone throwing saga). Talent shows such as ‘The X Factor’ definitely aim to achieve these ‘TV moments’ through the judges who say controversial things to the contestants in order to provoke a response.
However, the main thing I wanted to explore throughout this project was Twitter and how it can be used to enhance the television viewing experience. Tweeting during these reality television programs, I felt as if I was part of a community of viewers all commenting on the programming. People were making witty remarks about things that were happening on the show, commenting about contestants, and simply making general observations about things that may have gone unnoticed to some viewers. For example, when I was watching ‘Cops’ and laughing about the crazy woman who sounded like she was on helium telling the officer that the drugs weren’t hers, the commentary on Twitter was amusing; most importantly, a few people pointed out she had a marijuana leaf tattooed on her arm, which made the whole situation so much more hilarious!
Tweeting throughout a television program allowed me to form part of a large viewing audience who was simultaneously enjoying the viewing content. This type of commentary was particularly prevalent during ‘Junior MasterChef’. People generally prefer to watch television programs with family or friends. Sporting events are much more exciting when celebrated with company. Reality television programs are great to watch with others as there is always a lot to discuss and laugh about. With Twitter, this social commentary can occur between people all around Australia and even the world. During the Commonwealth Games, Twitter was used by many viewers to cheer on athletes and to discuss victories, dramas and controversies. If you continually tweet during the same program each week, you will get to know those people who also watch the show, and if you ‘follow’ them on Twitter you can hear what they are thinking throughout the episode each week. In this sense, Twitter as a social networking site allows connections to be made between people with similar likes and interests. It enhances the viewing experience as it gives the process of television viewing, which can be quite a solitary process, a social dimension which makes watching a program even more fun and interesting.
The structural elements of my Webification Project were quite easy to maintain.
1. The Blog
The Blog was very easy to set up and maintain. I inserted a Twitter feed into the page, and also tagged each blog post. After three or four weeks I realised that being able to read the full blog post of each show on the homepage was annoying and stretching out the page way too much, so I discovered how to cut off the blog post with a “Read the rest of this entry” link which made the page look a lot cleaner. I love the design I chose for this site. Coming up with the name was fairly easy; I felt so smart and original, until about week 5 when I googled ‘unrealityTV’ and discovered that there were numerous sites with this name, notably ‘Unreality TV – The UK and Ireland’s BIGGEST Reality TV Blog’. Oops! So much for an original name!
Using Twitter was really simple. Lugging my laptop to the TV was too much effort, so I used the Twitter application on my iPhone and tweeted in style. Discovering what the hashtag was for each program sometimes caused dramas – on at least one occasion I realised that I was tweeting using the wrong hashtag which is why it seemed no one else was watching the program. My iPhone remembered each hashtag so I didn’t have to constantly re-type it, which made my life easier.
However, I think there were some problems with my Webification Project, or some things that could have improved my project.
1. Lack of Television Shows to watch
I had no idea it was going to be so difficult to find a different reality television program to watch each week. What made it even more difficult is that I play sport and work most evenings, which is when most reality programs are on. This problem would not have existed if I had pay TV! Everyone knows that’s where the really good, trashy reality TV shows are! I still managed to get a different show each week, but it was quite difficult and stressful.
2. Should I have watched the same program each week?
To fully explore the social capabilities of Twitter in terms of the television viewing experience, it may have been better for me to watch the same reality television program each week. This may have been a bit dull in terms of blog posts, but in terms of Twitter it would enable me to establish relationships with other viewers of the show.
3. Trying to get followers/responses/blog post views or comments
My goal was to get as many Twitter followers and responses as possible. This was actually quite difficult. I think that maybe if I had done option 2 and tweeted about the same show each week, this could have been easier. I tried using StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg in order to get blog post views up, but I don’t think this was very successful. Once again, perhaps if I followed the same show each week this may have been different, as I could have built up a consistent following.
Overall, I am quite content with my Webification Project. I would like in future to explore the Twitter phenomenon further, as I am interested in its capabilities as a tool which enables the communal watching of television. In addition, I am now really sceptical about reality television programs, as I am starting to see how this reality is very manufactured by the producers in order to appeal to viewers. I may continue to use Twitter during television shows, as I find it makes the whole experience quite hilarious.
However, no matter how sceptical I get, I will still be a fan of reality TV… or unreality TV 🙂