“Pass Me the Clicker!”: The Beginnings of a More Participatory Culture

Remember sitting down on the couch and fighting with your siblings about what show to watch, or being upset that you were stuck watching whatever news channel your parents were watching? Remember when “pass me the clicker” or “pass me the remote” was a frequent line in any household? The remote played an important role in the way people watch television. Before the remote, the task of walking to the television set and switching the channel, or changing the volume was necessary. In Bennett & Strange’s book, Console-ing Passions: Television as Digital Media, Turner states, “The remote also has a history that is distinct from broadcast television, both predating it and extending beyond it. Considered not as an attachment to another machine but as a machine in itself, the remote is notable as an early example of tactile, handheld media device, closely related to mobile phones, personal music players, and other media machines that share this warm proximity to people” (54). . The remote not only made people “lazier”, but as it evolved, it enabled a new set of functions for the viewers. Functions such as pause, rewind, record as well as others, created a new way to watch television.

The convenience of television culture has extended. It makes it easy for people to attain culture and participate in it. The evolution of digital media has created a more participatory culture. Henry Jenkins addresses the term participatory culture in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Jenkins writes, “Each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives” (Jenkins 9).Television has changed. The way we watch television has changed. Where we watch it, how we watch it and what we watch is all a part of the evolution of digital technologies. Thinking about the ways in which we watch content now, and how watching television was fifteen years ago, it has completely changed. Television as digital media is taking over a multitude of platforms. We can watch television on our phones, on our computers, tablets, and multiple people can be watching television at the same time either watching the same thing or completely different. Turner claims, “ With the multiplication of platforms, formats, production centers, and distribution systems, it is abundantly clear that the precise configuration of any nation’s or region’s experience of television is going to be the product of the complex interplay among a number of specific conjunctural factors—and only one of these will be technological” (36). The shift and convergence of media and television has resulted in a shift in culture.


People are able to constantly interact with the media and people are also able to connect with others about the media that they are consuming. Turner writes,  “Once Lotz reminds us, the use of television “typically involved walking into a room, turning on the set, and either tuning in to specific content or commencing the process of channel surfing” (31). New technological changes have impacted the way in which we consume culture. Digital technologies are less expensive, and so the shift to digital technologies is more cost effective, resulting in a change in access to content. The remote became a gateway to a new technological shift in television and digital media that in turn had an impact on culture, both digital and non digital.


Bennett, James, and Niki Strange. Television as Digital Media. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2011. Print.

Images from Creative Commons.

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