The Spoilers

I just heard a great program on Odyssey, a public radio show that I've frequently found interesting, though suprisingly highbrow or academic - you don't often hear, even on public radio, phrases like "post-modern conception of representation," especially from a caller!

Anyway, today's show was about Reality TV, and the 2 guests were both academics and cultural critics, one of them being the eminent Henry Jenkins, who is pretty well known for his study of fan culture and his book "Textual Poachers."

There was a lot of great stuff about the role that reality television is playing in society, but there are 2 things in particular that I was most interested in. First, the idea that reality tv programs promote an idea of individual agency and responsiblity that is in keeping with the current rise of neoliberal ideology in politics. Where before people could look to government social programs or their community for support, they're encouraged now to be independent individualists and compete, like in Survivor and other reality contest game shows, and look to private sources of charity like the Extreme Home Makeover show.

The other interesting thing that Jenkins brought up is the phenomenon of the spoiler community. These are viewers of a reality show who get together on the internet and investigate the show to find out what will happen before it goes on the air, or to find out extra details that don't appear on the show itself. They're like investigative journalists, only they don't investigate weighty things like corrupt politicians or corporate wrongdoing, they investigate whether Joey will be voted off the Island next week, or whatever. They even pool their money sometimes to send one of their group to physically investigate the filming location, interview people, etcetera.

Hmm. sounds sort of like Indymedia.

Jenkins basically explained that he sees this as an activity motivated by a desire to use new information tools to learn more about the world than what is being told to them by the media, and he mentioned how this is connected to some forms of activism going on now or that will go on.

Wow. Isn't it incredible, there's people out there put time and energy and money into being amateur investigative journalists, but their subjects are completely useless, unreal elements of constructed corporate mass culture. Just imagine if they could be swayed to participate in Indymedia instead!