When Pop is Personal

PALIMPSEST (according to the Oxford Dictionary):



1. a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.

2. something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.


A palimpsest, in the Italian television lexicon, is the plan or layout of all of the programming of a network; it is used to help create a network’s identity. While English speaking countries have taken to using the term “schedule,” the term palimpsest in some ways unites the programming under the umbrella of the network and lends itself more to the idea of flow. It also invites us to create a subtext with which to read the choice of programming of each network.

I would like to argue that with an increase in technological devices that allow us to take television programming with us wherever we go (iphone, ipad, smart-phones), and choose programs from multiple networks on one website (Netflix, Hulu), we may begin to separate the idea of palimpsest from the networks and create our own personal-palimpsest.

How do the personal-palimpsests we create function in relation to the pre-established palimpsests created by these networks? Are we shaping ours in relation to the ones that have shaped our previous televisual experiences? Are they (the networks) changing theirs to cater to technology’s influence on how we watch content?

This is a conversation about television, but it isn’t just a conversation about television.

This is about my own personal palimpsest of pop.

3 thoughts on “When Pop is Personal

  1. I would argue that, once upon a time, the viewers’ personal-palimpsests were more shaped and controlled by the pre-established palimpsests of the networks, which, based on my personal experiences of having watched far too much television growing up, left me functioning a bit more satisfied of the programs I watched (…A la “Friends” anyone?). And yes, the continual advancement of technological devices where “I can watch ’30-Rock’ anywhere I go” are a clear indication that the networks are changing their palimpsests to cater technology’s influence on viewers. However, I cannot argue that I am abandoning my previous personal palimpsests from past experiences. I find myself WANTING to re-shape my pre-established personal-palimpsests, but I am left feeling cheated of “complete” satisfaction. Why?…good f’n question.

  2. So, you feel not completely satisfied despite personalizing your watching style?

    Let me complicate the conversation by adding a few more thoughts:

    1. Hulu has a function that will automatically start another program after you finish watching your current one. This creates a “stream” or “flow” of programming that is much like watching a regular television. But, in a sense, Hulu is deciding what you should watch next based on what “people like you” are also inclined to watch. So, in a sense, it is narrowcasting – or creating a flow of television that is more in line with the specialized stations we saw once cable and satellite tv became popular. When Hulu says “people like you also enjoy….” are you inclined to agree with the powers-that-be at Hulu, or do you want to challenge them and rebel against it?

    2. In speaking of portable palimpsests, I was thinking about the terms “couch potato” and “vegging out”; both terms leave a picture of a lazy person plopped down on a couch for hours at a time. Of course the negative connotations of both expressions are quite clear. But what about the people that insist on watching television on the subway, or when they are out with friends, or even walking down the street. We might say they are “checked out” or are being “rude” but what sort of expression might we invent that is the equivalent of the portable couch potato?

  3. In reference to your first question regarding my acute dissatisfaction of the personalization of my viewing style, this “incompleteness” is a result of my own attempt to go along in unison with the narrowcasting intentions that Hulu or Netflix impose based on my previous viewing experiences. Perhaps their is an underlying psychological answer to this question of “Why do I feel a bit incomplete?” And that may be because “people like me” (the rebels where thirst-for-challenge is their cause), immediately raise the bar for the viewing preferences provided by these websites. It is when they fall short of having quenched my thirst for film/TV masterpieces that I feel robbed of a great overall experience. But, that’s just me.

    The expression(s) we may invent of the “portable couch potato” is that of the “portable nincompoop who should put down the device and remember to have fun.” But this digression merely serves as my personal opinion of these types. And yes, my being the antithesis where I secretly poke fun at these types makes my lounging/drinking experience a bit more interesting…Cheers?

    Now, J, to make this conversation a little more interesting, how would YOU respond to your own questions above? You can either answer here or next time we do drinks, as long as you don’t watch “Mob Wives” while doing so…Cheers.

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