Darren Waters

TV becomes social again

  • Darren Waters
  • 25 May 08, 10:03 GMT

Remember the term "water cooler moment"; in which a TV show generated a social buzz and was talked about by colleagues at work after broadcast?

It seems to me that there are fewer and fewer water cooler moments, in part because television has become less of a cohesively social experience.

PVRS, video on demand, BitTorrent, digital download stores, DVD box sets have all helped to fracture the common viewing experience.

We tend to watch our TV content out of sync with one another these days.

But last night I experienced a water cooler moment as a programme was being broadcast. It was social TV at the point of broadcast, and it was thanks to Twitter.

Eurovision is precisely the kind of mass experience and mass participation event that made, and arguably still makes, TV so social.

People have parties, print off voting forms etc to help make the event more inclusive.

But that sense of common viewing is restricted to people in your living room, or friends pinging each other text messages.

Last night I was watching Eurovision with Twitter runnng on my laptop. In real time, my Twitter friends and I shared comments and made observations about the event as it was happening.

Twitter was being used to exend the experience of watching the event together, but also for people to share links to sites with backstory, or explainers etc.

Social TV became a kind of informed viewing experience. Amidst my friends and followers there were "power viewers", those who were able to add detail, explanation and expertise to the viewing, and "empowered viewers", those of us whose experience of combining TV and Twitter was made richer.

You could not only share pithy comments with friends on Twitter, but by searching for Eurovision on Tweetscan you could see what the whole Twitter community was saying about the event.

People were also encourage to "tag" their Eurovision comments using a hashtag, #eurovision, and so posts directly relating to the event could be followed in real time.

Other Twitter services like Summarize could also be used to grab a wider flavour of the discussions and debate.

So does this mean anything? Arguably all Twitter did was turn an old fashioned mass participation event, viewing Eurovision, into the digital age.

But imagine how Twitter could be used to build instant communities around real time TV content, be it programmes or event TV?

The interesting thing about last night was that it was totally spontaneous. There may be resistance/reluctance to doing this on a more structured, premeditated basis; but it would be an interesting experiment.

Twitter plus TV = informed viewing.

I'm excited by the potential.

My colleague Robin Haman, aka Cybersoc, has also blogged about this.



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