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Back to the Future: This Year's Flow Conference

by Ethan Tussey

by Alisa Perren for IN MEDIA RES

When the first Flow Conference took place in 2006, a great deal of enthusiasm surrounded the event not only due to its unconference format but also because of its focus on the state of post-network era television (and television studies) at the same moment that such developments (and discourses) seemed relatively new. At the time, the conference was one of the few places where scholars – along with journalists, critics, and even some industry practitioners – could discuss the rapidly shifting nature of the cultural form, the industry, the technology, and the field.

Now such debates happen much more frequently – not only at a growing number of scholarly conferences but also in a range of popular and academic websites, peer-reviewed publications, industry conventions, and beyond. Many of us have spent well over a decade talking, hearing, or contesting claims about TV's future viability.

That’s why I’m so excited about two key changes that the Flow organizers have made to this year’s conference.

First, this year, the organizers have asked participants to think back as much as they look forward. Many of the roundtable panels, as well as individual presentations, explicitly emphasize TV’s (and TV studies’) history, considering what we might have lost sight of in our fascination with all things new.

Second, in the spirit of furthering the conference’s commitment to engaging with a range of voices from the industry, press, and public, this year, the organizers have assembled three “core conversations” – plenary events featuring a blend of scholars, media preservationists, television critics, industry executives, and creatives. Two of the three panels foreground issues of historiography, while the third, returns us to Flow’s long-standing focus on contemporary television in transition. Ideally, the viewpoints expressed on these panels will inform subsequent roundtable conversations and further facilitate productive dialogue between members of the industry, the academy, the press, and the wider public (and not operate akin to this 30 Rock clip).

I hope that those in attendance enjoy the tweaks made to the Flow Conference format. As one of the faculty advisors for the conference, along with my colleague, Mary Beltrán, I have seen first-hand how Flow’s team of graduate student coordinators has not only reproduced all of the best elements of prior conferences, but also labored tirelessly to provide new features and incorporate additional voices into our ongoing conversation about television.

Flow TV and the Flow Conference

A clip from 30 Rock

from 30 Rock (2011)
Creator: NBC
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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