Liveness has been a persistent and much-debated concept in media studies. It has long been associated with broadcast media, and television in particular. However, the emergence of social media, following the dot-com bubble bust, has brought new forms of liveness into effect. These challenge common assumptions about and perspectives on liveness, which fail to capture these new forms, provoking a revisiting of the concept. This dissertation seeks to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what liveness is and, perhaps even more pertinently, to clarify the stakes surrounding the category of the ‘live.’
The dissertation argues that liveness, as it is the product of the dynamic interaction of media institutions, technologies and users, manifests itself in so-called constellations of liveness. By analyzing the constellations of liveness of four different cases (Livestream, eJamming, The Voice and Facebook), it explores the operation of the category of liveness and pinpoints the conditions under which it comes into being. In doing so, it identifies a paradox inherent to liveness. This paradox derives from the fact that although liveness promises to de-mediate social interaction, media institutions have a need, stemming from their reliance on schedules and tightly formatted narratives for economic viability, to ‘control’ liveness. And so, through this paradox, the analysis of the four case studies also facilitates a comparison of the mechanisms of control of broadcast media and social media. Furthermore, the particular selection of these cases stimulates a reflection on how social media interact with, rather than supplant, broadcast media.