When first formulated in his seminal 1974 book Television: Technology and Cultural Form, Raymond Williams’s concept of flow was a compelling metaphor of the ideological power of television. Focusing on the output of five television channels (from Britain and the United States) over several hours, Williams deconstructs programming into discrete segments, and then explains how these segments, as delivered in a succession of sounds and images, become more than the sum of their parts. In doing so, he expands the scope and vocabulary of textual analysis by showing how the overall flow of the broadcast schedule, with its constant breakup and reassembly constitutes “perhaps the defining characteristic of broadcasting” (86).

Over the past forty years, the concept of flow has been used in media studies as a conceptually influential, but ultimately limited model for the textual analysis of television content, or more broadly as a metaphor for postmodern culture, …

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