The Spotting Guide is a live mobile/web based observation tool with which users complete during-broadcast assessments of the content and presentation of reality and documentary television. A series of buttons and sliders are used to increment counts of things seen on screen (such as number of piles of dirty washing) or adjust orientations (such as “more left wing” or “less right wing”). Those engaged in “spotting” can also add new labels and categories for things they have observed on-screen. The app tags peoples “spots” to specific times during the broadcast, so that these can be shared and compared with fellow spotters.
In designing the Spotting Guide we have been interested in the emphasis and repetition of particular details that reoccur during television shows that claim to portray the lives of people on state and welfare benefits. For example, watching the Benefits Street show it is common to hear the mention of ‘fags’ (cigarettes), to see washing machines full of dirty clothes, or glimpses of booze hanging around in the background of a shot; all of which presumably act as indicators of the presumed inability of welfare recipients to manage their finances responsibly. We have designed the Guide to therefore act as a way of drawing attention to these tropes and cues in shows like these that are framed as being apolitical; we’re also interested in seeing what new things people observe in shows that we were totally unaware of!
The Spotting Guide design and development has been led by Tom Schofield, with support from Tom Feltwell and Kiel Long. As part of the largerCuRAtOR project we’re currently running some short studies with people who are doing some Spotting for us.
Collaborators: Tom Schofield, Tom Feltwell, Kiel Long and Shaun Lawson.
My involvement: Supervision, initial concept design, study design, data analysis.
Funding: ESRC CuRAtOR project.
Timescale: April 2016 ongoing