Spring break has finally arrived (phew!), and I’m now working on the introduction to the media marathoning project. The current iteration of the introduction incorporates how content-delivery technologies have fueled changes in viewer/reader behaviors and media content. The essential argument is that our ability to stream and download has encouraged more immersive viewing/reading experiences and has concurrently allowed content producers to create more complex stories. Because the text is more consistently available with a click of the mouse or a flick of the remote (compared to a TV episode that would air once or a book we’d have to physically buy/borrow rather than download), viewers/readers will do the work to follow along and can enjoy the more detailed narratives. (See Jason Mittell’s upcoming book or 2006 Velvet Light Trap article for a more in-depth look at complex narratives.)
To be fair, some of the marathons do not involve texts that can be considered complex. Gossip Girl, The Hunger Games, and Star Wars aren’t exactly difficult to comprehend. However, marathoners are taking great pleasure in analyzing the social significance of texts, learning historical information from texts, and searching for plot holes, among other forms of higher-order thinking. (You can tell I’m concurrently working on the media marathoning introduction and the chapter on marathoners’ cognitive involvement with the texts.)
The collective sum of the three variables (innovative content-delivery technologies, changes in viewer/reader behaviors, and quality media content) is the best explanation I can offer for why media marathoning is happening now. My interviews suggest that this trend has really taken off in the last 5-8 years.
I would love to hear from readers about what you think has changed in the last 5-8 years in media or society to pave the way for marathoning. Are you marathoning because the Most Interesting Man is doing it? Or because you can’t watch just one movie featuring the handsome guy in the vest…you have to watch all three?