April 21, 2019

The Advent of Interactive TV

“AS WE’VE TAKEN our small-screen destiny into our own hands—skinny bundles, “over the top” content, a device-agnostic smorgasbord of streaming—our hands have become empty, idle. Channel surfing feels futile, if not obsolete. TV is no longer a remote-controlled menu to peruse as much as it’s a Tube Goldberg machine carrying our eyes from one diversion to the next. Choice is everywhere; agency, not so much.

Algorithms forever recommend what to watch. Autoplay functions cue up the next episode without waiting for your input. With nothing left to do but gaze and glaze, a viewer’s chief responsibility is to not fall asleep (lest you wake to find yourself five episodes into an unwitting binge of Hell’s Kitchen). It’s strange, then, given its role as the architect of programmatic passivity, that Netflix is handing back the reins via choose-your-own-adventure experiences it’s calling “interactive content.””

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