Anthropology of Television

Television's Secret Sauce

AppleTV, Google TV, Netflix, Ikea Uppleva... So why isn’t TV disrupted already? Where is TV going?

Longer term trends in human behavior can show us where TV is headed. Technology shapes Culture but Culture determines which technologies thrive; and culture changes more slowly than technology. An earlier post looked at television's job to be done. This post looks at the Anthropology of Television.

The history of television use can be described in terms of four dimensions. These dimensions define the value space of television and we predict they will continue to drive its future evolution:
  • Availability of Content, 
  • Convenience of Control, 
  • Sensorial Immersion, and 
  • Social Engagement.


...anything, anytime

Description Consumer expectations Trends
The availability of content in terms of:
  • Extent (What)
  • Location (Where)
  • Time (When)
  • Cost (How Much)
  • Limitless choice
  • Always accessible
  • Immediate gratification
  • All media
  • Low cost
  • Rental / Subscription access
  • Time and place shifting
  • Granularity of content
  • Move to online digital media storage
  • Apps provide new narrow yet deep access to specialized content.
  • User generated content gets integrated with commercial content. 


…as easy as breathing

Description Expectations Trends
  • The ease of getting the right content for any situation.
  • A satisfying sense of control
  • No thought needed
  • Navigation by recognition (not planned intention or forethought)
  • Automatic, flexible content management
  • Curated choices and recommendations.
  • Metadata enables content discovery
  • Control from 2nd Screen.
  • Integrated ecosystems of products


... sweeps me away

Description Expectations Trends
  • The extent, degree, and quality of sensory stimulation
  • Sensual escapism
  • Enjoyment and beauty
  • Authentic and credible content rendering
  • Fluid and natural control
  • Increasing visual and motion quality rendering.
  • More senses, more fully stimulated
  • Psychology-based compression and reproduction technologies
  • Integration of navigation controls with content
  • Apps providing synchronised extensions to content on screen.


…how I express myself; how I find myself

Description Expectations Trends
  • The social and cultural aspects of our relationship to media; shared viewing enhances the experience.

  • Social currency – know what my peers are talking about.
  • Discover content “gems” that suit me personally.
  • Expression of my identity through my choices
  • Pleasure and reassurance of being part of a group
  • Strong links to pop culture and fashion
  • Social curation
  • Check-ins
  • Playlist sharing
  • Real-time sharing
  • Tagging
  • Live!

...Just add spice

The secret sauce for successful Television's innovation:

  • Availability of Content, 
  • Convenience of Control, 
  • Sensorial Immersion, and 
  • Social Engagement.
Here is a .pdf A3 format, suitable for printing.


This post is an update of a project for Philips Design based on my own independent research and close collaboration with Darrell Chung. Graphic design in this update, as well as the original project was done by Darrell Chung.

A slide from the original project is below. Credit for the project should go to Philips Design; I own the mistakes.

Thanks to Philips for permission to update and reuse these materials, and to our colleagues at Philips Design who contributed, including: Arjen Benders, Greg Foster, Michael Held, Kim Sung Woo, Low Cheaw Hwei, Low KoWee, Paul Neervoort, Aidan Rutherford, Sajid Saiyed, Celia Wong, Rod White, Yeo Pei Pei. (Anyone I overlooked please let me know).

Thanks for reading to the end. Please comment. Please tweet.

If your interests include theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.


  1. Hey Maurice, Good to see that it is still alive and growing :)

  2. Jeroen van der Putten27 June, 2012 09:49

    Hey Maurice, good I found your blog! Of course I recognize the work...

  3. Technology shapes Culture but Culture determines which technologies thrive; and culture changes more slowly than technology.


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