Communities of Reception: Television Esthetics and Locality in Midcentury America

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This historical study examines the cultural impact of local television communities in the United States from the 1950s through the 1970s. These signal-defined communities, although traditionally addressed in terms of government policy, are noteworthy for their synergistic esthetic and technological attributes. Theories of ritual illustrate how these factors enabled signal-defined television communities to structure and define local life throughout the United States during this era. Most notably, in ways that have been largely overlooked, early local television rituals situated cultural experience in time and space. The study fortifies its historical insights by engaging contemporary viewer testimonies about these programs. This ethnographic perspective illustrates how these rituals reflected virtual and material attributes that shaped audiences’ perceptions of local geography and structured social memories that persist today. For these reasons, now-extinct local television programs remain very important to former audiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-121
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2019 by American Association of Geographers.


  • local television
  • media rituals
  • mediated geography
  • placemaking
  • television history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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