Imagine a living room. In the United States of America, the television is likely the centerpiece of the room. When Americans watched the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team face Belgium, sports fans and interested others alike cheered on their team and celebrated a fantastic performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
I, too, have very much enjoyed watching the World Cup: I watched with rapt attention, for example, as Brazil and Chile went to penalty kicks to decide the winner. I cheered the amazing saves of those goalkeepers. Like Howard, the netminders are making a strong case for the fact that in soccer, as in NFL football, it may very well be defense that wins championships.
Choosing laptop, not TV
While I have been truly impressed by the performance of the goalkeepers, I have watched the action unfold on my laptop computer, rather than on television. I have embraced the laptop as my device of choice because it allows me to multitask: I can follow the game while I also attend to other tasks. In this way, I have embraced the turn toward personalization that is afforded by new communication technologies. Today, I can watch the game — any game — on my terms.
As a communications professor at a small liberal arts college in the Southeastern United States, I teach students to be considerate of both the pros and cons associated with the digital arena. As anyone who has ever consulted Google or Wikipedia knows, the Internet has the potential to be both a great asset and a colossal time sink: The answer is largely dependent on how one makes use of a particular resource. In truth, the online world provides plenty on either side of those extremes, as well as lots of information that falls somewhere in the middle.
What can be said with relative confidence is that the Internet is changing (and has already changed) at least some individuals’ media consumption preferences. Especially for those individuals on-the-go this summer, whether traveling for work, visiting friends or relatives or simply relaxing on the beach, the experience of watching the World Cup is an increasingly portable one: The games can be viewed wherever the fans are, with the aid of a laptop or mobile device.
Checking in anywhere, anytime
One of my first memories of soccer is the 1990 World Cup. My father watched the final match in the living room while I played video games upstairs. Occasionally, I came downstairs to ask the score. Twenty-four years later, today’s young soccer fans no longer have to take a break from their play to find out the score: They can use a laptop or smart phone to check in on the game. Spectatorship, like so many aspects of media in everyday life, has become even more personalizable than it was during the last World Cup, four years ago.
Major media events, such as the World Cup on television, can today be consumed on any number of devices, according to how (and if) we choose to utilize the technologies around us. The same viewers who start watching the game in the living room may choose to take the game with them on their laptops while they answer emails, or carry the game with them on their smartphones as they go outside for a run.
Sitting in the living room is certainly one way to watch the World Cup. In the changing media environment, it is just one of many options.
Peter Joseph Gloviczki, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of communication at Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina. He earned his doctorate in mass communication at the University of Minnesota. Visit him online or follow him on Twitter @petergloviczki
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