ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Beyond Bahus and Betis

Social Imagination and OTT

Entertainment and media, as sites of creation and contestation, form a crucial part of the public sphere.


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer behaviour unpredictably and extraordinarily. While shattered businesses and economies are coursing for recovery routes, Over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney + Hotstar, ZEE5, etc, have banked remark­able viewership from India’s lockdown-fatigued population. Competing with the flexibility, access, and ever-changing content of OTT are its older alternative—traditional television channels. Original OTT shows have distinguished themselves from television serials with limited episodes/seasons format, superior quality of content, accessibility across time, regions and devices, and promotions not only through advertisements but also user recommendations. OTT viewers have become active self-service “prosumers” (a clever portmanteau of producer and consumer), transforming consumption and production styles by communicating, rating, and reviewing shows on various platforms on the internet.

Entertainment consumption styles in this digital age have reached a critical threshold of novel communication channels and practices in the public sphere. Historically, the creation of a “critical-rational public sphere” was traced to the late 17th-century western Europe by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. He argued that the diminishing feudal powers of the Church and nobility paved the way for the rise of an “urban bourgeois public sphere.” Habermas characterised this as the “private people coming together as public,” where individuals now acquired a collective character—the views of the individuals, which became “public opinion” affected the domestic and foreign policies of the state. Although Habermas has studied the association of entertainment media and the creation of democratic communication practices, he did not envision entertainment media to have a useful, sustainable, intellectual, and civic purpose in the public sphere. But, later scholars like Ronald N Jacobs in “Entertainment Media and the Aesthetic Public Sphere” (The Oxford Handbook of Cultural Sociology, 2012) have reimagined the public sphere as not only an arena of rational deliberation but also a “site of symbolic creation and contestation,” with entertainment forming a crucial part of the aesthetic public sphere. 

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Updated On : 11th Sep, 2021
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