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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Communication

Year Degree Awarded

Fall 2013

First Advisor

Mari Castenada

Second Advisor

Emily West and Shawn Shimpach

Third Advisor

Nancy Folbre

Subject Categories

Communication Technology and New Media | Critical and Cultural Studies | Cultural History | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Political Economy

Abstract

This dissertation takes a historiographical approach to the evolution of cable television over thirty years. Case analysis of archival data is used to trace the trajectory of the Bravo cable network from 1980 through 2010. My dissertation is a vital contribution to critical cultural studies, feminist studies, citizenship studies, and media history because it historicizes the role branding, commodification, and convergence played in Bravo’s evolution from a highbrow arts programmer guided by bourgeois consumer citizenship, to a affluent lifestyle network guided by nouveau riche consumer citizenship.

My combination of production studies and political economic analysis gives visibility to the interpenetrating relations between branding, commodification, and convergence at the micro and macro levels. I argue cable television and its networks shaped and were shaped by the cultural, political economic, and technological processes of the media landscape. Still, I conclude that Bravo’s commercial metamorphosis over three decades is a tragic example that is representative of the ways institutional practices are constrained by the structural parameters of the media landscape. Bravo’s twenty-first century status as an affluent lifestyle network driven by brand management, cybernetic commodification, and digital convergence supports this claim. Bravo’s shift to affluent lifestyle entertainment has left an indelible mark on gendered programming in the digital media landscape. I argue that this ostentatious form of branded entertainment uses irony and conspicuous lifestyle as aesthetic commodities to support the iteration of postfeminist nouveau riche consumer citizenship, and I show how this happens across interconnected texts, platforms, and industries reliant upon cybernetic commodification.