Friday, March 30, 2007

Entertainment & Entertainmentnous: Exploring Concepts, to Define an Industry

The word ‘entertainment’ seemingly means different things to different people. All too often definitions of entertainment demonstrate both narrowness and ambiguity which really demonstrate what little understanding there is of the word, some highlighted examples include:

‘An event, performance, or activity designed to give pleasure or relaxation to an audience’ (Wikipedia, 2007).

This definition is both narrow and ambiguous. What is an event? A funeral, a birthday, a lunar eclipse – these are all events, and whilst some may be entertaining, they are not all entertainment. A staged event held for an audience certainly is entertainment. If performance is relating to performance art, then yes this is also entertainment, but activity is far too broad a word to be used in this context. This definition also states that entertainment gives ‘pleasure or relaxation’, which of course it doesn’t always. Pleasure suggests that entertainment makes people happy, and relaxation suggests that entertainment provides relief. A shower after exercise is an activity that gives pleasure, but this is not entertainment. A séance or tarot card reading often fails to give pleasure or relaxation, yet they are used to entertain an audience. Was the audience of television viewers watching BBC3s ‘Kill it, cook it and eat it’ pleasured or relaxed by this performance? Some might have been, but a number certainly were not.

‘An activity that is diverting and that holds the attention’ (Wordnet, 2007).

Wordnet’s definition is far too ambiguous, does entertainment have to involve activity by the person being entertained? Is watching a film at the cinema active or passive on behalf of the entertainee. Going by Wordnet’s definition, making and consuming a Pot Noodle could be entertainment – which it of course isn’t!

‘Something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement’ (Dictionary.com, 2007).

Dictionary.com’s definition is also far too ambiguous, chewing gum gives me pleasure, but it isn’t entertainment. However diversion is a correct choice of word to use in this definition as entertainment is intended to divert or captivate the attention of an audience, but the word amusement is unnecessary, and alludes to entertainment being what is traditionally known as ‘light entertainment’. Amusement may be a by product of an audience being captivated, e.g. a person on stage (an entertainer) addresses an audience by telling a story that has a humorous ending, this invokes laughter in some audience members, therefore they have been amused. However, If that same entertainer had told a story to the audience that did not have a humorous ending, the audience may still have been diverted or captivated, which would also constitute being entertainment. Whilst after dinner speakers often punctuate their stories with anecdotes, they are not always comedians, and many tell serious stories about their experiences to an audience of captivated listeners – which means that they are entertainers.

I would like to offer a definition of entertainment that is all-encompassing, that provides rationale for why something that is entertainment is entertaining. My definition is as follows:

‘Something which has the primary purpose of engaging or captivating an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion’.



In my definition an audience is as many as infinite, or as little as one. This makes the entertainment industry enormous, which covers a huge array of areas. These include entities that have traditionally been considered entertainment such as theatrical stage shows and live music, to things which many might not have always been considered as being within the entertainment industry such as city based observation towers, fairground rides, sculpture / statues, libraries, billboards and massage.

A clear line does need to be drawn however, as not everything that we find entertaining, constitutes being within the entertainment industry, in order to highlight this point I will use the example of train spotters. These are people who have an in-depth interest in railway trains and often gather at stations or by railway lines to watch trains pass by, sometimes recording the numbers on the side of locomotives and carriages. These people find trains very entertaining, but most trains are certainly not created for entertainment - this is down to the primary purpose of what trains are for, which is to transport people or freight from one location to another, rather than engaging or captivating an audience. That said, if a special train such as a vintage steam train was run, whilst it’s primary purpose of transporting people from one place to another cannot be denied, there could also be a secondary purpose of engaging an audience through the site, sounds and smell of the train which would give that type of train the right to claim that it is at least partially an object within the entertainment industry.

This is where my thoughts so far on entertainment as a concept (as well as an industry) have brought me. What I want to find is a word that describes on a sliding scale to what degree an entity falls within the entertainment industry, based upon the purpose of the entity. If the primary purpose of an entity is to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion then to my mind that entity falls within the entertainment industry. If an entity has been created with another primary purpose, yet a secondary or tertiary purpose of that entity is to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion it may also be said to be within the entertainment industry – but to a lesser extent. What I want is a term that describes how ‘strong’, ‘powerful’, ‘prevailing’ and ‘central’ engaging or captivating an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion is to an entity. The word I have in mind is somewhat cumbersome, but (for the want of a better one) is entertainmentnous which I will define as being:


‘The degree to which the intended purpose of an entity is to engage or captivate an audience through sensory stimulation and / or emotion’.


I’m not quite sure whether inventing a new word makes me a genius, an egotist, a cheat, or a combination of the above, but indeed I have had to invent a new word, as no word currently exists to describe the quality that I am currently studying.

Considering the above, some examples now follow:
· City based observation towers – many of these have dual functions as being the bases of radio and television transmitters, as was originally the case with the Berlin Radio Tower. However when observation decks are built on these towers for paying visitors to look over miles of cityscape views they become entertainment venues. They stimulate visual senses by providing visitors with a captivating sight to which they would not normally be accustomed – which becomes there primary purpose. Many also provide other audio and visual information (including piped commentary and signage) which puts them partially within the edutainment sector of the entertainment industry. Some provide more thrilling quirks such as glass floors that are designed to stimulate levels of fright and adrenalin amongst visitors by making more apparent the dangers of being at such a height, this puts them partially within the thrillertainment sector of the entertainment industry. It could then be asked that if an observation deck could be a venue within the entertainment industry, why can’t any tall building? The answer to this lies within the primary purpose of the building or venue. An office block that consists solely of offices has been created with the primary purpose of providing industrial space. Whilst the views from offices may be captivating to those within them, an office block is not an entertainment venue as they are not built with the primary purpose of creating sensory stimulation to a captivated audience. If however, an office was converted into an observation point, for an audience of people to experience city views – this would become an entertainment venue. This example highlights the very thin line that exists between what falls within the entertainment industry, and what doesn’t.

· Fairground rides have been created with the primary purpose of providing sensory stimulation to participants in a number of ways, including: visually (views from, or views of); audibly with music and sound effects; and by inducing adrenalin as the participant often experiences thrills associated with fast movement and gravity – this puts them within the thrillertainment sector of the entertainment industry.

· Many sculptures and statues either within art galleries or outside have been created with the primary purpose of captivating an audience, by providing visual sensory stimulation and / or emotion, some may also provide audio stimulation, and physical ‘touchy’ stimulation – others may even provide taste and smell stimulation as could be the case with the chocolate statue of Jesus Christ at Manhattan’s Lab Gallery. This therefore places them within the entertainment industry, but if a statue can constitute being an object of entertainment, can a building? After all many buildings are visually spectacular sites that can captivate audiences. The answer to this question is yes – sometimes. If a building was created with the primary purpose of being visually stimulating to an audience then it is an object of entertainment which should lie within the entertainment industry. If a building was created with it being visually stimulating to an audience in mind, but not as the primary purpose, then it may lie partially within the entertainment industry. Many ancient buildings were not originally created with the primary purpose of being visually stimulating in mind, but have come to be considered objects of entertainment purely because of there uniqueness and novelty value, as is the case with many English castles, which may captivate spectators.

· Libraries exist as information gateways, where books, newspapers, journals, audio visual sources, and ICT facilities are stored for access by visitors. The primary purpose of a library is to provide information. By reading and researching information in a library a visitor is captivated and stimulated visually as well as possibly emotionally, this does constitute being entertainment. Indeed the printed media sector is an established part of the entertainment industry, making libraries entertainment venues.

· Billboards like any form of display art are designed with the primary purpose of triggering an outcome from people who see them. Billboards engage or captivate an audience and are used to gain peoples attention with the intention of generating an emotion within the audience about what it is the billboard is promoting. The emotion may trigger a number of outcomes, including a product being purchased or a political party being voted for. A billboard is an entertainment entity, that lies within the 'sellertainment' sector of the entertainment industry.

· Massage is the practice of applying pressure, motion, or vibration to the soft tissue areas of the body. It exists in a wide range of forms including professionally where a masseuse may massage a client on a massage table, and erotic massage which is designed to induce sexual stimulation (adult entertainment). This constitutes being entertainment as the audience (of one) is captive, and experiences sensory stimulation through touch, which is designed to either relax or stimulate soft tissue areas of the body. In addition to this, therapies including aromas and music are often included in a professional massage treatment to help relax the mind.

This blog entry is made up of a combination of reflections which will contribute towards work in progress, the culmination of which will be a published journal article (that I am currently writing), this is intended to highlight and give a real identity to what the entertainment industry really is. In my research so far I have found that there is no clear consensus as to what constitutes entertainment – and until this can be clarified, it is difficult to give a ‘proper’ identification to the industry. I can also see that the entertainment industry is potentially massive – and extremely complex. It has a large number of ‘grey’ areas that may or may not be entertainment and may also be considered something else besides due to their primary purpose and entertainmentnous. It is my intent to build upon this further with a series of models, including one that uses concentric rings to demonstrate entertainmentnous, and one which uses Venn Diagrams to explore the complexity of the industry – which itself needs breaking down into all of the sub-sectors which make it up. I would be extremely happy to hear your thoughts on this entry (good or bad), as this is an area which really does warrant much further discussion and debate.

2 comments:

ijmultilinear said...

I wish to know how you can so certain in your opinion that a shower cannot be entertainment, making and consuming a Pot Noodle is not entertainment and chewing gum isn't entertainment. You aren't very well justifying these arguments, in one case using an explanation mark as if to joke at the very prospect of such a thing possibly being defined as being entertainment, when I think any one of those things could entertain someone. You are obviously only willing to be entertained by something which you are used to calling entertainment, without considering that any of these other things could very well be entertainment. Your definition if far too narrow and I think it is idiotic to assert that something has to primarily attempt to be entertaining to then be seen as entertainment. Many things which primarily serve another purpose or none at all such as the eclipse you speak of can still be entertaining to someone and therefore be entertainment to that person, how else can you define something which is entertaining other than as entertainment? Your argument seeks only to justify the glorification of the entertainment industry by denying that things from outside of it can also be entertainment.

Stuart Moss said...

Hello, and thank you for your comment, it’s taken ten months to get one but at last somebody has taken an interest in a subject that is very close to my heart, and a subject which I am keen to explore and discuss further. Your comment style would suggest to me that you are used to writing critiques, do I take it that you are an academic or a reviewer? With regards to the writing style of my blog, please be aware that it is my personal blog, which I do write in a chatty open style (including punctuation) think of it as my thought-pad. I certainly do not profess to be the world’s leading expert on entertainment or anything else, but I do have an opinion.

It is interesting that you take the view that my definition of entertainment is too narrow, firstly as you correctly identify, I am looking at the subject from an industry perspective, as in what should be and what shouldn’t be included in the entertainment industry. The reason I am doing this, is that the entertainment industry is all too often considered to be a part of a larger entity and lacking identity. Leisure, tourism and the media are often championed as being the ‘parent’ of the entertainment industry. I do want to champion the entertainment industry, and give it an identity in it’s own right as I believe it rightly deserves to be seen as something which is much more than being leisure, tourism or media driven.

Many of the published ‘experts’ seem to have an even narrower view of what constitutes entertainment than what I do, my view does take a broader perspective – believe me. Entertainment seems all too often to be deemed as being either performing arts, or ‘light’ entertainment, which is something I absolutely disagree with, as may you. But a line does need to be drawn somewhere as to exactly what is and what isn’t entertainment, again from my point, an industry perspective. If you think of entertainment as an umbrella term, what should it constitute? What are their common traits? What are the sectors that it should include?

I don’t think I could convince many people that hospitality should be a part of the entertainment industry, and my example of eating a Pot noodle, albeit crude was designed to highlight the difference between participating in an entertainment activity, and another kind of activity. May I ask you, how you would feel a distinction should be made? Have a look in any dictionary at what entertainment is – do you feel that it gives a broad enough definition?

The point that you make ‘I think it is idiotic to assert that something has to primarily attempt to be entertaining to then be seen as entertainment’ is exactly what I think also, so either you have misinterpreted what I have said, or I have not expressed myself clearly enough. Please have a look at my further post on a phenomenon that I refer to as naturtainment - http://entplanet.blogspot.com/2007/04/naturtainment.html

I would really like the opportunity to discuss this further with you, if you are willing my email address is s.moss@leedsmet.ac.uk .

Kind Regards

Stuart.