MAS 571

MAS 571


Permission of Instructor

T 10:30-12:30, R 10:30-11:30


Henry Holtzman,
Marie-Jose Montpetit,
& Guest Lectures
Television is not changing: television has changed. In the last few years “television” went from a living-room staple to portable mobile devices, from a controlled distribution system to an over the Internet offering, and from a single stream to an increasingly connected and social experience. What is next? In this course we plot the next 10 years and study the current disruptions in the TV industry to answer the question: "how are new technologies and user behavior changing the way we view and define the television of the future?"

TV is not just a device, distribution path, or collection of content, but a platform for shared cultural experiences expressed through innovative video production. This class will address specific topics that relate to the creation and delivery of next generation TV from novel display technology, connected and collaborating devices, content creation in a social context, to community viewing challenges. We will invite subject experts for lectures on targeted topics from storytelling to User Interfaces to illustrative systems of providing Social TV. There will be a particular emphasis on the place of television in a social context at the center of one’s converging communication and entertainment ecosystem. And this year we will emphasize this creation of television communities: of storytellers with our collaboration with the Comparative Media Studies, of devices, with the help of the Media Lab's Camera Culture group and of course of viewers continuing the focus of the past few years. The goal of the class will be to truly define Television in the context of "social visual communication".

The classwork for the course includes targeted readings as well as well as individual and team project focused excercises, culminating in each team developing a prototype of a novel approach to television with a 5-10 years out time frame in mind. The projects allow participants to explore the multiple facets of the class from video technology challenges, to user interface design, content consumption paradigms, and business case analysis.

Background: Television, Connected Television, Smart Television, Social Networking, Video Technologies

Anyone who has argued over what television program to watch, wrestled with a sibling or spouse for the remote control, or gone to a pub to watch and support their local sports team knows that television viewing can be a highly social experience.  The original technological design, content programming, and business model of television relied on it being a social medium: TV's were too expensive to be personal, they were designed for thousands (if not millions) of people to be watching the same program at the same time, and the programing was funded through an advertising model that demanded shows be popular to the masses, hence becoming part of the cultural and social landscape.

For the most part, technological advances have served to drive a wedge between television and its function as a social center.  Decreased costs in receivers have made it possible for each family member to disappear into their own room; IPTV, cable and satellite have provided so many choices of what to watch that commonality of experience is weakened; and the personal video recorder (PVR) and Video on Demand have freed people who watch the same show from watching it at the same time. What was once fun converstation around the water cooler must now be relegated to strangers on blogs and bboard sites because in most groups of friend and co-workers, somebody hasn't yet watched the latest episode and doesn't want their enjoyment of it spoiled.

The Internet brings to bear on TV a curious combination of social and anti-social forces and of traditional and novel viewing behavior. It completes the trend toward individual screens and isolated viewing experiences on a variety of devices and at many locations inside and outside the home. At the same time it helps viewers form new social groups based on shared interests rather than proximity, and democratizes media production and distribution giving many more people a voice. , and is popular for building systems that electronically support social interactions. Perhaps most importantly, the novelty and popularity of legitimate Internet television systems, starting with YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and Hulu, and now continuing with AppleTV, Netflix, GoogleTV and others are forcing traditional television providers and content producers to reconsider their models for interaction, their platforms for creation, and eventually their business models and television itself.  The scent of large-scale disruption is in the air and there will be no turning back. What will be kept of the traditional viewing experience that made television the most ubiquitous entertainment medium?
The project is to implement a TV application on a PC, smartphone or tablet. While JavaScript or similar scripting language is recommended other platforms could be used after discussion with the instructors. Each of the first 3 weeks of the class will be used to propose a potential project idea. Teams will be formed based on commonality of project interest and variety of skills. One of the ideas, chosen by the instructors after discussion with the team, will lead to a quick mock-up and prototype, as well as a short user behavior and/or business case analysis. The project should also produce a short conference-style paper that describes the architecture, salient features and implementation of the solution. The other proposals can be used as fall back solutions if the first choice turns out to be too complicated or fails. The project will be presented to Media Lab and other MIT sponsors for friendly evaluation at the end of the semester and the best reports could be submitted to academic conferences in the fields of future television, posted on the class web and Facebook sites or presented in industry meetings in 2014-2015.

Social TV:
Creating Communities with Television 

MIT Comparative Media Studies
MIT Media Laboratory

Marie-José Montpetit, Ph.D.
Henry Holtzman

Basic knowledge of web technologies and programming.

Units: TBD

Undergraduate (Junior/Senior)

Marie-José Montpetit
Henry Holtzman
and guest lectures from topic experts (see lesson plan)

Lecture on Tuesday from 10:30-12:30pm
Recitation/invited lectures on Thursday from 10:30-11:30am

Office Hours:
Tuesday 1:30-4:30
Thursday: 9:00-10:00
Other on demand

Television, Connected TV, Social Networking, Internet video, User generated content

Class participation                                          10%
Annotated readings/ summaries                      10%
Written project proposals and posters             15%
Project prototype and presentation                  35%
Final project paper  (5 pages IEEE format)    30%

The project is the implementation of a social TV application on a PC, tablet or smartphone using tools that will be presented in the 1st few weeks on the class. Projects from previous year will be presented as examples. It will be possible for students to work on one previous idea as long as the new project provides an improvement or a new approach. The class will initially be separated in teams of 3-4 students (2 is acceptable for the graduate students). Each team will propose 3 ideas, 1 per week starting the 3rd week of class and a selection of these will be presented as posters to the class on three consecutive recitation days.  Then teams will chose a final and develop it into a full-fledged project to be presented at the end of the semester to a selected group of research sponsors, industry representatives and other member of the MIT community.


In this course we examine the disruptions in the TV industry by asking the questions "how are new technologies changing the way television fits into society” by positioning television as the creator of communities: people, devices and stories. The course will first take a systemic look at the various ways television was historically produced and socialized and how the Internet and the mobile network are impacting the notion of TV itself. TV is not a device or a technology but provides a common experience. 

The class will cover the building blocks of social TV and invite subject experts for lectures on specific topics. There will be a particular emphasis on those new technologies that place television at the center of one’s community. In addition new paradigms for content and program acquisition and generation will be explored.

The classwork for the course is team and project focused, culminating in each team developing a prototype of a new social TV application. The projects allow the teams to explore the multiple facets of the social TV experience from video technology challenges, to user interfaces, content consumption and business cases.

The class goal is to work on inventing TV’s future and wants to go beyond entertainment to address all social aspects of TV viewing and include crowd sourcing news gathering and analytics. The class will profit from 5 semesters of class projects that have covered many aspects of the social TV experience.

The whole semester is organized over themes that are indicative of the TV evolution in the past years.

Theme 1: Community of People
As more and more content migrates to the Internet, “personal” content has become the norm and the sharing of that content can take many forms. The immediacy and social aspects of content consumption of every kind, and of video in particular, are being integrated into better experiences that start with a good understanding of how television is created. With Internet content, multiple delivery mechanisms and personalization, the television “sandbox” is expanding fast. TV content in is being impacted by social viewing expectations, which reconnect with and go beyond a type of experience that reaches back to TV’s original social roots.  It reaches to all the facets of the new content experience from perception, acquisition and video technology to user interfaces and microblogging.

Theme 2: Community of Devices
Connectivity is essential to social consumption of content. The old model based on total operator control of content formatting, advertisement serving and rendering is being challenged by over the top (OTT), user generated content, co-viewing and mobile services. The result of this disintermediation is that any content consumption experience will be influenced by platforms that support it. TV rendering devices are now used in novel areas and common platforms allow to move the experience through that ecosystem.

Theme 3: Communities of Stories
The creation of communities around storytelling and content production is interesting, promising and difficult. Viewers can be given the opportunity to shape the content and socially influence what they are watching. Even though these concepts have created a new popular genre by allowing people to rate contestants, it remains in its infancy. There is still much research that is being done, since good storytelling is a complicated task that cannot be taken lightly. Nevertheless, there is much to gain by involving content producers and viewers alike with the goal of making television social, beyond checking how programs are doing on social networking sites.

Collaborators and Potential Invited Speakers

Jason Spingarn-Koff, The New York Times (and class alumn) (US)
Deb Roy, Media Lab Professor and Chief Media Officer, Twitter (US)
Boris Kizelshteyn, Product Manager, Viggle (US)
Sylvain Lafrance, Professor in Media Business and Science (Canada)
Albert Cheng, VP Digital Media, ABC/Disney (US)
Nicole De Wandre, Media Policy, European Commission (Belgium)
Susan Faulkner and Alex Zafiroglu, Intel User Experience Group (US)
Anthony Rose, Zeebox (UK)
Seth Shapiro, UCLA Annenberg and the EMMY board (US)
Patrice Slupowksi, VP New Technologies, Orange (France)
Kevin Brooks, Story Teller, Hallmark (US)

Class Web Presence

(need Media Lab login)

Lesson Plan and Reading List

Each week is broken into two classes, a 2-hour lecture-based class, and 1-hour “recitation” to address more hands-on material (The three hours will all be classified as lecture; no lab credit is awarded through this class). The Lesson Plan is based on 12 weeks starting .

Reference Books:
Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.
Revised edition. New York: NYU Press, 2008.
Spigel, Lynn and Olsson, Jan ed. Television after TV, Duke University Press, 2004
Other books to be added during the semester on specific projects.

Classes (tentatively):

Introduction – What is Social TV?
Future of real-time communication:
Social TV is disappearing

2/4/14 Lecture:
Semester Logistics
Introduction: What is social TV?
2/4/16 Recitation:
Sample projects from the past semesters.

Theme 1: Community of People

Television for Humans: Visual and Audio Perception Fundamentals
Selected Chapters from:
Poynton, Charles. Digital Video and HDTV: Algorithms and Interfaces, Morgan Kaufman 2003.
Jack, Keith. Video Demystified; 4th edition. Elsevier (Newnes), 2005
(eBook available)
Bosi, Marina and Richard E. Goldberg. Introduction to Digital Audio
Coding and Standards. Kluwer, 2002
2/11/14 Lecture:
Audio and video perception, MPEG fundamentals, television and streaming protocols, Web2.0 multimedia applications how they led to television systems of the past and of today
2/13/16 Recitation:
Introduction to class projects: platforms, logistics and management

2/18/2014 – Monday Schedule – NO CLASS
2/20/2014 – 1st project idea due

Social Visual Computation
To be provided.
2/25/2014 Invited Lecture: Nikhil Naik, Media Lab Camera Culture Group, presentation of novel social imaging and ideas for 3rd project to be presented 3/6
2/27/2014 Recitation: 2nd project idea due

The New Television Paradigms
To be provided
3/4/2014 Invited Lecture: William Uricchio, Comparative Media Studies
3/6/2014 Recitation: 3rd project idea due

Evolution of the Social Video Behavior
Intel paper by Françoise Bourdonnec:
Klym, Natalie and Montpetit, Marie-José "Social TV: Innovation at the Edge." Communication Futures Program Oct. 2008.
Kate Cizek “Highrise” project:
3/11/2014 Lecture: user behavior e-journalism, eHealth, eEducation
Recitation: Project logistics

Theme 2: Community of Devices

Device and Platform Convergence
Bonastre-Martinez, Oscar, Montpetit, Marie-José, Cesar, Pablo, Crowcroft, Jon, Matijasevic, Maja and Liu, Zhu “Surveying The Social Smart And Converged TV Landscape: Where Is Television Research Headed“, IEEE Transaction on Multimedia, Summer 2012.
Selected Social TV web sites
3/18/2014 Lecture:
Social TV application platforms and applications in the age of the device convergence and the emergence of the device ecosystem.
3/20/2014 Recitation:
Invited speaker from the Social TV industry

3/24-3/28 MIT Spring Break - NO CLASS

During the in April and May there will be readings but no specific homework as the project will count as homework. Each week teams will however need to send a short 4-5 lines email to report on the project progress and initiate discussion with the instructor(s) to address problems as they arise.

The Multiscreen Television: “Social” Devices and Networking
Montpetit, Marie-José and Médard, Muriel, “Social Television: Enabling Technologies and Architectures.” Invited paper. Proceedings of the IEEE, Summer 2012
CISCO Videoscape Whitepaper
Montpetit, Marie-José, Klym, Natalie and Mirlacher, Thomas. “The Future of IPTV: Adding Social Networking and Mobility”, keynote and invited paper. Proceedings of Contel 2009.
Papers from the 2013 EuroITV conference (under press)
4/1/2014 Lecture:
The elements of the design of social TV infrastructure based on the “concept of “TV everywhere and including ingestion, processing, transmission and content protection aspects.
4/3/2014 Recitation:
Final Project proposals – 5 minutes to present + 5 minutes discussion

Theme 3: Communities of Stories

UIs and UI design: telling the story
Jennifer Tidwell article
UX Matters
4/8/2014: Guest Lecture:
User interface designer(TBC)
4/10/2014 Recitation:  Final Project Status Reports

Interactive Documentary
4/17/2014 Guest Lecture: Sarah Wolocin, Comparative Media Studies
4/18/2014 Recitation: Final Project workshop

4/21 and 4/22 Patriot Day – NO CLASS
4/23 and 4/24 Media Lab Open House – NO CLASS

From Transmedia to Crossmedia: the Story in all its Forms
Selected chapters from Henry Jenkin’s book
Others to come
4/29/2014 Lecture: Examples of transmedia and cross-media storytelling in television, movies and advertisement
5/1/2014 Recitation:  Invited speaker (TBD)

5/6 and 5/8/2014 – Projects Workshops in Class
No lecture or recitation – Attendance mandatory  - per-team meetings and preparation for the presentations.

Final Week
5/13/2014 Lecture:  Project Presentations  (10 minutes presentation and 10minutes discussion) with invited Guests
5/15/2014 Recitation: Class self-evaluation, lessons learned.

5/16/2014 Final Papers Due