The 1980s saw an explosion in the use of the domestic video cassette recorder (VCR), arguably the most significant new form of home entertainment technology since television.
In Video Playtime Ann Gray investigates what women themselves felt about the VCR, both in terms of the ways these entertainment facilities were used within their households, and what kinds of programmes and films they themselves particularly enjoyed. The ages, social, economic and family circumstances of the women differ, but almost all live with a male partner, and the book draws heavily on verbatim quotes from the discussions to provide a rich description of different types of household micro-cultures and to give readers more direct access to the women themselves and the ways in which they accounted for their own experience. This particular method of research revealed the importance of first exploring the social and cultural context of a new piece of technology in order to understand its significance. Video Playtime addresses questions of domestic technology as well as those of taste and cultural preference, particularly in relation to class, addressing the dynamics of power within existing social and cultural relations and thereby sets the analysis within a much wider social context.