Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Apples and Oranges, but still an interesting comparison…

Apples and Oranges, but still an interesting comparison…

In honor of TV-Turnoff Week, we suggest you go see a movie. 

But seriously, what do you make of these two conflicting reports:  Steven Johnson claims, with some pretty good evidence and a nice sense of rhetorical style (blame it on dropping out of graduate school while he could still write!), that contemporary TV shows—by demanding more attention to plot complexity and pattern recognition than ever before—are actually making TV audiences smarter.  Hmm, worth considering. 

On the other hand, in a piece of original research (with a more aggressive methodology) called the Middletown Media Studies Report from the Center for Media Design at Ball State University, the claim is that folks are consuming 11.7 hours of mass media (of one kind or another) every 24 hours, 5.3 hours of which is a daily TV tube drip feed.  Even under convergent multi-tasking conditions, TV consumption still outstrips any other single medium for time spent, and nearly triples the time spent on the second nearest contender, radio.  Hello future filmmakers:  if you want to have more time in your day—to be, say, a producer rather than merely a consumer of electronic culture—then here’s the obvious message of the medium:  turn off your TV.  Then again, if you want to get smarter in the sense that Steven Johnson is talking about, then please pass the chips, and don’t touch that dial.

There are subtleties and complexities not fully addressed by either report (but acknowledgment of the complexity is offered by the Ball State report), such as those who watch TV on their web browsers, or those who keep the TV on as background noise or as a “radio with images” that they don’t actually watch, but merely listen to while knocking about the house.  For these viewers, one suspects Johnson’s story doesn’t hold up, and yet this increasing habit may at least partially explain why TV viewing is officially rising, not decreasing, under multimedia conditions.  Still less touched upon was how much of “TV viewing” was in fact film viewing via the medium of TV (with or without cable, VCR or DVD).

But in case you’re curious, reading this blog entry (and linking over to the various sites referenced here) only requires a fraction of the little over an hour a day you spend online—which is time well spent, isn’t it?

phlog ::: from publisher :::



The NYT article makes no mention of Anime, which would definitely boost his argument. Talk about complexity. And thank goodness for Netflix (Currently on episode 16 of R.O.D, the TV).

Also, I wonder how much things have changed since that study—the data are two years old now; I continue to see anecdotal evidence that people are turning to the Internet at the expense of television; certainly true for us—laptops in bed plus Netflix means that the only TV we see these days is the Food Network for Iron Chef. We’re weird, but we’re not that weird..

Posted by editor on 28 Apr 05 at 01:38 PM

Malcolm Gladwell’s take on Johnson’s book (in The New Yorker) seems to understand the nature of the situation pretty well, with it’s focus on different learing styles. Complex (post?)modern TV and video games improve only one specific kind of learning, the problem is that often media consumption interferes with the kind of explicit learning currently used to gague “success”.

Posted by The Other Joey on 15 May 05 at 06:18 AM
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