23/10/2004

Why watch TV?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:12 am

Scott Rosenberg’s recent ‘No TV? No problem’ reassured me that I’m not alone as a non-TV-watching freak. It’s not that I think TV is an evil influence, or anything like that, and it’s not that I feel superior to anyone who does watch it (well, maybe a little ;)) I just really don’t have time. I do think TV contributes to the debasement of discourse in our culture, and that it works very well in aiding advertisers’ constant quest to make us dissatisfied with our lives and ourselves, and to convince us that we can buy satisfaction, but that’s also true of other media.

By the time I got around to actually writing this, instead of just putting in a header as a placeholder, my buddy LS87DS had already commented. He finds a lot of the same things – between work, actually having a life and talking to the wife and kids, and playing on the net, there’s just no time for TV. He also asked ‘Is switching to a different medium any better?’

I think in terms of evil influences, probably not – the net is at least as depraved in all sorts of ways as TV, and considerably more so in some ways. I think the difference is in the level of control available: sure, there’s the remote control to switch channels with a TV, but no matter what channel I choose I have to sit through their sequencing of information. With the net, I just have a whole lot more control over what comes in and in what order. And the ads on the net are parallel, not serial, and therefore much easier to ignore.

The other piece is how communicative this medium is. TV is by definition one-directional: the info flows from it to us (and the cash, via diverse channels, flows from us back to it). Even books are pretty much input-only media, whereas, although I do read a lot of text news type sites on the net, the web ‘places’ I really value are bulletin boards and chat rooms – places where I get to talk back. (And I’m pleased by the way people are already taking the opportunity of the Comments button to talk back to me in this blog.)

Part of Rosenberg’s point was that the content density of TV news is just way too low to be efficient: between the fluff and the filler stories, and plenty of teasers about what’s coming up next, and the ads, it takes an hour of news to get the info I could get by scanning the front page of the newspaper.

TV seems to be maintaining its dominance – and, of course, converging with the net as the net gets more video and TV gets more interactive – so maybe in a few years this issue will be moot: the distinction between TV and the Internet will have vanished entirely. But for the time being, I don’t have time to watch TV…

5 responses to “Why watch TV?”

  1. LS87DS says:

    I’ve read the article and know that you don’t have a TV. I’ve found I’ve replaced my TV with the computer/internet. I still watch sometimes but I couldn’t tell you when anything is on TV…except when the Eskimos and Oilers are playing:-) But is trading one medium for another really any different?

  2. LS87DS says:

    Fluff and filler stories? Sounds like a blog? 😉 I sort of see where you are going with this saying you can control what you see when you want to see it and hopefully it is more interesting/entertaining/educational than TV. However, only one medium cannot provide all of entertainment or what you want to see and do. Some people I know think that being on the computer for hours at a time is a waste of time…just like watching TV. I guess you could say that the interaction being on the bulletin boards makes it better than TV but really your only substituting one form of entertainmet for another. What happend to visiting others face to face? As for not having the time to watch TV…you have the time…you just chose not to do it.

  3. Bravus says:

    Yep, I think you’re right about that: it’s all a matter of how you choose to use your time, of course. We all have all the time we need, if we choose to take it. Better to say I choose not to watch TV, but it’s also a very *potent* time sink: I’ll sit and watch the most awful crap, and not have the will to get up! Better just to leave it alone, for me at least. Everyone is free to make their own choices. (And yes, as a matter of fact I *do* spend way too much time screwing about on the net!)

  4. LS87DS says:

    I’m spending too much time online too. Just ask Dawn 🙂 I stated watching the World Series tonight but here I am back online. Like you said…it’s persons choice and I chose the net tonight.

  5. Bravus says:

    Nice link, klik.

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