Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead? was a long running BBC children's TV show that, from the early 70s onwards, showed all kinds of pastimes, games, hobbies, projects, and other non-passivities that kids could be doing rather than staying sat in front of the goggle box. It's hard to imagine a commercial TV station going against its own interests in this way.

Fascinating post from Carl at the Eighties blog on the expansion of TV channels focusing on i/ the construction of children as hyper-consumers 2/ the superabundance of choice, which prefigures the internet:

"It is of course during the Eighties that two phrases develop to reflect the numbing, paralysing effect of the increasing vastness of the mediascape, of the impossibility of settling for any one thing, the burden of an overabundance of choice: “channel surfing” and “couch potato”.As Bruce Springsteen put it, there are “57 Channels and nothing on”. Whereas before you might have flicked through four or five stations and then gone and done something else, in Springsteen’s song, “got friendly upstairs”, now the search becomes the activity in itself, (this is something magnified on the Internet, of course, with its low-grade, endless, questing and grazing) and there was an early transfer of the verb “to surf” from TV to Net-based activity that has fallen into disuse. “Surfing” implies a restless, depthless forward momentum, indeed an impelled momentum; the shift from the earlier use “channel hopping” to channel/web “surfing” well captures the degree of volition and the scale and force implied by the burgeoning swell of media. TV then becomes less an event, a family gathering point, a moment running to a schedule, and more of a resource or an arena to be navigated but one which is in a sense cognitively unmappable, an open terrain to wander about in, filled with unrealizable promise. You could always be missing something better elsewhere, angst and dissatisfaction are built into the system, yet it also induces a kind of half-fascinated torpor. Vegging out."

Of course the difference between TV and Internet is that while day to day use of the latter does still involve a lot of aimless idle flitting hither and thither, it also incorporates elements of activity -- reacting, commenting, answering back, reblogging, linking, etc etc... just enough of an element of dopamine-achievement-buzz to ensnare users even more effectively ... it's not the Spectacle as was, but a new improved (in)version of it...