I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The media we breath

Americans spend more time watching TV, listening to the radio, surfing the Internet and reading newspapers than anything else except breathing.

In fact, media use has risen every year since the start of the decade, helped by faster and easier ways to get information and entertainment, according to statistics in a new government report.

Next year, Americans are projected to spend more than 9 1/2 hours a day with the media, though hours spent doing two things at once, such as watching TV and using the Internet, are counted twice in the report.

"There are more TVs than people and there's a TV, in many houses, in every room," said Patricia McDonough, senior vice president at Nielsen Media Research. "For teenagers, being on the Internet and watching TV at the same time are not mutually exclusive."

Americans spend an average of 4 1/2 hours a day watching television, far more time than they spend on any other medium. Next come the radio and the Internet. Reading newspapers is fourth, passed this year by Internet use.
Here's the link to this clip: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=2728161&page=1

What are the implications of a culture that spends as much time engaged in various media outlets as anything else? Is it necessarily a bad thing? In the above study they count double time if a person is involved in more than one media at a time - i.e. watching tv and on the internet. If this is the case, then I think that I might come somewhat close to the 9 1/2 hours per day amount. When you add up journal articles read, time on the internet, time watching television or movies, and radio listening (to say nothing of listening to music), then I have to admit that I am soaked in the media on a daily basis.


ktismatics said...

"TV is the epitome of Low Art in its desire to appeal to and enjoy the attention of unprecedented numbers of people. But it is not Low because it is vulgar or prurient or dumb. Television is often all of these things, but this is a logical function of its need to attract and please Audience. And I’m not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose Audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests." -- David Foster Wallace

Jonathan Erdman said...

Fascinating quote. I've never thought about that before but it is certainly true: TV brings together masses of audiances by its appeal to common interests and common tastes. However, when it comes to our more "refined" and "noble" interests consensus is harder to come by.

Millions of Americans will sit down to watch Seinfeld episodes because it appeals to very common themes of every day existence for the masses of Americans. But within that same mass of people there are some with very refined tastes: Lovers of art, history, classical music, languages, literature, theology, philosophy, those who study plants/animals, etc., etc. the list goes on and on of those with a myriad of different "refined" tastes - the finer things of life that have caught our attention. And yet all of those of us with all of these diverse interests can be drawn in by the common appeals of a Seinfeld episode - Jerry's jokes about relationships, Elaine's problems at the J. Peterman offices, George's temperamental moods, and Kramer's ability to take any perfectly normal situation and turn it into absolute chaos.

Many opponents of television would say that tv dumbs us down. But your quote suggests that it is not so much a dumbing down as much as it is a common appeal to some quirky things in our culture that we all experience.....Or maybe we just enjoy sitting back once in a while and watching someone else blunder up their life!

Melody said...

Alot of people use television as background noise (read: I do). So yeah, the television may be on in my house between the hours of 6 and 10 most nights, but during that time I am also reading, cooking, cleaning, writing, playing games etc.

I like the tv to be on. When I'm drawing it helps me concentrate...when I'm alone it makes my house less empty. And with the connection/community factor it makes me feel less isolated (because across America millions of people are experiencing the same thing as I am)

Bare statistics are misleading though, because they imply that a person's sole focus during these 9½ hours is on the media itself.

At work the radio is on from 8 in the morning to 5 at night...so between that and the musics I listen to in my car during the drive to work...yes, I am involved in some kind of media from 7:15 to 10 or 11 at night, but it isn't as if I'm focused on that for more than two or three hours out of my day.

Incidentally, Patricia's statement should have been "For teenagers, being on the Internet and watching TV are not mutual exclusive" otherwise it's just redundant. Further, I think it just shows how behind the times she is. Many teenagers talk on the phone, surf the net, watch tv, and read/do homework/pick an activity at the same time. We are a world of multitasking.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Some would argue that this "multitasking" is really just further evidence that even though we can do many things we are really do no things. That is, we are a culture of "jack of all trades, master of none", and that in the meantime we are an ADD generation that requires all kinds of different stimulations to keep our attention. We need noise and "distraction" and that this keeps us from meditation or serious contemplation.

What do you think, Melody???

Incidentally, you should make your profile public so that everyone can see who it is that is making these insightful comments. I think I know who you are, but even I'm not sure. Here I am holding my proverbial breath!

Melody said...

I've heard that before, but I think it's a misconception. It implies that in the past there were all these people running around who were amazingly good at what they did because they pursued one or two things relentlessly.

Certainly there are a few people like that, and they are the ones we read about, but the majority of the world worked on farms or in factories...they did not spend their time thinking deep thoughts and cultivating an interest in philosphy or sharpening their skills on the violin despite the fact that they were unhindered by mass media. I rather imagine that they ate dinner, enjoyed their families and then dropped off to sleep. Or they went to bars.

I also think that position ignores the fact that without mass media those who would educate themselves were forced to devote much more time to finding out knowledge that we have at our figure tips.

They may have worked harder for it, but that doesn't mean they had more knowledge.

The abundance of knowledge DOES make it harder master one particular subject, but only because there is so much out there to know, not because people are not dedicated to knowing things.

Of course it is impossible for me to objective here. Being apart of this generation I can hardly know what it was like to be outside it.

Noise can shut out thoughts. In highschool I found it hard to sleep becuase I just couldn't shut off my brain at night and to fix this I played music to drown out my thoughts.

On the other hand, being used to the noise makes it possible to drown it out as well. Because I listen to music in my car every morning I can think from my house to the office without once actually noticing the songs on my stereo.

Mmmm, if I made my profile public any silly person could read my blog...and I really can't see anything good coming from that.
But, you don't need to hold your breath, proverbial or otherwise. I'm Melody from church, which should be sufficient identification unless you're moonlighting somewhere else.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes, but if you made your profile public then the people who read this blog could know who you are and go to your blog. After all, the people who read this blog are the nicest, smartest, and liveliest people in the whole world. It is a think tank for the world's brightest!

Melody said...

Yet, since they are such very intellegent people they surely have much better things to do than wandering around my blog.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Intelligent people like to wander.

Melody said...

Maybe they should spend their time in more useful ways...they could be thinking deep thoughts or learning to play violin. They have a responsibility to use their intellect wisely.