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« Continuing Ed 1 -- evo bio and aesthetics | Main | Righties, Lefties, Art and Pleasure »

October 30, 2002

Media Surplus redux

Friedrich --

Dave Trowbridge (here) takes my earlier posting comparing food and media surpluses and has himself a whole lot of fun with it. Don't miss the Scientific American article about TV addiction that Dave provides a link to. Oh, heck, I'll pass it along myself: here it is.

Sample Trowbridge passage:

Michael's metaphor of media obesity can be spun even further if one equates the body's insulin response to carbohydrates, which many believe to be the key to modern obesity, and the orienting response to visual and aural stimuli, which is the key to media overconsumption.

Life under conditions of surplus... Many of us, I suspect, have little eating regimens that keep us from packing on too much weight. I certainly do. One element of it is, for instance, that I simply will not eat desserts. Period. (Exceptions made only out of respect for such events as birthdays.) I've found that it's far easier to follow that simple rule religiously than it is to decide whether or not to indulge on a one-dessert-at-a-time basis.

I suspect many of us have similar pop-culture regimens. I do. Do you? One element of mine: I watch TV, but only on videotape. In other words, I never simply sit down and turn on the set on to see what's there. I force myself to choose what I want to watch (by deciding in advance what to tape), and then, by watching only what I've gone to the trouble of taping, render my TV time finite -- a tape will come to an end, where "TV" per se never does. Thanks to this agreement with myself, it's been years since I grogged out in front of the tube.

I'm eager to know how you regulate your exposure to junk culture. Do you limit the number of magazines you subscribe to? Do you refuse to admit the Sunday Times into the house?

And what regulating-junk-culture secrets can our readers share with us? (How embarrassing this question will prove to be if no one leaves a comment...)



posted by Michael at October 30, 2002


I do something similar. Rented movies are "free," meaning I allow myself to watch them whenever I want. I prefer movies because there are no commercials, and I like the continuous two-hour uninterrupted thought of a movie as opposed to the 8 minute chunks served up on regular television. As for TV itself, I pick what I watch ahead of time and watch only those shows (whether taped or not), and do not watch anything else. (Right now that includes: "Friends," "Survivor," "Simpsons" and "Blind Date.") The only "freebie" I allow myself on TV is if I happen to catch "Whose Line is it Anyway?" These tactics seem to keep my TV calories at a reasonable level. I manage to play with my daughter at least an hour a day and finish a novel every week, so I think it's working.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on October 30, 2002 11:26 AM

My old roommate used to pay the cable bill at our house, and when he moved out, I decided to let them disconnect me because I didn't have the cash to keep up with it. I've never had it reinstalled. I found, to my extreme surprise, that not watching cable TV actually made me smarter. I was having to put in some effort and deal with different perspectives to get the daily news. I was spending free time with books and magazines instead of MuchMusic. I was using dead spots in the day to mull things over and observe my surroundings. There was all this exercise my brain hadn't done in ages and the effect was really kind of profound. It was almost physical, like a drug. Or like kicking a drug.

It's a terrible cliché to take the view that there is something insidious about television. I don't rule out the possibility that my experience was basically a delusion or an overreaction, either. So I don't go around proselytizing about it, but I would encourage anyone to experiment with limiting his TV consumption radically. For a long while there I almost never turned the thing on, except to watch the very occasional videotape. I've returned to television out of a weird kind of cultural remorse, but I plan my viewing well in advance, and I still don't have cable. I don't, under any circumstances, "surf" the dial.

Posted by: Colby Cosh on November 2, 2002 2:28 PM

I first kicked the TV habit at the age of 17, working for the National Park Service one summer, with no media of ANY kind, TV, movies, books, music, newspapers...all of it.

While I'd prefered books to TV/movies for quite some years, the experience produced a profound change in my perspective on all media. Ever since then I've paid much closer attention to the effects on my consciousness that media have, and have definately felt TV to be addictive.

It's why I've never owned one myself :-)

My girlfriend and I only watch it (rarely) at friends' houses, and it is a very surreal experience!!

But we are, alas, hopeless Internet junkies...

Posted by: David Mercer on November 4, 2002 2:14 AM

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