The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Monday, January 23, 2006

In Praise of Television, Part II

Some people complain that television is a very passive and sedentary activity. They say that the brain is more active during sleep than during television viewing. That may be true, but there is one irrefutable fact: Television is no more passive and sedentary than many other forms of entertainment such as movies, live theatre, concerts, operas, ballets, sporting events, etc., where you just sit and watch. In fact, there is no logical difference between television and most of the innumerable entertainment options that are available in our society. And yet, no one suggests that there should be limits on how many concerts and films and sporting events you should attend. Would an opera lover, for example, be lambasted as much as a television viewer?

There are two kinds of entertainment: passive and active (or spectatorial and participatory). You can either watch or perform in order to entertain yourself. Most people prefer to watch because it is easy and convenient, and, let's face it, most people are lazy!

And while we're on the subject of operas and ballets and films, I should like to point out that television is also a genuine art form with much merit. Television is a unique medium within which to express ideas and present stories that would not translate well to other media. When television is done well, it is truly magnificent, and when it is done poorly, it is positively wretched. People should be more discriminating in their viewing choices. (I am disgusted with reality TV, soap operas, most sitcoms, and game shows.)

As with any other human activity, television should not be abused. People should not overindulge. In moderation, it is a perfectly acceptable and often high quality form of entertainment. For this reason, I find the 20 odd hours I spend each week with my television highly rewarding.


Blogger 2097 said...

"Would an opera lover, for example, be lambasted as much as a television viewer?"
If that person partakes in opera primarily through radio and TV, yes. But theatre and opera with a live audience is something else, a much closer communication.
And concerts? I didn't go there to watch, I came there to rock out!

Television, especially historically before the advent of multiple channels and consumer timeshifting technology, is based on sitting, watching and receiving everything that the viewer is fed, which shoud be question especially in our hypercommersialized times.

Lovers of movies also have the "sit and watch" problem but most movie fans actively seek out movies that interest them, as contrary to the "receiving" role of the general tevelision watching public.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Darkest Knight said...

I pick and choose the television programs that appeal to me, just as I pick and choose the movies that I care to watch. Nothing is force-fed. Even commercials can be skipped using TiVo or your VCR (or just taking bathroom breaks).

As for going to live events, yes, there is a more direct emotional connection. But the lack of such an experiential component in television is not necessarily an indictment of that medium. It is not like opera or concerts. It is simply a different entertainment option.

3:01 PM  

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