My Big Flat Screen TV
by: Sharon Strover / University of Texas at Austin
Our household finally succumbed to the lure of the big flat screen TV. Because I teach technology-related classes, many people assume I have a subscription to TiVo and the latest integrated computer-TV-sound system available, but in fact I am a latecomer to the latest round of television-related innovations even though I’ve been closely watching them develop over the past few years.
As in many families, our big screen was just one piece in the newest generation of home theatre innovations. An improved sound system came first (linked to our computer’s CPU with its digitized music tracks), which ultimately “demanded” a high definition digital picture accompaniment, which in turn logically led to an upgraded cable subscription (the digital tier) plus the personal digital video recorder capability. Now issues of the consumer-oriented magazine Sound and Vision (successor to High Fidelity) arrive at our house regularly. The prospect of adding TV-centric furniture pictured in the magazine — LaZBoys with drink and remote control pockets — prompts some lively discussions at home. But more broadly, I wonder what we’ve brought into the house that may not be as obvious as the big screen itself.
The new home theater system
The first sessions of home theater experiences included movies with booming you-are-there soundtracks, Blue Crush‘s thundering ocean waves, Amelie‘s mood-setting music and surprising sound effects, and other fare that had won awards for best sound. We are now into the months of bone-crunching professional football, the injuries and insults reverberating in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. It is less appealing to go out when theater-quality audio and crisp digital pictures are right here, but what exactly are we giving up?
Whether we call this “cocooning,” Faith Popcorn’s 1980s term for hunkering down in living rooms during one of the domestic crises, or whether this is another logical stage of what Raymond Williams describes as “mobile privatization,” an industrial command and control system to better channel social communication, big screen TVs and DVRs create a kind of hybrid personal space. We listen to music, watch TV and movies, play games in tailored, private environments, often choosing the living room over engaging a diverse and unpredictable public in the open spaces — the cinema, the theater, the concert hall or club, even the game arcade. Big screen TVs usher in a large investment in home entertainment systems with all the ancillary technologies that properly outfit the 21st century living room, but maybe the package is a deal with the devil.
I know of at least one person who uses Dance Dance Revolution, that most public and group-oriented of video games, as a workout tool in the privacy of his own home. Sales of small, portable DVD playback devices (including Playstations, of course) have soared as people take their personal viewing spaces with them. Cars embed screens to quell the attention demands of children in the backseat, and WiFi sites multiply in cafes, bars, and other gathering places, inducing a curious key-tapping ambience into venues once marked by conversation’s conviviality. Third generation (3G) mobile phones can download television news, sports games, and other live entertainment.
While the status of the movie theaters and the clubs as public spheres can be questioned, there’s no doubt that the technologies that enable people to design their information and entertainment environments drive them into their homes and introduce a very private element into formerly public spaces.
Systems that join television and movies to the Internet, both in physical networks — the infrastructure — and in content cross-promotion and reinforcement, are now the norm. The big screen TV and its circulatory system of computer, cable, remote controls and sound system signal some new possibilities for viewers/users as well as for industries. Television programs and movies are wedded to Internet sites, and all are bound to advertisers. So too as people watch, play, engage the television and computer screens, they are locked into the cycle. Whether it is encouraging people using cell phones to text message their votes for favorite American Idol performers, cultivating TV show fan bases through Internet sites, sending radio listeners to websites for extended versions of news stories, or establishing “star” personality blogs, media industries are creating new, integrated ways of cultivating our attention and interest. Raymond Williams’ notion of flow has a very different meaning in this space that moves across platforms and across people and products so seamlessly. The way academic and critics talk and think about “TV” or “film” or “the Internet” just is not up to the fluid way we experience technologies or media. In addition, that connected fabric of media interactions is penetrated with mechanisms that allow industries to obtain data about us that is far superior to what was available under the conventional television or cable model, giving us a glimpse of the less desirable qualities of the connected environment.
Nielsen people meter and diary data cannot compete with the sorts of profiles that are compiled through new communication technologies; the capacity to track viewer/user attention, communication and consumption behavior are now built into hardware and software. DVRs yield extensive pictures of viewing habits, sortable by zip code and, under some circumstances, address. When TiVo reported earlier this year that its users had watched the Janet Jackson Super Bowl episode three times more often than any other moment in the broadcast, TiVo users expressed shock that their viewing behaviors were scrutinized so closely. Data mining is plugged into all communication systems, and as two-way devices proliferate in the living room, collection and manipulation of that data will become an art form. As we’re increasingly tethered to systems that gather information about us — what we’re watching or doing, for how long, and who we are, where we live, what we purchase, how we entertain ourselves, who we talk with, our personal profiles — businesses are able to target their marketing efforts with precision.
Flat Screen Plasma TV
Interactivity used to be the word used to describe the future of television, but the interactivity accompanying the large HD televisions isn’t exactly what the hawkers originally had in mind. This year Nielsen is crunching viewer data from TiVo to figure out how detailed viewing data can mesh with marketing purposes, and even though TiVo insists their data have been anonymized, somehow I am not entirely reassured given the frequent reports from all corners on database hacks and security breaches. Even the interactivity built into DVRs that allows viewers to fast-forward over commercials is controversial within the industry. One media analyst recommended in all seriousness that DVRs be regulated to eliminate any commercial-skipping or fast rewind capability, likening this in importance to federal legislation on tuning VHF channels, or closed captioning requirements. Interactivity is fine only if it does not conflict with market goals.
Maybe my big TV doesn’t directly present privacy threats, reduced social contact, and questionable levels of insularity by itself. And insofar as a lot of those big screen TVs (really most TVs) are sold around the time of the Super Bowl with all the event’s attendant parties, it’s clear that big screen TVs can be vehicles for sociability. Media and technology enthusiasts repeat that all these new technologies are about collaboration, social interaction and access to knowledge, and they may well be all about that. But equally they are just one piece of a larger enterprise that embeds us in intensified networks of video, audio and data flows. The push-pull of control over the networks will continue at least for a while as we figure out the significance of four to six major companies controlling all the backbone networks in the country and media conglomerates that continue to merge, consolidate and joint venture. Meanwhile the big flat screen TVs will keep slipping into our living rooms.
CNET News “TiVo watchers uneasy after post-Super Bowl reports”
PC World “TiVo Compiles, Sells Users’ Viewing Data”
Nielsen Media Research
1. The new home theater system
2. Plasma TV
Please feel free to comment.
When will I vote with my iPod?
There’s a lot to talk about here. Interactivity. Privacy. Technophilia. I’ll start where Strover states:
“…technologies that enable people to design their information and entertainment environments drive them into their homes and introduce a very private element into formerly public spaces.”
Is the private/public distinction being broken down? What are the consequences for us as citizens? As consumers? She argues that not only are we inviting commercial interests into our homes in more and more thoroughgoing ways, but also the mobility promised by the new generation of gadgets (ipod, wireless, 3G cell phones, portable dvd) is changing public space into private space; public space is restructured by physical networks (infrastructure) and content providers with commercial, rather than public, goals. There’s strong evidence here that public and domestic space as we’ve previously thought of them are in transition. But by defining these spaces so distinctly, it seems Strover wants to maintain a strong boundary between citizen behavior and consumer behavior. Are these categories distinct? Do the intensified “flows” enforce those identities or hybridize them, break them down? I suppose when I can vote with my iPod, I’ll know we’re really in a new era.
Re. My Big Flat Screen TV
As I recall, my parents bought their first TV in 1954; I was in the 4th grade. It was a big Zenith, not a piece of furniture like many people had, and had about a 15″ screen. Of course it was black and white. Austin had one channel then, KTBC Channel 7, a Lyndon Johnson enterprise. That wasn’t the first TV I had seen. One of our neighbors had one, and early one morning my dad woke my brother and me up to go watch a special program; the detonation of an atomic bomb. I suspect I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade then. Our family seldom watched TV even when we got one. I listened to the radio mostly on Saturday mornings. Big John and Sparkey, The Lone Ranger, and others. On Friday night there was a broadcast of the dance bands from the large hotels of New Orleans, Chicago, New York. The memory trail goes on. A couple of months ago I had to replace my old TV with a new one. I got a 25″ one, the first new one for 15 or 20 years. I looked at the prices of the big screen monsters. Whew! My wallet glued itself to my pocket. And I don’t have a room to dedicate for TV watching in my home. Hardly worth watching the local news and sometimes Nightline for the prices they ask. Sure the picture is clear, but so it it on my plain old TV. The ratio of price to clarity: pretty damn good. Just how many hours of TV or DVDs would I have to watch to justify the big ones? And the big ones don’t hold a chance to the experience that I get for $8 at a real theater; and the real theater keeps up with the technology. But more so, I realize that my neighbors, one of whom watches big screen TV alone and another occassionally has a house full of friends over for a big football game, must have a lot of free time to justify the expense. True, as Sharon Strover says, the family can gather together to watch… Oh, just what do they watch as a family? What few shows are family oriented? Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development? Frankly, I am glad that I had a hobby when I was a child, and children today seldom have hobbies, few were ham radio operators building their own equipment (I got my novice ticket between the 6th and 7th grades.); how about model building, stamp collecting, wood carving? No, today we have a society of overweight individuals (OK, I am just a little overweight; one hobby being cooking and eating!) who sit in front of their TV from the time they get home from work or school until the wee hours of the evening. What family socialization is that? Really? How much conversation goes on? Oh, yes, “Bring me another beer on your way back, please.” An the commercials… Need I say more. And when the TiVo will be required to record commercials, too, and playback must play commercials; I just can’t wait. Frankly, with such real reality television that is available today, I really am glad that the kids have left their nest. They can deal with their kids’ TV time themselves. I hope I taught them well. Ya know going to the theater to watch a movie is really not such a bad deal after all. Meanwhile, I won’t waste my money on a big screen TV I can never justify. Actually, with my little 9″ TV in the bathroom, I can soak in the tub while watching Nightline just fine; let me see you do that with a big screen monster.
Public & Private
As Sharon Strover notes, mobile media is invading the public space with many self-contained private spaces, and more and more movie viewers are staying home to watch the flat screen. However, its interesting to note how online communities (fan sites, review sites, any kind of message board or blog that occasionally touches on mass media products) penetrate private spaces with a public space. When I see a movie I love or hate on DVD, instead of (or in addition to) turning to the person next to me and seeing how they reacted to it, I go online and read reviews on IMDB or Amazon. Neither mode of “seeing what others think” is a representative sample, but perhaps online communities give a viewer an opportunity to either surround her or himself with like-minded folks OR sample a wider range of opinions. Still, even in a world where everyone had internet access, not everyone will join in the conversation. Online communities provide the channel for people to “talk back” and create a public conversation about mass media, but that doesn’t mean people use it, which is a shame.
I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something lost in this transition from face-to-face to text-based conversation. But like it or not, it seems less alien to each new generation (plus with broadband, in the future, maybe there’ll be a visual/audio component to online conversations). Don’t be fooled by appearances: sitting in front of a computer and, say, posting a comment on Flow may look like a solitary activity, but in a sense, its as social as any conversation.
My one true love…Plasma Television
Okay, so it’s obvious that TV has come along way since in invention half a century ago. If we can improve it, why shouldn’t we. Everyone says that TV is monopolizing America’s free time, making people more interested in spending the night alone in front of their TV than going out and socializing. Who cares. Does it bother me that I would rather spend my weekend watching James Bond flicks in Dolby 5.1 rather than going out to some club and getting drunk? NO. I have no problem admitting to my dependence on TV, it may not be considered healthy, but even before all these new technological upgrades, I was never very good at socializing. And as far as it goes for TV corporations collecting data on what I watch, I am fine with that too. If Tivo wants to monitor what I watch so that it can better serve me, then why not let it. Although, one thing that does puzzel me, is that for some reason, my tivo likes to record home gardening shows. How the hell do you get an interest in home gardening from Friends, Boston Legal, and Smallville? On a completly seperate issuse, its no secret, you buy a tivo so you can fast forward through commercials. Even when I am home while a show is on, I still let tivo record it just so I dont have to sit through commercials. But I still see them while in fast forward mode, and the catchy ones always seems to make me stop and rewind to see what they’re all about. For instance, the new Ford Mustang commercial, whenever I see it, I have to stop and watch it. Wether its the newly designed fastback style or Steve McQueen’s superimposed face that grabs my attention, I’ll never know. In closing, I am all for whatever upgrades they send my way, save for reality TV. I long for interactive TV, I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to pause a show and buy the CD being fetured in the background, or the sunglasses drapped over Clark Kent’s face. Technology makes TV better, better TV makes for happier viewers.
My Big Flat Screen TV
While we are not exactly in the dark ages, my family is not as technologically advanced as is Ms. Strover’s. Yes, we do have a TV with a remote. We have a computer, but, oh no, we still use dial-up. When my children were young, we rallied against earphones for listening to music (they won’t hear us calling them), against video games (they aren’t educational), against using the computer and the Internet for anything but educational purposes. It used to sadden me to see fewer children going to the library for their research. I would argue that you must learn to do proper research, with magazines and books. I was against the use of Instant Messenger. I would argue that this was leading to the demise of social interaction. Don’t play games on the computer, I would say, instead let’s play a board game. Fortunately, my mindset has changed through the years, as my children grew up, and I learned to see the advantages of various technologies. The age of libraries and board games belongs to me, not my children, nor to the current generation of young people. Theirs is the age of fast-changing technology, from the ‘Net to DLP TV’s. I say we should not mourn the loss of social interaction, but instead see that IM has actually increased interaction (remember the introduction of the telephone). An example, if my son’s home phone line is busy, I have my daughter IM him, that I am trying to reach him.. A few minutes later, I might get a call from him on my cell phone. I am a 47 year old female, a UT business graduate (1994) and have returned to pursue a second degree, in RTF. I am amazed and impressed by my young classmates. These “kids” are whizzes at multi-tasking with their laptops. Screens popup and minimize in the blink of an eye. I believe this bodes well for our next generation of professionals and executives, our UT grads. They will have learned how to change gears in mid-stream. Big screen TV’s, DVD’s, DVR’s, etc. are not in themselves a threat to our privacy nor do they pose a threat to public interaction. Money is not evil, love of money is. Alcohol is not dangerous, it is the abuse of alcohol that is dangerous. So, it goes with technology. Machines and products that employ new technologies are not in themselves to be avoided or regulated. It is the USERS who need to be watched carefully. And when I say users, I mean the marketers, the big business folk, not necessarily lay people such as myself. There is a statement in Ms. Strover’s article, “Interactivity is fine only if it does not conflict with market goals.” Market goals are fine as long as they do NOT interfere with my privacy goals.
I am glad I have changed my mindset regarding technology. I have opened my mind to the possibilities. Of course, we must be on constant guard as to the abuses prevalent in all aspects of technologies, but I will not get on that soapbox right now.
Is Anybody In There?
Wow! That’s all I have to say. The next thing that you’re going to tell me is that I have a little man with a notepad sitting inside my television watching my every move and click of the remote to report back what I am really doing and watching. Why not? That is pretty much the only thing, now a days that is being left out. I feel somewhat vulnerable and a bit violated. But hey, that’s our society. And our spending habits (especially on new and up-coming technology) only state that we, as consumers, don’t mind what’s going on. The fact that advertisers know practically all of my spending habits freaks me out a bit. This brings me to another point. It never really occurred to me until this very moment, that when you buy a big screen TV, that’s not the only item you are buying. If you’ve got the TV, you have to have the surround sound, the proper reclining chair (with a cup holder…of course), the mini fridge so that you don’t have to get up to get another beer, TiVo (because you can’t have a big screen with the measly regular cable), the foot long remote with a joystick to navigate the millions of channels coming up onto your screen as well as the internet (a bit ridiculous if you ask me), and the list goes on. No wonder millions of children are obese. Now, this might seem a bit like a griping list, but I’m not bitter. It’s just that I had an epiphany: when the world comes to an end, there will be little chaos in the streets because we will all be sitting in our living rooms thinking that it is a new movie we haven’t seen yet. There is no reason to leave our houses, much less the living room a.k.a. the “family” room. If there were a way to install a toilet into a chair and it still be comfortable, I bet it would be a hit. Everything is accessible from the home. Even a university education can be obtained from on-line. I personally don’t know why I ever leave…really. Aren’t I just like every other person that doesn’t leave their home?
My best friend’s dad is the president of an electronic company. One could probably guess this by stepping foot into their residence. Flat screen monitors hang on the walls like works of art and heaven forbid if you are without internet access in any room of the house. As I sat in the red leather recliner, sound system rumbling at my back and feeling as if I had just spent $7 at the theatre, rather than being upstairs in the comfort of my friend’s home, I thought to myself, “I could get used to this.”
My household, on the other hand, is a different picture. Technological advancements have never been the top priority. My parents have never really made improvements to our “out of date” technical status until they were unable to bear the shame of being outcasts to the gadget world any longer.
Technology is constantly changing, TVs keep getting wider and flatter. We constantly spend our hard earned money to keep up with it all, only for there to be some new technological break through the next day. Then of course advertisers make us feel bad about being a day late in buying the latest model. As strover states, “too many people watch, engage the television and computer screens, they are locked into the cycle,” a vicious cycle at that.
Concerning the issue of privatization: I certainly concur that technological advancements have led to a more privatized life, at least with the extensive development and interaction associated with the Web. If I bought a new DVD with a High Definition tv complete with a killer sound system coupled with exquisite chairs and all the other little accompaniments, then yes, I would feel inclined to stay at home with friends rather than go to a theater. And I also greatly agree with the aforementioned statements about these technologies greatly intertwining with each other in order to keep the audience ever-happy; corporations seem to inject propoganda-like messages to keep shopping and buying due to the ever extensive growth of their market models. Part of the reason for these types of market models are due to the massive degulations of many industries, every corporation wanting at least some share of some other entity or technology. Just take, for example, the NBA. First, there are games being televised, so one needs advertisements. Then, embedded in advertisements are directions for these audiences to go to nba.com and purchase all the latest “good things” associated with the NBA–tickets, jerseys, NBA league pass, sporting goods, and subscriptions to the highlights of all the games around the country, because audiences want to see that Detroit/Indiana brawl no matter how many times SportsCenter replays it…thus creating, and I quote, a “vicious cycle.” However, it doesn’t seem so vicious than it does a natural process of technology and marketing, due to the advancments of the internet and the way these audiences are being specifically targeted. There was once a time when this cycle seemed not to be the case–just after the creation of the telephone. The only thing that seemed to spring from this was the concept of “modernity”, this is, being able to “keep in touch” with those closest to you. This seemed to reinforce social ties, as well as actually going out for commercial purposes–this contrast to what we have today. Indeed, my Dad has mentioned that the one thing he wish I could have experienced was interacting with other kids on the block when I was growing up. With the extensive development of television and video games, it did seem to have its toll in terms of isolating the youth. Imminent questions seem to be…How much will we be dependent upon technological advancements in the future for economic purposes, as well as social ties?
A love hate relationship
First of all, I truly admire those who have the strength to pick up the remote and push that power button to turn the TV off whenever they want to and actually rather be doing something useful for a change, like read a book, go outside and breath some fresh air, or even just open the blind and stare out the window. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if 100% of the population with TV watch TV when they are not doing something for work or for school, heck now days you could even get your personal flat screen LCD right in front of the Stairmaster in most gyms! Basically if you are not using your brain, why not make the most of it and fill it with flashing images, and slowly kill all the brain cells you’ve got left!? Wanna shot your kids up? Give them a portable DVD player wherever you go, hypnotize them with flashing images so they can’t bother you on the plane ride to a family vacation destination! I for one am one of those who had been addicted to television since I was…..actually since as long as I could remember, getting up past bed time, snuck out to the living room, sat two feet away from the TV set in the dark so I could hear what happen in whatever horror movie was on satellite TV, I grabbed on to that remote so hard, get the button pushing finger in position so I could turned it off and ran in a flash if one of my parents wakes up. There was a time when TV only has major networks, and you can’t watch anything after midnight, after the national anthem, there’s no choice but to turn it off but today, even basic cable has tons and tons of choices, even if you just keep flipping through the channels, there’s a chance you won’t hit the same thing twice. As much as we hope TV not being a big part of what we do in everyday life, none of us could live without it, or want to live without it, it’s sad but true even though majority of the programs on TV are nothing but trash, there are good programs out there, but we actually have to find them before getting sucked into the big trash bin with crazy shows like wife swapping, make over shows that focus on how many plastic surgeries you can get to get your self confidence back, or how badly you could hurt and deceive your own family to show them you love them by giving them lots of $$$. TV is here to stay, this little product of one of human’s greatest invention is just gonna get wackier and crazier by the day, embrace it but be aware, be very aware, and most of all, have will power, control the TV, don’t let it control you…….
I <3 TV
One of the things I've noticed the most since I came to UT is that TV is viewed upon as something negative. I used to be one of those kids that never read and never went outside. I always just stayed inside and watched TV and I was happy with that. Naturally as I got older, I began to change the way I thought about those things as well as TV. I've come to the realization that it isn't impossible to have both. The thing I never understood though was why so many people think TV is such a negative thing. Yes it is seeping into every corner of our society (if its not already there) and yes it does bring up many privacy issues, however, it isn't some widely spread drug that is dumbing down society. Granted it isn't the best thing to do whenever you are bored, but if it takes away the boredom, than why does it matter? I am personally a TV junkie. I myself recently bought a 52" Widescreen TV for my apartment. Is it excessive? Absolutely. However I find it as a way for me to enjoy TV more as well as increase the feeling of a home theater. To me, a TV in the living room has always been a comforting factor. Some people see that as being a horrible thing, but I don't. It hasn't effected my learning capabilities and I don't notice that it is making me dumber, but what I do know, is that TV is a huge factor in our society and I personally feel that we should try to make it better, change the bad things about it, rather than trying to force it out of our society by making it a negative thing.
more is better
HDTV: the future of television, and it shouldn’t be a bad one. The digital spectrum allows broadcasters to air four channels on one frequency or allows for One High Definition digital broadcasted show including interactive menus containing relative information. This ultimately will result in a larger selection of channels for viewers to choose from, and I believe more is better. Proportionally there will be the same TV genres, but there will be more programs for each genre, and everyone has at least one TV genre they like, right? Some people only watch TV for director fests hosted by Robert Osbourne on AMC. Now with more channels to choose from there will be more director fests, but there will also be more reality TV programs as well, but you don’t have to watch those.
The scenario Strover and others describe here is one that involves tremendous class privilege. I currently have a 19″ TV (that was given to my husband and I as a Christmas gift 5 years ago), a gift VCR, and a gift DVD player. We pay each month for basic cable. I watch the hell out of it and feel I need cable. My downstairs neighbors got their cable cut off so the seven year old comes to my place to watch “42” as she calls it (the Disney channel). I feel privileged.My husband wants a new bigger TV with various features that make no sense to me. His desire is fairly modest and reasonable. He’s not looking at flat, or plasma, or over 4 foot screens. Still, these “better” TV’s cost $800 bucks or so. About a month’s pay for me as a TA in RTF. I just can’t justify it.I think it’s important to remember that the “we” who are dealing with these TiVo privacy issues and such are a pretty select group of people. If “we” don’t spend our money on this stuff, we don’t have to worry about having our habits tracked, since our habits are of little interest to the folks who are selling all of this. “We” have to worry about how we’re going to get to work when our cars won’t start and how we’re going to pay our rent. My privacy is invaded because I can’t pay my bills, not because I record the OC on my TiVo.
“Big Flat TV Screen”
I think Strover makes a pretty important point. I would consider myself a pro-technology person, but I think that people in America on average will be leading far more insular, self-indulgent lives than anyone could have predicted a decade ago. And it will become more and more insular with every new communications technology of its kind that becomes available to the general public. Now, I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t enjoy some of the technology that Strover mentioned in my own home, but I do believe that there is a limit and that we are quickly approaching it. Technological advancement is great, but people shouldn’t confuse covenienience with laziness. It worries me that we are approaching a time when most people could go weeks without ever having to leave their house.
on technology and cocooning….
I’m with Marnie on the class argument because, frankly, all of this tech stuff is just way beyond my means at the moment — I only recently hopped on the DVD train. While I love my TV as much as the next media brat, I don’t even have the money on hand to consider a lot of the newer tech stuff, as much as TiVo tempts me….. But insofar as the public vs. private thread going on here, I don’t necessarily see these technologies as creating more insular media consumers — interactivity has meant connectivity in a lot of instances. Like Elliott has said, I’m constantly checking online reviews and blogs to see what other people are saying about television, DVD rentals, etc. I have a teenaged sister who watches most television while hooked up to chatrooms, and my *grandparents* know to look at Amazon reviews, so crazy people using this stuff while locked away in an attic someplace feels like an argument that has gone the way of Jane Eyre….
The Living Room is All I Need…
It seems that with the army of new technologically advanced items that tailor to one’s every need, people don’t need other people to experience good times. Social interaction is endangered because consumers are being sucked into this “must have the latest technology” society. Instead of going out on the town people can now sit in their living room with movies on deamand, sports packages that offer 3 million games a night, concerts that can be accessed via the internet, dating websites that promise people their soulmate, and DVR’s that allow you to record anything you may have missed. A perfect example takes place on any college campus around America. This environment used to be a cultural melting pot where people can interact with others of different backgrounds, religions, and past experiences. But now, all I see are robots marching around with either their cell phone pasted to their ear, or the all too familiar white cord of the ipod stringing up to their ear capturing their attention and providing “me time” with no iteruptions (human interaction). I personally am amazed by all the new technology on the market today, but I also notice the dangers this technology may bring to our once people-driven society. I’m sure these new products help our economy, but I miss the days where I could walk around and talk to people without ruining the latest Outkast or Incubus song blasting on their ipod. It seems that conversation and human interaction may become a thing of the past.
Strover makes an extremely important observation about our current culture in regards to technology. Technology has a gigantic impact on our world. The fact that half of the furniture in my apartment revolves around a TV screen, a computer, and a game system shows us that even our houses are changed. Some new houses even have theatre rooms which are incredibly awesome. I can wake up, get the news by many different technological options like the computer, television, radio, or even my cell phone. That’s four options for something as simple as a news briefing. I am very pro-technology, and I love the option of having so many different technological options for up-to-the-minute reports on any and everything (weather, news, sports). If I need to talk to my sister in California, I can get on AOL Instant Messenger and chat with her, call her on my free-nationwide cell phone, text message her, or email her on the Internet. That’s insane! I think that technology, while it might make some not want to leave their houses, actually connects us to each other. Just like the early critics of the telephone, most critics of all our technological options are screaming “stop this madness!”, but I think it is good for our society and at least for me, it connects me to more people that I would have lost touch with otherwise. And in regards to the recent DVR drama with the advertisers, with all due respect, there are hundreds of different ways to advertise and effectively get the message across to the target groups. Research indicates that the average American is subjected to over 1300 advertisements per day, and I firmly believe that even those who are in love with their DVR’s will still watch live television and see the advertiser’s commercials. People are going to sit at their televisions every day, so why not offer the “latest and greatest” technology for the American ritual. I have a flat screen television and I absolutely love it. My dad’s house has the surround sound system with his television and it’s amazing. But I still attend movies and I still go to sports bars for the big game. I think that technology is good for capitalism because consumers want it, and most of it is not cheap, so consumers will spend the extra money to get it. (At least, I do!)
Home of Data Mining Center?
Strover made the keen observation that the home has begun to replace the public sphere, and also that data mining has become much more sophisticated in new home technologies. This combination of people staying home and what goes on in the home being more accessible to marketers means more powerful target advertisements. It also means less privacy for the individual. Oddly enough, it may come to the point that one has less privacy at home that in public. In public one is anonymous and ones actions cannot easily be traced (perhaps they can via a credit card records.). As the home becomes invaded with tracking and data mining technologies embedded in entertainment products, and becomes the exclusive center for entertainment our homes may become centers for taking our actions and directing advertisements.
Indeed it also seems the as home technologies are increasingly filling in for the public sphere. From home theaters as Strover mentioned to online shopping, movie rentals, and socializing. What implications this will have on how society functions is had to even guess. Even as a member of a generation who has grown up in the midst of digital entertainment and internet development I still prefer real human interaction to online interaction. I’d rather window shop on South Congress with a friend then click through ebay of surf the web for interesting items. But who knows, maybe my kids or grandkids will attend online schools, will make friends online and will order groceries off the internet.
What happened when I was born?
Strover claims that entertainment has entered the private sector posing a threat to privacy, social contact, and a potentially dangerous insulation. I find it hard to dispute or confirm this claim as the life I lead now hasn’t changed much since the mere nineteen years I have been alive. Since I can remember, I have always had access to a television, video games, a VCR (although more recently a DVD player) and maybe most importantly, a computer with internet.What I can do is suggest the possibility that the changes Strover observes aren’t happening now, that they happened years ago! What I see happening is that new inventions like TiVo, plasma TV’s, surround sound, are only furthering the implications that the first generation of personal entertainment technologies brought around. In other words, I’m not sure if DVD’s make people watch more movies per week than VHS did. I don’t think people will watch more TV in high definition than they did ten years ago. I think that cheapter Televisions, along with cheaper computers are to blame. That is, when families could afford one of each for every one or two members of the household, something was lost. Communication in the household had to battle Instant Messaging, advertisements, and a new solution to boredom. So what do I think of the new super-technologies like flat screen TVs, Tivo, surround sound, and so on? I don’t think they are to blame for the invasion of entertainment into our households. I think they might further the problems that came from cheapter televisons and computers. I don’t think people will stop going to movie theatres, and I don’t think we need to worry about clubs going out of business. If that were the case, it would have happened twenty years ago.
television in our society
I agree strongly with Strover’s idea that technology has allowed entertainment which was formerly public to become private. Not only has it become private, in terms of in the home, but is also becoming individualized. Families are becoming more and more segregated by an increasing number of televisions within the home. It is common for there to be a TV in the living room, kitchen and bedroom. I feel that techonology is taking over in that, we as humans are made lazier and made dependent on these “machines”. As a child, I recall playing games with my family on long road trips. Now, however, parents buy TV screens to entertain their children during these long drives. I am not completely against techonology, and I appreciate many of the new advances, yet, I also believe that family life is being broken up by members spending the majority of their free time alone either watching TV or on the computer. However, the possibility of changing this is extremely unlikely, simply because TV is so deeply embedded in our lives. Thus, if this technology is going to be present than we may as well make it the best it can be. The idea that DVR’s be regulated to where they cannot skip commercials is rediculous. I am an advertising major and I do not feel that this can be justified. Technology cannot be supressed based on only one groups’ interests. Those against such products are only holding such positions due to their own economic reasons. The final issue that needs to be addressed is that of invasion of privacy. I do not feel that keeping statistics of consumers’ behaviors, if they are anonymous, is wrong. I feel that if it helps target an audience better, and there is no spreading of personal information, then there is no harm done.
public vs. private sphere, data mining
Strover states that we use mediums that in the past have been viewed in open spaces, but now are preferred to be viewed in private spaces. I agree from personal experience. In my family, when we rented a movie, it was a big deal. My dad had purchased a huge, big screen television and a surround sound system with speakers that he placed all around the living room. All of the furniture was positioned around this enormous television, and we would turn off all of the lights, make popcorn, and have an almost theatre like experience. The only problem was that we never went anywhere. Why would we? Well, it goes without saying that we eventually got tired of hanging out with each other all of the time, and became teenagers and so on. In regards to TiVo, I have heard that to get around this issue of fast forwarding through commercials, they may put pop-ups from an advertiser while you are fast forwarding. I would also like to relate her comments on data mining to google’s email service: Gmail. I have a Gmail account and I love it, the search and import functions have helped me emensely. The only problem I have, and it is a slight one, is the advetising. Google takes the content from the email you are reading and uses it to advertise related information and products. It is not bothersome when you are reading your emails, in fact, I never read them and hardly ever notice them. The point is that Google has access to the content of your emails and that’s a bit scary. I can see this type of data mining and advertising as an art form because it is subliminal. Although I don’t necessarily look at the ads, I know they are there.
Privacy vs. the Business of Personal Info
Strover brings up many interesting points in this article regarding the developing technologies invading our country and the affects they have on society. The most interesting fact, the one that jumped off the page, was the comment about consumers’ reactions in regards to how much information companies have about them and who can obtain it. “When TiVo reported earlier this year that its users had watched the Janet Jackson Super Bowl episode three times more often than any other moment in the broadcast, TiVo users expressed shock that their viewing behaviors were scrutinized so closely.” I am always shocked to see the amount of “trust” consumers have that all of their personal information is treated thusly. I am an advertising major so I suppose I take my knowledge of the common integrated brand communications (in advertising) procedures that are utilized every day, with every purchase I make, for granted. Companies currently have the capability to match your purchases from your credit card to pages you view on the internet (when simply viewing things you may be interested in purchasing at a later date). With that they are able to create an advertising line up, tailor made for you based on your “preferences and habits” that will air when you are watching TV, since they do in fact have access to your cable, satellite, etc. One example of plans that are in the works is individual marketing campaigns during football games that would flash images on to the field based on your most recent purchases, meaning you would see something totally different than your neighbor, family or friends. In a time when information is so widely available, as everyone is so quick to point out, I am fascinated to see not only what certain media outlets tend to focus on but further more the level of interest people have in their own information security.
Privacy in Purchase
Strover’s article reminds me of when I bought my computer last year. On a fixed budget and skeptical of being screwed over by the Dell giant, I was concerned that the all-inclusive package PC deal they offered me was questionable. As it turns out, it did not include an A drive, CD burner, virus protection without paid subscription, etc. that the salesman led me to believe. The after market additions to my PC jacked up the price I was originally offered. However necessary these entities seem to me, they do not fit the customization promise of my “deal,” but I had to purchase them anyways because I needed them.By omitting certain components of my PC, the Dell company along with the virus protection company, the drive manufacturer, etc. profited from their exclusion. Knowing that I did not have these components on my PC I was flooded with offers as soon as I pushed the power button for the first time, and being that the software was already on my computer, I was given no choice but to comply with the market model. The antivirus software already had my information uploaded on their homepage when I opened it. There is no more privacy on the Internet, and being sold as a commodity, as inevitable as it is, is violating to me. To know that the govt. or corporate America or some creepy surveillance agent knows everything I do is disturbing.
“No man is an island unto himself.” That has always been, and always will be, true. What I have noticed in my Media classes is everyone freaking out about the current or next new technology, as if social relationships as we know them will never be the same because of TiVo or big screens or whatever. Let us not forget that no one is requiring you or your family to purchase any of these products. People are making a conscious effort to drive to Best Buy and seek them out. I know plenty of families who do not even have a television in the home. I know households, like my own, where there is a TV, but it is small and not necessarily the center of the apt/house. Are advertisers benefiting from new technologies? Yes. Is it easier for them to target us individually? Sure. But what comes along with that is a consumer who is 10 times as media-savvy as the one of 20 or so years ago. I, for one, am not being forced to buy or consume anything I do not want to. Spam and pop-ups are annoying, just like junk mail and flyers in our parents’ mailboxes were annoying years ago. Like others said in their comments, nothing (in our lifetimes, at least) will ever replace person-to-person interaction. People will still go out and interact.
bring it on
Flipping through channels through my time Warner cable box with DVR, I find it amazing how much our lust for entertainment has grown. Why I can remember the old days when I had thirty channels, max. Now as I pass the 400’s for sports and run into the 500’s for news, and still the countless movie channels I find myself thinking, what happened? Does America suffer from an extreme case of ADD that we need all these channels and all this technology? Well I say bring it on. I have suffered from the lack of cable for years, only relying on my 2 piece antenna that could pull a whopping 12 channels, and that doesn’t count the static or lack of sound that would come and go. Just recently my roommate and I have acquired the pinnacle in cable TV. With just a cable box and a monthly check, I too can be in the loop with what is going on in the world of “cable TV”. As far as what we are giving up in person to person interactions, I believe that this will never be lost. Being humans, we will always feel the need to interact with others. The only thing I can see changing is the way we interact and I would think that new and changing technologies will only make it easier to interact with others, so I say bring it on.
I agree with Stover in the fact that places once considered public are now more privatized, and I do not think that this is wrong in any way. Nobody considers progress that helps society wrong, and I don’t believe that large TV’s, or for that matter, any other media technology should be considered differently. It is a huge convenience that I can take my laptop to class or walk around campus with my ipod, because it is technologically possible and it is my choice if I want to do this. These advancements are available to the public and it is completely up to you if you chose to indulge in them. Even if these technologies lead to laziness and less social interactions it is still a conscious choice of what you are buying and all it entails. On the subject of TiVo and data mining, I also think that they are okay. Advertisers will always have some way to profile people. It doesn’t bother me that they know what kind of programs I watch, because this technology is available to them and I think it is fair that they can use it for their benefit just as I use it for my benefit. Data gathering is used to help the advertisers, not to hurt or invade somebody’s privacy. My last note is the absurdity that there is even debate over the fact that TiVo should be regulated so people can’t skip commercials. I recently read that even though Tivo was designed to skip advertisements, the company is now collaborating with advertisers to have advertisements pop-up even as you are fast forwarding through them. Isn’t that ironic that the thing that is supposed to help you avoid advertisers if actually working with them? I think that this just proves that advertisers will find a way to reach the people now matter what.
it depends on the person
Technology throughout the years is constantly evolving and expanding. As this process carries on, we as consumers are given the oppritunities (income pending)to dabble with and take on new experiences and connections with others. This “sudden phenomenon” however, is nothing new. Ever since the first commercial radios were distributed and made domestic, society has been exposed to new technologies. Though now more available, the concept remains intact. People have always had excuses to stay home and watch the game or a favorite program, even if they don’t have a top of line system. The technology doesn’t promote isolation or solidarity as much as the person who is making use of it. I know families with rediculous home entertainment systems that still go out frequently and take part in social events. With these new devices in our homes today, my lone problwm deals with advertisers and how much of our personal information they are allotted. Just because we buy their products does not mean we hand over our privacy.
What would Plato think?
If Plato hated the simplest form of technology (known as writing) because it makes you lazy, inhuman, and unresponsive, I cannot imagine what he would have to say about all the technologies that have flooded our homes and been taken for granted today. I cant say that I disagree with Plato or Stover. Leaving the convenience of our private homes to have social interactions not only stimulates the brain but our body as well. It sort of makes me sad that people would rather sit at home and talk on the phone or online than go out and interact in person, they would rather download a live recording of a song than go to a concert, and rather shop online than drive to the mall. The fact that we can now order groceries online seems to cross the line of convenience to pure laziness. People are going to get so fat and stupid they aren’t going to be able to get out of their front door. However, I think that technological innovation is a good thing, as long as it stays in moderation. Just like everyone else, I like having a cell phone and a computer. Everyone still needs to have a little Plato in them.
just another casualty
Another example of perhaps…advertising and another fallen victim to what society tells us what we ‘need.’ This is a great example of technological hierarchy and all of these costly ‘tiers’ simply for luxury, convenience and bragging rights. Strover mentioned how these new purchases influences our sociability. As technology progresses and we find ourselves in a deeper hole with our wallet, our sociability dwindles also. Except for perhaps TiVo, so while you can dance the night away or attend a band’s concert, you can be rest assured that your Friends’ reruns and CSI will be there when you return. What is it saying about our society when we use the hottest new technological advances as a caliber for our society’s hierarchy?
In her enlightening article on the consequences of new technologies taking up space in every aspect of our lives, Strover, in my estimation, points out three major areas that have been a concern to me for many years as I’ve watched their rapidly growing rate. These being, “privacy threats, reduced social contact, and questionable levels of insularity by itself”. Every technology she mentioned is pushing these three danger areas along into bigger and more blatant problems. And the biggest problem of all is how attractive all these new technologies are to the consumer, and myself. Tivo, for example, is at the top of my Christmas list this year for every night I have at least three VCR’s in various locations of my house recording shows that are all on at the same time that I simply I cannot miss. Sick and twisted, I know, but I must have my shows! Imagining a week without the sarcastic wit of Seth of “The O.C.” is akin to losing my most expressive middle finger in a freak tomato chopping episode. Tivo sounds like a dream come true, a season pass? Suggestions for new shows chosen just for me based on what I record? Paradise! More TV for me! And with better and better televisions, plasma dreams, and theater sound (since I’m practically deaf already from coming of age in the technology boom era) my home environment feels like a millionaire’s personal screening room. No longer must I trudge out into the public sphere, deal with twisting lines and screaming children, creepy men and vandalizing teens, I can stay in my cozy house, curl up on my carefully chosen sofa by the firelight and nearly watch anything! It’s all together far better. The one thing it lacks is the availability of newly released films in my living room. Now that would be quite an invention, and I might imagine, possibly more profitable for the film industry? Many problems, piracy, etc., would have to solved before anything of that nature might ever appear, but think of the consequences, good and bad. Or if Blockbuster did away with their physical store completely and offered their own pay-per-view on demand service. It would be seriously profitable for them not to have to supply the physical copies, employees and store space. I can see this all happening within the next decade at the rate we’re going. Internet TV, music downloads, on demand, rewinding live television; America’s favorite pastime isn’t baseball anymore, it’s instant gratification, and we’re now getting it in even larger quantities and venues. Sound great? Think again.As if they didn’t already keep enough records on us, now they have more, more, more! Does anyone else curse their computer constantly because of the pop-ups and ads and crap emails? I swear I have like ten advertising viruses on my computer that ruin my work time and crash my computer constantly because they are trying to get my to buy their asinine product. Cookies and the like make me insane! What if this whole world transferred to our televisions? You missed the spectacular freak reveal of the monsters on “Lost” because magic fifteen-footer penis cream popped up on your TV screen and froze? I tremble at the thought. But worse than that truly is the loss of the social art. Ever called someone ready to leave a message and they answer. You say, “Uh, oh, hi, I didn’t expect you to answer, I was, uh, gonna leave a message.” I do all the time and people do it to me. It’s funny really. People would rather play phone tag than have an actual conversation. Typing on the computer then became easier than using your voice on a message and now phone text messaging, when you’re both right beside your phones, is taking the place of that. It takes me five minutes to write out what I can say in five seconds, but still we text. People only know how to interact with glass/plastic screens now, not people, not full machines, letter/number keys and tv-esque screens. And what about staying in all the time? I love movies, used to go to the theater once, twice a week. I haven’t seen a new movie in the longest time. Even though I must use my fingers and my toes to count how many are out that I currently really want to see. I just wind up now waiting for video, or even on demand (which offers a really poor selection actually). I almost want to check into a hotel and pay $15 a movie to see the ones in between theater and video store so I can watch them alone! I never used to be this way, what happened? My psychiatrist told me the other day that I am developing agoraphobia at a rapid rate. (I’m serious folks, she really said that). I was like, uh, yeah I don’t really leave my house but to go the grocery store or for business, but…AGORAPHOBIA? And then I thought harder and completely realized it was true. My aversion to going out to see a movie, go to a club, was more than not wanting to deal with noise and crowds, it was that I really, really didn’t want to be around people and I really, really just wanted to stay in my insulated, safe little comfortable house, ALL THE TIME. I only left when I had to. I read books, I watched movies/TV, got on the computer, left messages for friends, worked and ate and slept. When did this happen? How did this happen? Is this happening to other people out there? Has a sneaky, half-breed form of fear/dislike of leaving the house derived from the amazing home media technology? More time will have to pass to see if possibly this is an epidemic, or I’m just crazy. But we’ll see. I can only imagine more luxuries and more dangerous to arise in the near future.
Advertisements will find a way
Our society has constantly sought to be more connected and communicate faster. It is true that TVs are growing larger and more sophisticated as each day passes, but there is also now a move to make portable media units. The Creative Labs 20 GB Zen Media Center allows users to carry around a small screen with them to view video files in their palm at any time. Who needs a portable DVD player anymore for the car? Computers allow the interaction of multiple forms of media as well. You can share mp3s between all the computers on a network now with program like iTunes. I am certain you will soon be able to connect to your home PC with your portable media player or cell phone and watch movie files stored on your hard drive. Each person might eventually have their own “dummy” terminal computer to carry around with them or keep in different locations which would all connect back to one main unit in the basement of their house or home office. Imagine the day that a portable television screen could be worn on the eye and not just in a pocket. People will eventually be connected 24/7 to streaming media from around the world. How will advertisements be conveyed if users have complete content control over their personal media players? Advertisements will find a way. Just look at how commercials are not going into the movie theaters. Ford and other sponsors are now paying for entire episodes on television to do special informercial-sized advertisements or put small product hints in the show itself. Watching an episode of Smallville just the other day, the Old Spice deodorant trademark was flashed in the background or foreground of scenes 3 times in a matter of a couple of minutes. The more connected we get, the more integrated advertisements become into the media and the more invasive information gathering institutions will become. I am not saying watch out for Big Brother, but we should all be mindful that we are not caring around a tracking device with us everywhere we go when we get a new cell phone or a new media device.
The fact that technology is so readily available in every form, it seems as through everyone is expected to get on board. However, what ever happen to quality time with family, going and doing things, meeting people. Children now days do not know what it means to go to a library – they say I can get that information on line. They play computer games constantly – this is their link to the outside world. Some have even experienced certain medical problems because of constantly watching or playing video games. People skills are going out the window. In a sense technology has made some things better, easier, and a more efficient way of doing things but I fear we are losing more than we are gaining. The other day while shopping, after I had selected my items, I had to wait for the computer to come up before the cashier could check me out. Do you see the problem? We are forgetting simple skills. We rely on technology to answer all of the questions for us – if it is not on the computer then it must not be right. Huh!!! I would like to see people start once again using their brains and take this hand and hand with the ever available technology.
There seems to be a legitimate threat to human interraction and socialization posed by technological evolution. Going to the theatre is but one of many social gatherings that people flock to. Perhaps if the only potential change was people choosing to watch movies at home vs. the theatre we would not be talking about this. But there are countless other implications of technology. Concerts for instance are another event that people like to go to. You could theorize that people would eventually choose to start attending concerts in the comfort of their own home. This seems like a far-fetched possibility but with technology anything is possible. The advancements in virtual reality for instance could make this seem like a comporable option. The list of social gatherings that could be affected goes on and on. This brings me to the question of why do people socialize? There seems to be an inherent need for people to interract with each other. The act serves many purposes-emotional, self expression etc. If interraction keeps heading in the direction of limited contact with others I wonder whether there will be a counter-movement against it. Socializing will always exist in one form or another because communication is a necessity for everyone. The interesting question is whether or not socializing via computer screens, cell phones, and virtual reality will meet those inherent human needs.
The development of interactive technology is obviously posing a threat to the privacy of our personal lives. As technology moves forward, it finds ways to monitor our everyday behaviour, what with TiVo even making assumptions as to what the audience would LIKE it to record. This is definitely an intrusion of privacy using the data of our viewing behaviours as statistics for television. Besides the intrusion of privacy, there is also the question of quality time the old-fashioned way. What with people spending every moment fascinated with the new advanced technology, no one spends actualy family-time with their loved ones anymore. The loss of time spent together by family members at picnics, family outings, trips, and errand running is directly related to the new advances in television, internet, and just technology in general. Not only does this new home media take away time spent with families, but it also takes away the quality time spent by individuals who out to spend time with friends at clubs, movies, and outdoor recreations. With the huge, flat screen tv at home, and everything just a click of a button away, why go out? There is a loss of not going out to experience the world. You gain nothing first hand by merely sitting around in your living room, sheltered and safe, with just the television or computer to entertain you. An individual should need more stimulation than that. A person’s life is to be well rounded, with stimulations that cannot be achieved through staying at home. For example, don’t watch a movie about skiing, actually go out and do it. Experience it first hand. However, with the development of such high-tech equipment, less and less individuals are wanting to go out and do things since they are already so accessible with just the click of a button. Virtual reality can never replace what can be experienced first hand. It’s a great way to get a taste of what you might LIKE to do, but it is never the same as actually living it out yourself. This advancement in technology is both hurtful and helpful to society. If we learn to handle this new found luxury the correct and responsible way, then it will be helpful, merely another luxury available to the public.
From the viewpoint of electronics manufacturers, the market-place has reached an ideal point in history. The interconnectivity of products and formats has created a constant need to upgrade in the minds of consumers. No longer is a regular television or a standard PC sufficient, as all the technologies are merging into products that lack little definition in what their main focus is. Even cellular phones have become just as much cameras and personal organizers as they are telephones. With the cable and internet markets, this merging is becoming especially apparent. Internet running over cable lines rather than the old norm, telephone lines, has allowed television to become more interactive than they were ever initially intended. From TiVo to webTV, televisions are getting closer to being able to send out as much information as they recieve, blurring the already thin line separating them from computers. The one feature that televisions currently have that computers lack is their ability to draw a social crowd as mentioned in the article. For the most part, PCs are still very much as the name implies–personal. While computers continue to shrink in size, televisions are going in the completely opposite direction. From this, fully connected televisions may become the bridge that makes internet as social an event as watching television.
family life lost
While I do agree that television can facilitate social interactivity, such as the pre metioned super bowl parties, I find that it also becomes an excuse for anti-social activities. Parents often times use the technology as make shift babysitters, allowing themselves to become kidfree for a few hours. Thus the child is left to learn morals and its ABC’s from a cartoon character. This is also evident in the CD ROM packages that can now be bought for children. They include all their favorite movie characters, leaving the child to stare at a screen for hours, interacting with make believe people, instead of listening to their parents voice reading from a book. This makes aparent my feeling that the enforcement of media in the home takes away a familial environment. For exampIe, I was at a friend’s house the other day, and instead of having a conversation during the sit down dinner we had with her family, the kitchen television was turned on and tuned into that night’s NFL game. There were no questions about the day’s happenings, or inquiries about the family members feelings. With these advances in television and home media I am afraid, comes a time when the majority of people will prefer to sit at home, eyes glued to a screen instead of going to a coffee shop with friends or just talking to their loved ones.
Technology has always had strong effects on household lifestyles, but as times consistantly become more and more reliant upon technological advances, our homes are becoming invaded with high-end and highly-intrusive gear. I find it somewhat frightening that the day is coming near in which our technological tools easily outsmart us. Technology is transforming our home into a black hole. We get sucked into, and never seem to be able to escape: TV, Tivo, DVDs, DVRs, Satellite, Digital Cable and Video Game Consoles. Once social folks, are now glued to the couch with their eyes locked onto the big screen. With each new advancement comes more convenience and a “smarter device.” I am left in awe with each new technology. How can technology continue to advance in such exponential strides. It is nerve-wrenching that we have already reached the day in which our devices are predicting and reporting our behavior. And this is merely in the entertainment industry. What’s next?
Sharon Strove’s words touch upon several issues of note from the course. Her own purchasing experiences closely reflect current consumer trends in the technology and entertainment markets. The development of these trends can be traced back through to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
With the easing of restrictions for cross ownership in communication markets, the big fish in the corporate pond have just gotten bigger. Microsoft is the classic, if also clichéd, example; for instance, it has increased its market share in the gaming industry by diversifying its product line to target PC users as well as those interested in consoles (the Xbox).
There is also the issue of convergence and the response from producers, with proprietary ownership. Whether it be a Flat screen TV, a gaming console or even a state of the art PC, consumers can have a media center on par with mini-cinemas, in the comfort of their homes. However, the producers in the industry may not be all that keen to embrace an all-in-one unit device that answers all our needs.It’s like the audio recording industry; new formats lead to resale of whole catalogues to the public. Additionally, in this ‘digital age’, where information is space and not time binding, constantly changing data formats are a mine of gold for corporations.
So there isn’t much R&D going into creating a single entertainment center technology. Rather, money is flowing into what Ms. Strove termed “ancillary equipment”. Technology add-ons and accessories can cost more than a single bomb. A home theatre system with Dolby Digital surround sound can even cost more than the feature product (like the Flat screen TV). Producers can use advertising to create a brand image and to generate brand loyalty.
Another interesting issue is that the economics behind the market models are also changing. The internet uses subscriptions, ad support and information gathering on users, to finance operations set up by companies. However, we can now see that these strategies are being replicated in Tivo’s own marketing strategy.
The main problem that has been arising is the invasiveness of communication technology as it becomes a tool for producers to trace one’s activities. There is a fundamental lack of privacy even when one is closeted in one’s room. Such is the case of today’s society- even in isolation from others, information can still be collected on individuals. Market segments are categorized by increasingly specific demographics.
The suppression of the radical potential of the industry can be seen through the exploitation of consumers. Even with the purchase of a Tivo, consumers still have to endure the tracking of their activities. Producers using the Telecommunications Act of 1996 can enter new markets and strengthen existing market shares; however in the process they are also looking into increase profits which means that they will be passing the buck over in the form of exorbitant price tags on our technology products. Capitalism, is not always a good thing.
To me the points that Stover brings up in the article about new advances in technologies degrading our existing social spheres should not be viewed as a bad thing. Personalization of our entertainment has been a desire that has existed within us for lifetimes, and it is only until now that technology has been able to fill this desire. Years back when people went to see movies it wasn’t so that they could interact with people around them, they went soley for the reason of being entertained or maybe even interacting with the one or two people that they brought with them. The rest of the members of the audience were irrelevant, and if they could have been eliminated then it would have made for an even more enjoyable experience. With the advent of larger and larger TV screens and cinema quality surround sound this more preferable setting is now being realized. Now people can enjoy their movies with their friends and family in almost exactly the same way as they would in the movie theatre, without the added nuisances of crying babies, the constant ringing of cell phones, or the incessant task of trying to decifer the dialog of the actors from the conversation that is being held by the group of junior high kids sitting in the row behind you. To me this reduction in social contact brought about by the advent of these new technologies is something that we have always wanted and should not be looked down upon. People dont want to be social while they are being entertained, they just want to be entertained, and when they are being social more than likely at the same time they are not looking to be entertained. This separation is only natuarl and should therefore be embraced and not rejected.
High Definition and old televisons…
Mine is more of a question than a comment. I have been told that in the very near future, the TV’s I have, that are not high def compatible will be worthless. Can someone please elaborate on this subject, and send me some links so I may read more about it.
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Commodity or necessity?
Sharon Strover makes a valid point: screens are becoming a large part of our everyday lives. It is true, screens have taken over the world as we know it. From our cell phones to Playstation Portables to in-dash/headrest screens and even classroom lectures, we may watch the world behind the screen more than the one in front of our eyes. According to Robert Schrag’s FLOW article, “The Invasion of the Screen People”, screens are our main outlets of communication and sources for information. Because of this, our portals become larger, clearer, and more accessible –not to mention pricey. From Strover’s article one can ask if this is all really necessary.
We all know media’s proliferation allows us to choose what we want to watch and when. In this respect, it is quite possible to believe that big screen, plasma, TiVo, and HDTV have become the harbinger of ended social lives and the final polarizer of an already ideologically divided nation. The Texas Cable and Communications Association is obviously against this expansion of technology due to the fact that it tends to favor the high-media consuming customers (mostly owners of pricey TVs) and leave people who cant afford to keep up in the dust –an archetypal digital divide. Yet there is no hard evidence suggesting that TV technology makes us any more anti-social, or any more social, for that matter. TCCA’s fears are not unfounded, however –read on.
In my opinion, über-technological Television is just keeping up with the times. Starting with what Jim Collins labeled “televisuality” in the 80’s, TV became more based on the visual than on the textual. As a result, I would argue that the big screen was created so the audience can catch the new visual style all at once. Since technology is expanding and our need for information is increasing, we make sure our portals are up to par so as to handle what the media sends us. That is, of course, our purpose –to take in media and respond to it how we see fit. There are obviously some unwanted perks that come with the territory: the harvesting of what we watch and when by networks, however as fellow FLOW poster Loren Gibson believes, it is for the greater good.
In all truthfulness we don’t need big screen/TiVo/HDTV TVs. In my opinion spending over $1000 on a TV is improvident; yet again I myself do not watch a lot of television. Sadly, however, evil begets evil. If we the receiver are to keep up with the expansion and increasing demands of technology, we must upgrade our arsenal(s) lest we be left behind in the divide.
TV cocooning etc
With all due respect,the single spacing of your article makes it very hard to read.So I gave up a little bit of the way through. You might look at news web sites (BBC, CNN, NYTimes, etc) to see easier to read articles.Good idea for an article though.
Whose the Real Culprit?
I dont see big flat screen television on the market as a problem. If anything, its natural that our technologies, particularly our electronics, progress. Furthermore, i dont see the the public’s investment in these advancements as a crisis or an invasion of the private or public sphere. There is nothing wrong with the fact that the public can now see better visuals and hear better sound effects. Additionally, the flat screen is more subtle and takes up less space (no matter how large it is, it ‘s flat) and is aesthetically more appealing than the television, an intrusive cube, ever was. The shape, size, and quality of a television is completely irrelevant to the real issues at hand, issues that the public and the television industry were experiencing well before the birth of the flat screen. The natural inclination to invest in a new technology isn’t the reason why television has deeply penetrated our lives. Advertizing and commercialization are the true culprits for television’s intrusion into the private space though this isn’t news to anyone. Television before, and television now, has always been a portal for marketing no matter how technologically behind or advanced the actual television set was. In fact, whether one ” succumbs” into buying a flat screen wont alter the level at which we recieve intrusive elements because it is just as easy to reach an audience with an old-fashioned television. The urge and choice to remain isolated in the private space with all of these new alluring technologies isn’t any different than it was before. People have been “glued” to the television screen ever since the birth of the invention, with commercials or without them. Sure with the development of Tivo, the public can watch their favorite programs whenever they want, perhaps spending more time on the act of watching, since one can see favorite programs back to back, but this is a matter or self-control. Up until these new inventions i always thought that commercials were mainly responsible for holding the seems tv’s flow together, but thanks to Tivo ( which is compatable with old-fashioned TV’s as well) this shouldn’t be a problem either. However, investing in both of these technologies, tivo and flat screen, is selling out already. So how is the public going to avoid “making a deal with the devil” because no matter how you look at it, whether you invest in new technologies to avoid intrusion or you dont invest to avoid the intrusion or new technologies, the simplist, and perhaps only solution, is to not have a television at all. I simply dont understand what is so controversial about flat screen tv’s, whether they are big or small. As with many things in life, how much time one allows the tv to penetrate the household, is a personal choice, and no technology is going to change that whether its flat screen, tivo, DVR, whatever. Even when we face the “crisis” of commericials forcing their way into Tivo’s, there will probably be some other new and exciting way to stop that. Its a never ending cycle of investment. Rather than complaining about “giving in” to tv’s temptations, dont invest in tv, whether it be flat, cubed,small,big, digital, defined, at all. And if one is willing to partake in the televisual world, accept the fact that it is a constantly evolving medium and that, though its tempting, no one is being forced to buy anything. So what if there are more options of how, where, when, and why to watch tv? Aren’t options a good thing, and whats wrong with aspiring to be better? Because we are vulnerable to invest and give into televisions temptations, it is far easier to blame television rather than ourselves, for our participation.
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