the television generation – dead or alive


I observed myself behaving in a very curious way tonight. It was about 9:30p and i was making an attempt at a study session in the newly constructed Academic building on WWU’s campus. Next thing i knew it was 10:30p and i was completely involved debating, criticizing, and applauding teams on America’s best dance crew airing on MTV.

Personally i am a moderate consumer of the idiot box (TV) but tonight all the media filters faded away to the degree that i did not even notice the adverts during the break. Many of my peers claim they don’t watch TV but tonight’s experience really makes me question; Is the television generation dead?

Some basic googling and (i like to think better than average) web crawling skills yielded these results. The essence of television can be connected back to Uses & Gratification concept. This is essentially a way for media researchers to understand why and how media is consumed. Here is a quote “It (uses & gratification) presents the use of media in terms of the gratification of social or psychological needs of the individual (Blumler & Katz 1974)”

We watch television to satisfy an underlying social or psychological need. Now there are other ways to satisfy these needs like sports, social clubs, hobby groups etc. so why TV? The third element to this is convenience, having food delivered is so much nicer than going grocery shopping, washing & cleaning, cooking, and doing dishes.

Denis McQuail offers (McQuail 1987: 73) the following typology of common reasons for media use:

  • Information
  • Personal Identity
  • Integration and Social Interaction
  • Entertainment
    I realize the research i am quoting above is pretty dated but if you take a moment to reflect like i did are these 4 reasons for television consumption true today? They are for me, some more than others but true nonetheless.
    Another thought school says that TV is mostly consumed by unhappy people, in other words it has a negative relationship to happiness. The study done by researchers at University of Chicago surveyed more than 40,000 people over 35 years. Now that is a lot of raw data to support that conclusion but it just does not seem right.
    I dont deny that there is an unknown percentage of population out there that watches TV for this reason to get away from “real life” but i am not sure they dominate the numbers because if TV made them happy they should stop watching but that is not the case. (As much as i would like to entertain government mind control techniques here, lets just skip right over them, go crazy in the comments)

For now i am compelled to draw the conclusion that TV is more than just related to happiness. A social lubricant, distraction, medium to individual identity, television is not going away anytime soon. Despite the emergence of new media television endures on, maybe its the convenience all i know for sure is the idiot box took over my being for an hour today and it was really fun.

until next time

namaste.

p.s. feb 1st date to the digital tv transition has been pushed back and check out the articles below very interesting reads.

Source articles:

http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/usegrat.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/health/research/20happy.html

Update: This is a picture from the night taken right after one of the groups finished performing.

(pictured left to right: rhea, dat, cicero, domo and john)

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