Monday, January 14, 2013

something, something, something, tube monkeys

There is a rather ridiculous saying that goes something like; "if you took 1000 monkeys and gave them 1000 typewriters & 1000 years, they would be able to write all the works of Shakespeare."

Obviously whoever penned that (and those that repeat it in earnest) have never tried to write anything of poetic, moral, and witty substance, nor grasp the fundamentals of statistical analysis, nor have ever given any thought to how a monkey and a typewriter would logically interact.

Given the 1000 etc. scenario, I would imagine the most likely outcome would be closer to prime time programming on FOX, TBS, WGN, UPN, MTV or the WB. Or a pile of plastic & metal parts, confetti and 150 or so ink covered monkeys - primates tend to be rather irrationally violent creatures, all the more so as the size of their respective brains increase. In short, the standards to which programming in this country aspire to make monkeys of us all.

Ever tried to watch a "documentary" on DISC or NAT GEO? Well, here's something you should try next time you do... In the 22 or 45 minutes of actual programming, make three tally lists. The first will be a tally of how many times the announcer (or voice over, whatever) repeats in one or two sentences what the program is about on the most basic level, i.e. "we now return to the search for ____." The second list will tally the number of times the basic thesis of the documentary, i.e. "The search for ____ is difficult because; ______ happened 1200 years ago, is under 3000 ft of water, and requires some modern scientific - whatever." The final tally will be a list of separate, and valid, items of information or knowledge, like this was a ship belonging to so-and-so of the Persian Empire, or this ship design was groundbreaking as it used a new type of sail which enabled _____."

Sadly the first tally will almost always (in my experience) be the longest, and the third the shortest. And this is educational TV!

No one might say, "Hey, but why do you focus on TV and not books, or lectures by academics?"

Well, considering the evolution of technology and its increasing integration into our lives we need a more efficient way to combine & compress data streams, which means using audio, pictorial and textual  information in as interwoven a form as possible... such as showing a graph of statistics along with a picture or image while there is some sort of monologue explaining whats going on that all happen simultaneously, in the interest of efficiency. Sound like a documentary on TV, just a bit? It's the present, not the future. The next step will most likely add some kinetic elements, as well as feedback or participation from the viewer.

The flip-side of this trend appears to be the current one. Lots of pointless repetition (I would assume that after two or three minutes, most folks haven't forgotten that they are watching a show about a ship of antiquity), very little actual substance (that third tally) or really meaningless topics (like who would win in a fight; a tiger or a lion - thinking of the DISC show "VS." or some equally retarded name/ premise).

The "boob tube" is omnipresent in society, especially when it is the most affordable type of childcare available to many parents. That's a shame, as it's most honest moniker is the "idiot box." 

No comments:

Post a Comment