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June 1994


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Dave Trautman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 30 Jun 1994 11:02:57 MDT
text/plain (75 lines)
        Reply to:   Psychology and TV
John Writes:
"It is really a medium of time rather than a medium of artistic
People in the TV broadcast industry talk about it in terms of selling time,
targeting audiences in time, scheduling, windows, bracketing, and all the
rest.  Essentially TV sells views to advertisers by attracting them to a
time when the advertiser's message is ready to play.  In that way the
psychological "dependence" that people develop toward their "favourite"
programming is useful to the broadcasters to attract advertising.
Further, people have no trouble "saying" that TV is generally quite bad.
What they have trouble with is that they cannot imagine television being
really very good at all.  The whole "snob" value of putting down TV serves
everyone equally.  If people followed their own advice then TV programming
would shift to attract them back with whatever they imagine a "high brow"
might want to see for a "time".
Here in Canada we have this debate (which may be a national pastime) in
which we decry the state of the film industry because it depends so heavily
on the U.S. market for viability.  Then we moan about the influx of
American television both on the cable systems and with our own networks
without noticing that we are watching it anyway.  No matter how high the
quality of Canadian production gets we never seem to feel it's ever good
enough.  And I've enjoyed watching people talk about that terrific movie
they went to while knowing that it was shot in Canada with Canadian crews
and looks indistinguishable from popular fare.  We, here, seem to be
psychologically challenged to accept that our content is as good as anyone
And to Brian:
"Television has then successfully invaded the most intimate recesses of
peoples lives"
The appliance that occupies so much of our time has an appeal which speaks
to our inner self-esteem.  I have a colleague who talks about this in terms
of a viewer developing a kind of "social" autism.  They become increasingly
less interested in risking themselves to social situations and find comfort
in the predictability, the familiarity, and the "warmth" of the electronic
hearth.  Even the bad stuff seems good on TV.
I often like to tell the story about how I was shooting a very long shot of
a fireplace for a Christmas program and I was surrounded by a lot of TV
people enjoying themselves at a Christmas party.  I began to notice that
when people came into the room they would watch the fire on the monitor
much more than the "real" one right next to it.  I talked to someone there
about that and they didn't know what to make of it either.  It would seem
that the representation of the fire on the video screen was a much more
interesting (or stimulating) image than the flickering and crackling one in
front of the camera.  I've done this also with people watching other people
on monitors.  If you set up in a public place, people will take the time to
watch the monitor more often than the "real" people.  Now I suppose there
is something out hoping to find out what's going on "through" watching the
monitor, but I've seen this hapen in so many situations with both
sophisticated and non-professional viewers that I think it means something.
I believe that television has invaded the deepest recesses of that process
within ourselves that helps define our identity.  And, for those who have
that process impaired through neglect or abuse, the way that television
viewing shapes our image of ourselves has almost nothing to do with what is
on the screen.
For film it is a different story.
Because we can locate the effect of that movie on our sense of self in a
specific place and time (and with specific people) we are able to examine
the psychological impact, or change, within ourselves.  John notes this
very well when he refers to the continual nature of television.  When TV
stations "signed on" and "signed off" each day the viewing experience could
be separated from the rest of our interpersonal activities.  Now that
television programming is like a pool we swim in (or an eternal fire we
visit) then the experience of it lacks a location, a time, or a separation
from the rest of our experiences.
I love to read studies in which people are asked where they read something
and they state categorically that they read it in the newspaper when in
fact the only source was network television.  This happened a lot during
the Gulf War especially.
That's enough for now.