Remember that hit by The Buggles from many years ago “Video killed the Radio Star”?
Well, media has moved on a lot from just video and with the advent of MP3 and internet downloads, even the vaunted video star has fallen from grace. We live in a virtual techno-world which is media rich – just google it and a world of information appears at your fingerprints on virtually any subject under the sun. Swich on the TV and be dazzled by a massive diversity of channels competing for your entertainment. Switch on your internet radio and tune in to stations from around the world. Get news reports sent to your mobile phone. The question is; with all this surfeit of information are we more or less informed than but a few generations ago? Are we, this generation which has more knowledge instantly accessible to us, more informed and more discriminatory than those who went before? Or are we just little ignorant savages that can bring up information but cannot discern the value of it?
Let me explain what I mean.
My grandmother left school when she was around 12 years old. That’s how it was back for young girls in the early 1900’s. Of all the many people I have met in my life, I feel she knew more than any of them. But she had little formal education. There were few books for her to read and her main source of information was the radio. She loved to tune in to her big old transistor radio with the glowing orange valves. I can still see it – a grainy image imprinted on my memory. She also liked to read her Bible. And she enjoyed conversing with her many friends. Her wisdom came from how she dealt with life, how she coped with adversity (Her husband – David Vance – died when she was 54 years old) and how she appreciated the important things and disregarded the passing trivialities. When she died, in 1996, it was the biggest loss I had ever encountered in my life – and only my father’s passing last year caused me that same intense sense of anguish. She knew how to manage money – not that she had very much. Her attitude was to pay her way, not to be a borrower. She gave to charity, gave to family – and all from the tuppence of a widow’s pension. She knew how to run her domestic budget, how to maintain her property – and how to ensure that all financial possibilities were covered. That was prudence, that was careful management.
But how many people today show financial propriety? Who holds back on treating themselves to things they cannot comfortably afford? Who puts cash aside for a rainy day? And yet, don’t we have internet banking, all done at the press of a button? Don’t we have sophisticated financial advisers there to guide us as to how to get the best return on our cash? In fact, don’t we earn so much more than the generations that have been before us? Are we happier, more solvent?
News came in limited format for many decades in the past century. A daily paper, perhaps. News headlines every hour on the radio – and then as we moved through the 6o’s and into the 70’s – a bit more frequently. Now we have a 24/7 news cycle – a tree falls in a forest and we get live in-depth analysis with instant replays. How does it make you feel? More satisfaction that you are in touch with what is happening everywhere at anytime or more angst that you know about events over which you have absolutely no control?
We also live in an era of multi-channel TV. I can remember back when there were just two channels, then three…and finally four. I recall how TV finished at around 11.30pm with the playing of the National Anthem. Is it an improvment to have dozens, if not hundreds of TV channels to passively watch? Is the quality of programmes now so much superior?
The internet, of course, is the most recent media advance and it is one that brings us mixed blessings. If it did not exist, you and I could not communicate. The upside to it is that you have to actively seek me out here on ATW, it is a conscious decision you make and if you comment, then that is a further decision you are making – so much more similar to a conversation. I have to make the effort to provide content that you think is interesting and worthy of your time. That’s the good bit. The stranger bit is that whilst you know who I really am, I may not know you at all and yet you can engage with me on debate of some serious matters. This is a new development and not one that happened in the past. I find it curious – not good, not bad, just curious. Because of the longevity of ATW, I have gotten to know quite a few of you who read this in real life and have even met some of you. So I think that this new form of media communication is more stimulating and rewarding than other forms of passive media intereactions and can lead to friendships. Of course it also brings problems, with cyberstalkers, cranks and plain lunatics. What I find remarkable is the easy familiarity that many here use when discussing issues with each other. Few, if any of you, know the other and yet conversations run hot and heavy. Would you talk to real life friends the way you talk to the ATW commentariat? Does the anonymity of the net create the space that makes you comment so directly?
The diversity of the modern media means that it is not a shared experience for most of us. We all live in our own favourite channels, I suppose.
I’ll be blunt – I think that TV is a real and present danger to the human mind. It dumbs down, it creates passivity – it is harmful. Radio is a little better since the power of imagination prevails. The Net is great since it requires participation but offers wide variety. However is this all a diversion from real life? Do we seek to be remembered for the weighty comments we leave on blogs? Or could we be all be doing better things than this? Do you ever think thoughts like this?
I believe that it is sheer folly to think this generation is more informed that those which have gone before. We lack religious faith, we lack certainty. The middle ages gave us Shakespeare, this decade gives us X-Factor and American Pop Idol. People may access media more readily than at any other time in human history but I honestly do not believe for one second this is necessarily to our advantage.
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” Aldous Huxley
You don’t need an IPOD to figure that.