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Too Much TV

An article at the New York Times got me thinking again about the tension between consumers and producers of content. The article talks about how people are starting to use computers to exert control over their consumption of television. I like this bit where someone finally gets it:

"These high-tech tricks address desires that have become standard in an age of instant media gratification: the desire to watch what you want, when and how you want it."

Replace "watch" with "listen" and think about the business model Apple has with Itunes. People don't want to steal things digitally. At least [I think], most people --they just want what they want, and they want it now.

Some people get that. Steve Jobs does. I think Bill Gates does. For sure Mark Cuban does:

"So Hollywood has a choice. They can change their business model of windowed distribution of movies and significantly impede any potential impact of camcordering and internet downloads. How?"

"They can release DVDs day and date with their theatrical release. Let the customer consume the movie exactly the way the customer wants to get it. What a concept. Shocking isn't it."

Lawrence Lessig: "Free Culture":

"The way people connect to the Internet (wires vs. wireless) is changing very quickly. No doubt the network should not become a tool for "stealing" from artists. But neither should the law become a tool to entrench one particular way in which artists (or more accurately, distributors) get paid.

For now I have stopped using my mythtv box. Too much time watching it. Seemed silly to maintain one just so I could watch Sealab 2021. Time to read. Study. Think more, watch less. That's where Sealab was perfect. It's only like 10 minutes long --not even long enough to squeeze in a commercial. I can do tv at 10 minutes a week. Or can I...

NYTimes: Steal This Show (Lorne Manly and John Markoff)

Blog Maverick: Is it illegal to collect movies? (Mark Cuban)


Edison's Legacy

Simon Schaffer speaking about the development and marketing of the electric light bulb (from the BBC documentary "Light Fantastic -The Stuff of Light"):

"Perhaps the most important problem the Edison system faced was that you only need to turn the lights on at night. And that meant that electric light was only going to be used for a very limited part of each 24 hours. Now you can't easily store electric power. It's really inefficient and costly only to run an electric system for a very limited period of the night."

"The answer was to persuade a skeptical public to buy more and more devices which ran on electricity. That would make sure that they were customers of the electric company on a 24/7 basis. Edison's revolutionary insight was that to sell electricity he needed to sell a lifestyle."

"No stone was left unturned to convince a skeptical public that electric lighting was the new future. Edison's campaign to market electricity and the electric light bulb really set the tone for consumer marketing ever since. Because what Edison realized was that he wasn't so much selling light bulbs, he was selling dreams--dreams of light--of leisure--of less work. People were buying Edison's light bulbs not so much because they needed them, but because they had that dream, that vision--of a world of light. And that technique that Edison started with his sales campaigns for electric light bulbs has dominated marketing ever since--and it's been kept going--whether you're selling cars or whether you're marketing computers."

"Today... light bulbs are everywhere. They've become the symbol of a modern thrusting 24 hour seven day a week society. It's a world that has harnessed the genius of Maxwell with the brillance of Edison to give us more control over our environment than ever before."

"Or has it? For many it's encouraged a world where most people may in reality have less control than before. Why is it exactly that we live in a 24/7 society? Is it because we really want to? Or is it rather because it's the dictates of the machines that they become profitable if they're switched on all the time. Is it that we live in a world because we've choosen to live in a world that's lit every single day and every single night? Is it not rather the demand for profit and engineering that keeps the world going just as it does? So it looks as though these technologies of artificial light give us an unprecedented control over the world around us. But maybe, just maybe, we're the victims. We're under the control of machines and the market."

An excerpt from Jacques Ellul's "The Technological Society":

"In our cities there is no more day or night or heat or cold. But there is overpopulation, thraldom to press and television, total absence of purpose. All men are constrained by means external to them to ends equally external. The further the technical mechanism develops which allows us to escape natural necessity, the more we are subjected to artificial technical necessities. . . The artificial necessity of technique is not less harsh and implacable for being much less obviously menacing than natural necessity."


Inside Out

I'm watching this Charlie Rose interview with Laurie Anderson --pretty interesting. Couple things she said struck me enough to record them here:

"In a way the whole idea of avantgarde might be impossible now... maybe. Just because as soon as you put something out, wow, it's really out now!"

"Get me out into the world... cause you know... you have this illusion when you're doing stuff on your computer or on the net or something that you're out there. You're really looking at like these rickety crummy graphics... I was getting really isolated so everything I've done since then has been like outside."

Reminds me of a passage from Frederick Barthelme's novel "Two Against One". It kind of stuck with me:

Roscoe joined Edward at the window, standing beside him, staring out at the kids. "My thinking is, you know, we're in here, in this dark little room, behind this shaded glass here, behind these blinds, and we're standing here, the two of us. They're out there. I mean, look how much space they've got and look how much space we've got. It's as if we can't handle it. We start out in the open, and as we get older, we find smaller and smaller spaces, smaller houses, smaller rooms, until we get to the pine room."


Old Habits

Watched a bit of television last night. Didn't have a lot of time so I skipped through the stuff I was watching. 60 minutes had a bit about eugenics that looked interesting but I wanted to see the segment about the muslim womam comedian --so I just skipped through and watched that. Then I watched the Dave Chappelle interview on Charlie Rose.

Later it occurred to me that my tv viewing habits have changed (imagine that eh.) Like most people I have the habit of just putting on the television and kind of half watching it while engaged in something else. Thinking about it later I thought that what I had done was more like "empowered television" or "active viewing", I didn't and don't need to be passively engaged when consuming television.

One feature I wouldn't mind having on my mythtv box would be a means to save little clips as I'm watching a show. Every now and then I'll be watching (this happens mostly when watching Charlie Rose) and I'll go "what did he just say?" It's as if a chink in the corporate media fell away briefly and something real slipped through.

It would be nice to be able to feature a little clip of something I had seen on tv --embedding it right into this web page. People do this all the time with books and magazines. What is it that's different about television that would make this not ok?



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