Christine Rosen’s article “The Age of Egocasting” provides some
interesting food for thought…

I have had an iPod for several years but don’t
have a TiVo yet, tho I have been eyeing Humax’s DVD-R/TiVo combination device for some
time. It amazes me to consider how quickly I can make original song mixes with
my iPod and iTunes on our home computer (now literally in a matter of seconds)
when I used to spend hours and hours with lots of different CDs to functionally
do the same thing in college using cassette tapes. I have been rationalizing
that getting a TiVo would allow me and other family members to have more control
over our TV viewing: to watch programs of actual quality at times of our
choosing, rather than the times the network channel chooses to broadcast… but
also predicting that such a purchase would likely lead to a net increase in TV
watching time, which is not necessarily a good way to spend
heartbeats…

Rosen’s article “The Age of Egocasting” is a bit lengthy but
very informative, tracing the historical development of the TV, remote control,
and music/video recorders and playback devices to our present age of iPods and
DVRs. I am also a huge fan of Neil Postman, including his book
“Amusing Ourselves to Death”, and this article
is right in line with many of his contentions about our cultural love affair
with broadcast technology– so I found it quite thought
provoking.

In the conclusion of her
article, Rosen asserts that by using our iPods and TiVos “we are encouraging the
flourishing of some of our less attractive human tendencies: for passive
spectacle; for constant, escapist fantasy; for excesses of consumption.” I am a
huge advocate for the benefits of face-to-face instruction relative to purely
distance delivered instruction, unplugging periodically (declaring a “snow day” and unplugging from all
things technological), and being extremely wary when it comes to the benefits of
TV watching… so I am with Rosen, philosophically for most of her article. I am
sure people who are addicted to their TV sets thanks (in part perhaps) to their
TiVo(s) justify this assertion by Rosen… and since I am not a TiVo user myself
(yet), maybe I am unqualified to really offer a defense to her attack. None the
less…

We all need to remain
intentionally vigilant when it comes to controlling the media content which
enters our brains via our eyes and ears. One of our presenters at TCEA last month
discussed how much more powerful images are than the written word, in terms of
the speed with which our brains process the information conveyed by the image. I
have little doubt there is an inherent element of power and lasting influence
when it comes to multimedia that text cannot match. That being said, I think
technologies (like iPods and DVRs) which permit people to have more deliberate
and intentional control over the multimedia they expose themselves and those
around them to can be very good
things.

Case in point: commercial
radio. I rarely ever listen to it anymore, and when I do, I am so irritated and
distracted by the advertisements that I usually end up quickly switching
channels. We, fortunately, have several commercial-free radio stations here in
Lubbock, and those free
options
(no, I don’t subscribe to satellite radio) are my usual
choices when I am without my iPod or it needs a charge (which is
rare.)

Commercial television is
another case in point: I just despise watching television commercials, and
dislike even more having my children subjected to them. PBS absolutely ROCKS.
Thank goodness many of my children’s favorite shows currently show on PBS, so
they are subjected to far less direct marketing (comparatively speaking) than
they would be if they were watching other
channels.

Even though we have many
conservative legislators in power who seem intent on trying to roll back the
moral free-fall of television programming, I don’t think they will ultimately be
very successful. We can’t rely on government to solve this one– we all can turn
the channel or (imagine this) turn the TV off. And now, thanks to DVRs, we can
record the shows we want and skip the ads. I think that prospect is
FANTASTIC.

No, we certainly don’t
want the average person in the United States to be such a self-absorbed, focused
consumer of multimedia that they become totally out of touch with the issues of
the day and the perspectives of others around them. That is one reason I so
adamantly think students (of all ages) should be engaged in the creation of
multimedia, rather than simply the passive consumption of it. That is a primary
goal and activity in the Advanced Multimedia and Video class I am honored to be
teaching
this term for some graduate and undergraduate students here
in Lubbock.

So, I think Rosen is
being a bit too drastic in her conclusions. But her thoughts are still well
worth reading and considering.

I say,
people with iPods and TiVos (as well as those without) should become media
content creators– don’t just get a life, get an iLife!
Have you spent any time just playing with a keyboard or even a built-in computer
keyboard using Garageband 2? If not, do it! I don’t think I’m
going to give Peter Gabriel a run for his money anytime soon, but I sure am
going to have fun trying!

If iPods,
TiVos, and iLife
software
(or its equal in the Windows world, which I haven’t seen or
heard of yet if it exists) can give people more creative control over their
lives– and we still remember our need to just turn all this stuff off
periodically and unplug– like the authors of the TechTonic Report
recommend
— then I think Rosen doesn’t need to worry. We’ll be
ok.

But if most of us insist on
thinking the ultimate in technology use is still defined within the context of
Microsoft Office and at the controls of a Playstation, xBox, or Gamecube…. and
we keep tuning in to the tube more than we tune into the lives of those people
around us who matter most…. then there probably are good reasons to
worry.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.

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