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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

What Are You Doing Right Now?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Source: Douglas Rushkoff

A study conducted by the good folks at Ball State University (hat tip: Scott and Troy) has found that the Average American spends more time using media devices than she spends doing anything else while she is awake.

Get that: more than any other waking activity, the average American interacts with media devices.

This is deeply troubling for two reasons: first, we must be the first civilization since the dawn of time to spend the measurable majority of our time interacting with experiences mediated through electronic devices, be they televisions, computers, iPods, or radios. And what would you expect from a people who interact more with screens than they do with people? A decline in civility? A rise in violent crime? The failure of pariticipatory democracy?

The other reason this is troubling is that most media exists for the sake of advertising. This means that the average American spends the lion's share of his day subjecting himself to advertising messages. The report doesn't miss this fact: "Media strategies should perhaps no longer be media centric," it says, "but should focus on consumers. For example, if media usage increases on Fridays based on the assumption that people are planning social activities, then this would be potentially the best day to advertise movies, drink and food specials and other products."

A proposed benefit of all of this media-consumption is that we are becoming a people more capable of multi-tasking, interacting with more than one media at a time (as I type, I am listening to music at the same time--John Hiatt, if you must know). And what is that good for? I'll leave that for others to answer. But I will suggest that the ability to concentrate--really concentrate--on one thing at a time is one valuable capacity that we are rapidly losing. The more I interact with media, the harder it is for me to pay attention to my wife, my work, and my self.

T.S. Eliot has famously asked, "Where is the knowledge we have lost in information"; to the proposed benefit of multi-tasking, a contemporary poet might ask: "where is the work we have lost in tasks?"

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:12 AM


So I'll admit to not having not quite finishing this post just yet, but I'm working on it I promise. And I admit this is totally off subject but I thought you might enjoy it.

commented by Blogger Ryno, 1:18 PM  
I'll also admit to not quite knowing how to use tenses.
commented by Blogger Ryno, 1:18 PM  
We recently had two women over for dinner who had been visiting our church for about 4 weeks - they were temporarily sent out by their pastor in the Bruderhof Community which they are members of in Pennsylvania. It struck me in reading this that they have very little, if any, interaction with media, and how their lives are truly about relationship. They were fascinating people, and this blog made me think of how much simpler, and perhaps more fulfilling, their lives are.
commented by Anonymous Jerilyn, 12:49 PM  

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