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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Media in 2012

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 7, 2012

When you looked at television for the very first time, how many channels were available to view?  (and they have to be clear channels, not rolling or fuzzy!)


If you answered between one and five channels, you are probably over 50 years old.


The new book, “7 – an experimental mutiny against excess” by Jen Hatmaker devotes a whole chapter to “media” in a book that examines our lives today, and how we can review topics from clothing to possessions, and spending to media.


I am not promoting a particular lifestyle devoid of media, but rather looking at how media has changed in our lives in recent history.


Returning to the TV question, if you first used a television before 1960, chances are that you could view fewer than 5 channels.


I can remember turning on the TV about 1958 and selecting from 3 channels, once you adjusted the antenna and made sure the booster was in the “on” position, or the rabbit ears were turned to the best angles.


Depending on your source of TV signals, today we can select from countless channels around the dial; oops, I mean from the push button selector.


In her book, the Hatmaker Family of Austin decided to change their media style for a month to see how it changed their life.


They retained two specific tasks in today’s society: texting if it is a time-saver and/or necessary, and the Internet if it related to jobs and life.  All the rest, including TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, and radio were all turned off for the month.


The first 12 days were a period of adjustment, both successful and unsuccessful; but finally the family settled into a lifestyle of cooking together, taking walks, porch time, craft projects, actual phone calls, and reading books.


Jen did some research on information and the media.  In 2008, people in the U.S. consumed 3 times more information than they did in 1960.  We “switch information” sources an average of 37 times an hour from computers to e-mail, to different Internet sites.


As the family moved towards the end of the month, and the end of their media reorganization, the older family members reflected on how our lives have changed in a relatively short period of time.


Do you remember when we wrote and mailed letters written on paper?  We left messages on answering machines, and weren’t shocked at not receiving a response for days.  Now we are nervous if we are “unplugged” for 3 hours.


Remember when a phone was to call and talk to people, period.


The Hatmaker Family returned to their media sources at the end of the month, but it was an abridged schedule of TV and Internet and gaming, and “we certainly gained a new perspective on them all.”


“Think about the things you’d most hate to lose (outside your family), and you’ll identify your idols.  We place this stuff on a pedestal that wasn’t built for it.”


Most futurists say that the “smart phone” will likely be our framework for the future, as it combines communication with all of the familiar media including television, radio, and newspaper into one access point.


Add the various iPad devices and assorted online connections, and we take all of our contact points with us.  But at the same time, we need to be sure these devices don’t “run our lives” and we retain time to “smell the roses.”


I was trying to explain to a younger person what used to happen to televisions, and wasn’t being successful.


The TV picture would be fuzzy, or snowy, due to interference between the TV set and the source of the signal.  There were various dials and adjustments that could be made, but success in getting a clear picture was less than expected.


Sometimes the TV picture would roll, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  The picture seemed better on a damp rainy night for some reason, other times the tube man had to come with his case of replacement TV tubes.


Today, we sit and enjoy a perfect picture on a screen many times larger than years ago, interrupted only by an occasional movement of square boxes out-of-line.


As the Hatmakers found out, are we in control of our media, or does it control us?