Ponderings in front of a blank screen

The Blank Static Screen
Sitting in front of the blank television screen this morning, I noticed the reflection of myself in the glass. I wondered what would come to me; ideas for a TV documentary, a recount of “Two and a Half Men” that was airing when I came home from school last night? None of this came to me. Instead, I started looking at my computer sitting on the coffee table and getting the itch to read up on the latest news. What was on the 570News webpage this morning? My curiosity was piquing. Ever since I left my Saturday morning anchor job at the station back in March, I’ve not wanted to fall out of the loop with local news. I regularly enjoy my cup of coffee while surfing until I feel “in the know” again.

I resisted picking up my laptop and turned back to the blank screen. I absorbed and enjoyed the silence momentarily. With three children still sleeping in their beds, I could think without a series of interruptions. Soon my mind was drifting around the classes I had at Ryerson this week. Would I be able to get my head back into scholarly work since graduating from RTA in ’93? I assured myself that I would, as I have been taking courses in the Educational field quite regularly. It’s the content that would change.

I started to wonder what was Marusya’s purpose in asking us to stare at a blank screen? Surely, we would all be thinking about different things. The writers would be visualizing their next project on screen, the techies would be visualizing aesthetic shots or transitions of some day-dreamed screenplay,and the cerebral would be thinking about the psychological, developmental, societal, and cultural effects of a world without TV. And then there’s the intrapersonal types like myself who at some point will start to reflect inward.

My thoughts were interrupted by the smell of coffee and I realized my husband was in the room. He brought me a cup of “Pluto’s diet drink” (a reference made by an anonymous coffee house “watcher” found in the article, “A parcel of muddling muckworms’ we studied in Audiences and the Public) While I was taking my third sip, my five year old daughter came into the room, walked past me and turned on Spongebob Squarepants. I wasn’t going to ruin her Saturday morning routine so I moved to the next room before my 20 minutes of blank TV staring was up.

I started to think about what I needed for Monday’s class. We are discussing the Effects of Media in our night time lectures of Media Production. Drawing parallels between staring at a blank screen and the effects of media, I decided to dig out my David Buckingham book and read the chapter on “New Media Childhoods” I thought it would be good practice for gathering scholarly research and give me some information to prepare me for the discourse that would take place over the effects of media on children.

Of interest was Buckingham’s take on Neil Postman’s book, “The Disappearance of Childhood” (1983) in which he claims that the media are destroying childhood primarily with the increased access to information. Postman believes the modern conception of childhood was created by the print media,and that new media such as television destroys childhood as we don’t have to learn to read or interpret television, whereas acquiring print literacy took a long period of apprenticeship. He believes Television is a “total disclosure medium” through which children learn “secrets” about adult life -sex, drugs, violence….this information was previously hidden in the specialized code of print. As a result children are increasingly coming to behave like adults, and to demand access to adult privileges. (p 19, David Buckingham Media Education:Learning and Contemporary Culture, 2006, Polity Press).

Buckingham calls him a “technological determinist”, in which “technology is seen to produce social (and indeed psychological) change, irrespective of how it is used, or the representations it makes available” (p19)..Buckingham says Postman, “wants to return to an imaginary Golden Age of traditional moral values – and thereby to reinforce adult authority and control”. Postman is also directly opposed to the use of television in education; “for him, the school is the last bastion in the defence of print culture” (p19).

I agree with Buckingham that Postman is a “technological determinist”. Technology is essentially a tool and it is the intent and purpose in its use that actually determines the affect on an audience. As for Postman’s idea that the destruction of childhood through increased access to information by the use of Television to let children in on adult secrets, if Postman were writing this today wouldn’t he say that the destruction of childhood is exponentially higher because of the access to information through the Internet? Firewalls and parental controls only go so far and some computers are sitting in children’s bedrooms where parents can’t monitor their children’s Internet activity and content exposure.

If childhood has been destroyed exponentially from an increase in access to “adult secrets”, it certainly doesn’t jive with recent statistics on the delayed maturation of today’s young adults. If anything, the increase of access may have contributed to a lengthened maturation rate of young adults. I wonder if the exposure to adult secrets through traditional and new media has sufficiently frightened young adults into a holding pattern where they are in no hurry to leave the home, begin a career, and have a family. Of course, this is notwithstanding the progressive impact that the economic landscape and other aspects of culture have had on this age group. It would be narrow-minded to think of media impact as the sole factor.

Sufficiently filling myself with research for Media Production class, a loud sound from the other room confirming that I am needed elsewhere. Jelly fish have descended en masse inside Sponge Bob’s home and are stinging him. My daughter, Abbey is asking if he is going to die. Time for some “parental sit-down and explain time” as we watch the TV show together.

“A parcel of muddling muckworms’: revisiting Habermas and the English coffee-houses” Social & Cultural Geography, Vol. 8, No. 2, April2007, Routledge). I cross-referenced the term on the Internet and found it in a book by Henry C. Shelley called “Inns and Tavern of Old London”, published in 2004 on the Project Gutenberg site. Further searches reveal the book was first published in 1909

“Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture, “New Media Childhoods”, chapter 2, Polity, 2003
The phenomenon of a delayed maturation in young adults has become common knowledge, though it is worth researching where the statistics were first published. This would not be neglected in a scholarly article, but is being neglected here as this piece has fulfilled its purpose as a diary journal. Reviewing the MLA Style Guide will be reserved for another day.
Purdue OWL. “MLA Formatting and Style Guide.” The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 10 May 2008. Web. 15 Nov. 2008.

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