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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

ambiguity, irreverence, commentary & judgement

found via brain pickings via TED

here is my quick summary of what lauren says

- most people watch tv - in usa people watch on average 5hrs a day
- some see tv as stupid but  lauren's idea is that tv has a conscience
- in that it reflects the moral, political, social, emotional states of nations

- in saying this she is talking about the top rated shows over 50 years in the usa
- and how what was popular evolved over time

- so she and others did a research study taking the top 20 shows every year over 50 years
- they then talked to around 3600 people to find out how they felt when watching these shows

moral ambiguity and inspiration
- in this 1st graph - inspiration means people were uplifted, more positive about world
- and moral ambiguity ='s shows in which people didn't understand the difference between right and wrong

- in the 1960's inspiration is holding steady but toward the end moral ambiguity starts to climb
- why? cuban missile crisis, jfk shot, civil rights movement, race riots, vietnam, watergate
- in the 1970's inspiration plummets and moral ambiguity takes off and they cross
- then a telegenic Ronald Reagan is president and inspiration recovers a little
- but it can't  - AIDS, iran-contra, the challenger disaster, chernobyl.
- moral ambiguity becomes the dominant meme in television from 1990 for the next 20 years.

irreverence, social commentary & comfort
 - look at this next chart where comfort, social commentary and irreverance are mapped

- early on domestic shows are all about comfort, then in the 1960's irreverence starts to rise
- and slightly after irreverence social commentary is spiking up
- so in 1969 all 3 measures are broadly at the same level 
- which corresponds with the 1st time there is a show that allows viwewers to say, "my god, I can comment on how I feel about vietnam, the presidency, through television?"
- then just like the last chart, look what happens - in 1970 the dam bursts.
- comfort is no longer why we watch television. 
- social commentary and irreverence (like "M*A*S*H") rise throughout the 70s.
- (a note to digital folk here - we didn't invent disruptive - the comfort approach on TV was being shoved out of the easy chair 40 years ago).

fantasy/imagination and unemployment
- or look at this graph with 2 attributes
- fantasy and imagination - shows which "take me out of my everyday realm" and "makes me feel better."
- mapped against the bureau of labor dept. statistic for unemployment

- every time fantasy and imagination shows rise (like "the bionic women",  "the $6m dollar man" or "charlie's angels" in the 1970's) it maps to a spike in unemployment. 
- another spike in the 1980s reflects shows like "dallas"

humour and judgement
 - and finally look at this graph for the last 20 years - the rise of reality tv

- in the 1990's we have humour "friends," "frasier," "cheers" and "seinfeld"
- everything is good with low unemployment
- X marks the spot in 2001 when humour succumbs to judgment once and for all
- and why not? - a 2000 presidential election is decided by the Supreme Court, there' s the bursting of the tech bubble and, or course 9/11
- so at the turn of the century, as the internet takes off, reality television has taken hold. 
- what do people want in their TV then as their world is falling apart - revenge? nostalgia? comfort? 
- no - they want judgment - to keep somebody dancing in "strictly" or to choose the next "american idol" or to watch peolle being fired on "the apprentice"

but we still need our mums
- and all the way through this 50 years
- there has not been a decade of television without a definitive, dominant TV mom.

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