MIT 2000 Lecture on Television

5 Pages

Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

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Lecture on Television November 15, 2011 (read with slides) - Slide 2: TV As Problem Child of Communication - TV is unidirectional - people say “I don’t have time for TV” but no one says that about radio, internet, newspapers, etc. - Television wasn’t seen with the high regard other technologies were. It was seen as an impairment - TV has a discontinuity of emotion to it: “it’ll tell you about a rape in New York and the next minute be talking about a hockey game score the next”. So Neil Postman is saying that it doesn’t allow you to think logically, sequentially, even rationally. TV is a way to enable you to contradict yourself and not realize the logical progression of your argument to adhere to. - TV makes us passive; we don’t have to be actively involved with it. Can act as a hypnotist by making us complacent without really realizing it - Attention spans have been shortened by TV, instant messaging, smartphones, etc. - Slide 3: Television - Argued that TV has a strong effect on the way family interaction has developed historically. There are different debates around this but it is (50’s 60’s 70’s) a way of physically bringing together members of a family: in a blackened room, staring at the screen. - is this really quality time? - Rutherford reading looks at importance of TV advertising; need to reflect on this critically. Advertisers love TV. It was a window to the consumer; a way of bringing goods into the home. Ad agencies were producing television shows themselves. It wasn’t til the 60’s that networks gained control of the program content. - Politics and government: Why does the state matter more with broadcasting than with newspapers/print? - Radio gave state the opportunity to build national identity more effectively. - State regulates broadcasting, it doesn’t regulate print media. You need a license to broadcast anything. In this sense governments feel they have more influence in terms of the program content on TV (even the news content) than with newspapers and magazines. - President Lyndon Johnson just watched CBS broadcast that’s being critical of the Vietnam War: Picks up the phone and calls CBS president, telling him not to do that. He didn’t have this authority with print media. - Impact on existing media: newspapers don’t begin their erosion in terms of reading numbers until the 1970’s; so TV doesn’t impact it very hard when it’s initially released - Radio had to reinvent itself. In the 1950’s people basically replaced the radio with TV. It did not annihilate radio though as it turns into something completely different - Slide 4: Still Image Transmission - In 1890s there was preliminary work on Photofax Transmission - Radio transmission of Photos in 1920s - By 1910’s and 20’s they’re able to send photos through wire, and then through the air. - Facsimile Machine in 1930s - people would get their newspapers faxed to their homes. This was what everyone thought would happen. It was seen as a new cutting edge form of technology. - In the 1940s there were Photofax radio stations that transported images and text to 10 000 receivers -- this technology gets fazed out, goes nowhere. Television replaces this model. It brings images and text into the home in a more realistic way. - Slide 5: Moving Image Transmission - Instead of taking a photo and then transmitting it, now it was about taking moving footage and have that broadcast in another location - Early experiments with Baird in 1920s - BBC does experimental TV in late 1920’s - The technology for television was already established by 1920s and 1930s, yet the upswing of it doesn’t occur until late 40’s - Slide 6: Patent Fight - Zworykin patents idea of using magnetic fields to guide rays to put images on TV screen (1932). He becomes director of RCA - develops first practical TV camera - he’s an inventor, well educated man working for a big corporation. He’s up against Farnsworth - By the age of 20, Farnsworth had taken out patents on the picture tube, the electornic image scanner; patents on things that would be necessary to have a fully operational TV set. He refused to sell his patents to RCA. He went into an arrangement with AT and T, working out a deal with RCA (licensing deal, not selling it outright). This took awhile to work out and was much more complicated. - just because technology exists doesn’t mean that it can be commercialized because patents are necessary: if there are fights over who should own the intellectual property, things can be delayed for a long time. - Slide 7: Early Television - BBC has limited broadcasting from 36-39 - RCA at 1939 World’s Fair, showing off TV to people. - NBC broadcasts in New York in 1939 - Slow Growth of the TV and limited use. Also slowed down by WWII - After the war there were 60 000 TV sets in US, ⅔ of those in New York City. So it was still very remotely used. - Compare the growth to the telegraph to television (exam?) - Slide 8: Why Was TV Development Delayed? - economics in the depression weren’t good for launching TV: they were expensive to buy (2000 to 3000 dollars each by todays standards), and 25% of the population was unemployed, and people didn’t have disposable income - In WWII production of TV sets stopped entirely. During the war, economic production converts to manufacturing war time goods. TV wasn’t a war time good. - The nature of the television signal vs. a radio signal: TV signals follow “line of sight” transmission. The signal will go as far as the horizon, and then dies. With radio, the signals can travel a lot further than TV signals. So if you want to spread out TV signals it would be expensive (e.
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