Recently I’ve been reading Television and the Quality of Life by Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This book has gotten me thinking about television and the impact it has our lives. The book presents many points about how television is used as a means of escapism and relaxation. The complexity of the messages in most TV programs require very little concentration to comprehend and hence the experience of viewing television becomes very passive. Television producers are known to cater their programs to the lowest denominator in order to maximise potential viewers and as a result maximise profits and ‘success’. This leads to a lot of people consuming media of low complexity, with television being consumed at such high amounts, this is a very concerning issue.
The book notes several factors in people that tend to lead to heavy viewing:
- Availability of Free time
- Emotional Difficulties
- Low Income
- Lack of Education
Now let’s do a little thought experiment. Imagine if the intention of the television producers changed. Imagine if instead they aimed to improve the complexity of their shows just by one notch. If they slowly raised the bar of the complexity of what was being shown in order to bring up the lowest denominator. Think about the effect it would have on the people who fit into the heavy viewers of television which consists of many young people. It would likely result in less television being watched as it would require more concentration and people cannot concentrate at their peaks all of the time. This itself is actually not a bad thing as the book also mentions how lighter viewers tend to enjoy television more. The roll on effects to the lives of TV consumers would be great. They’d most likely lead fuller lives and happier lives as they tackle the world with higher complexity.