David McCandless created an amazing graphic recently, contrasting the amount of time Americans spend watching television each year with the cumulative amount of time it has taken to create Wikipedia. Check this out:
The graphic illustrates what author Clay Shirkey calls “cognitive surplus”, or spare brainpower that exists, simply waiting to be engaged. How much of that brainpower is being wasted watching television?
This got me thinking, and I remembered a recent Newsweek article which pointed out that creativity is declining in America. Even as intelligence (measured by IQ) is rising, creativity (measured by CQ) is declining:
Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.
What’s at fault for this phenomenon? Television and video games share at least part of the blame:
It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.
So, how much time is spent watching television, and how do people feel about the use of their time? Check out these statistics (source):
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Today my wife surprised the family by renting a DVD of Gilligan’s Island episodes from Netflix. I hadn’t seen any of these shows for decades–they originally ran from 1964-1967 on CBS. Not that I forgot that the show was goofy. How long did it take to write one of those episodes, 30 minutes? Yet watching two of the episodes tonight did remind me that Gilligan’s Island strongly imprinted its images upon the young version of me, perhaps more strongly than anything I remember from back then (I was 8 years old when it originally ran). The characters looked exactly how I remembered them, and the plots were embarrassingly predictable, just how I remembered them as a child. I’d like to say that viewing these episodes served as some sort of time travel, but I simply can’t. And the series continues to live on in syndication and DVD rentals, with new generations being exposed to it. Gilligan’s Island is a world-class meme, a meme that allowed millions of people to put up their feet to have a bit of mindless fun once each week.
And today I was reassured that Mary Ann was as gorgeous as I remembered her. Yes, I far preferred Mary Ann over Ginger. I always did, even as a pre-pubescent viewer. And I was not alone in my preference.
On several occasions over the years, I have found myself in discussions where someone raises the concern that too many of today’s children waste valuable time that they should be spending exposing themselves to more intellectually rigorous activities. Inevitably, some high-accomplished person in the room then reminds the rest of us about the huge number of hours that most of us spent watching Gilligan’s Island when we were children, the original runs and the re-runs. Yet many of us turned out OK. Or at least that is the argument.
As reported by the Washington Post:
The Public Broadcasting Service agreed yesterday to ban its member stations from airing new religious TV programs, but permitted the handful of stations that already carry “sectarian” shows to continue doing so. . . Until now, PBS stations have been required to present programming that is noncommercial, nonpartisan and nonsectarian. But the definition of “nonsectarian” programming was always loosely interpreted, and the rule had never been strictly enforced.
I was watching TV recently. At the climax of one of my favorite shows a man was murdered. He was stabbed twice in the chest. I watched as the blade entered his chest two times, piercing his lungs and heart. The man fell to the ground and was kicked into a nearby fire where he burst into flames as he was dying.
This was shown on television, during prime time, with no outcry from the public or the censors. And why would there be an outcry? One can witness murders of this kind and worse on TV many times a week.
Now imagine this scenario…
Prime time TV. A loving husband and wife wish to have children. They take off their clothes and get into bed, as married couples do. We then clearly watch his erect penis enter her vagina two times as he tells her he loves her.
Cut to nine months later and she gives birth to a healthy baby boy. The couple rejoices. The husband kisses his wife on the forehead and we…Fade to Black.
Can you imagine the outrage? Can you imagine the FCC fines and the righteous letters of condemnation?
In the first case we see the brutal, senseless ending of a life, and we get to see it in great detail. In the second scenario we are witnessing the loving, natural creation of life between two married adults.
Which one is obscene?
In response to one of Hank’s posts from a week or so ago, Erich posted the Internet commercial put out by NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, which is, in my mind, almost a parody of itself. The ridiculous assumptions they put forth – that THEIR freedoms are at-risk, that schools are teaching gay marriage, that they are losing something if gay men and women are allowed to marry – would be laughable if not for the fact that a portion of our population will watch it and nod vigorously in agreement.
I think these “storms” say it better:
On YouTube, you’ll actually find many of these parodies – thank goodness so many jumped on board to point out the utter absurdity of that horrible ad.
[If you're viewing this post from the home page, click on the title for 2 additional parodies.]
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Sociologists at the University of Maryland have concluded that “unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as very happy spend more time reading and socializing.” The study appears in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research. The study was based on 30-years worth of national data from time-use studies. Here’s [...]
This is a YouTube complilation based on a speech made from the 1976 movie Network. This tube is the gospel . . . Television is a god-damned amusement park . . . you’re never going to get any truth from us . . . Turn off your TV. Related post: Just say “no” to TV. [...]