Archive for April, 2012
Warning: This is about television, but includes material unsuitable for those disinclined from hearing about another person’s adorable kid.
I’ve been thinking a bit about television, and what the cool kids in media studies call “convergence.” Convergence is a catch-all term that brings under one heading the various ways in which changing technology leads to the migration of media across different platforms, the industrial processes behind these changes, and the new cultural experiences that follow. In other words, how should we think about playing a movie on a telephone?
My interest recently has been more specific. As the father of a kid a little more than a year old, my partner and I have to make a lot of decisions about what media we will let him consume, in what quantities, and at what times. Our general approach has been to err on the side of less watching for now. He basically gets to watch TV when he is getting his fingernails clipped (the kid squirms like a worm on a hook), when he is sick (he’s caught bits of Sweetgrass and The Muppets this way), and when we are visiting his television-watching cousins. He occasionally gets to watch YouTube videos of song-and-dance numbers from old movies or can pound on the iPad for some interactive app. All told, he’s spent very little time watching TV shows or movies on a TV set. But he still loves the TV.
I got a Roku player for Christmas from my in-laws, and this has become our primary means of playing music when we are at home. We all like music a lot, so it’s not uncommon for music to be playing for an hour or two each day. And when it does, it is often piped through the Roku, attached to the TV and the stereo system. The Pandora or Shoutcast information displays on the screen while we play. So when he hears music, he turns to watch the CD cover art float across the screen or see what else the TV displays while his music plays. This expectation is so engrained that he loses interest very quickly in anything on the TV that is not accompanied by music. At his age, he is too young to follow a story told audio-visually, but he can dance along to a song.
I don’t know quite what conceptual tools a fifteen-month-old has, but it’s pretty clear from his behavior that he is interested in the TV primarily for the music. He loves music and will start dancing at any suggestion of music. (Yesterday, church bells rang at 4pm and he started to dance.)
My kid won’t grow up having clearly delineated television shows, web content, and movies. “Films” will always have been an anachronistic term. Tablet computers were the nighlights keeping his parents entertained during his sleepless first few weeks. The music industry will always have had a deal with Apple, and most music the world has ever recorded will be available for a price (or the cost of an intrusive ad). He’ll be fine with that, as long as he can dance.