A Three Hour Tour

What now little buddy?

When I was a kid, there were only a handful of channels.

As a result, everyone ended up watching pretty much the same thing.

And as a result, if I sit around a dining room table with a bunch of adults, we can all collectively sing the theme songs to Gilligan’s Island or Green Acres or The Beverly Hillbillys.

It is stuck in our heads.

It is stuck there because, even though it seemed like we were awash in ‘media’, in those days we were not.

Bandwidth and broadcast frequencies were so expensive that the range of content was remarkably limited.  As a result, we all experienced the same thing at the same time. This paucity of information had an impact. We remembered it as somehow important.

I think of this as I am reading The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed The Ancient World by Neil Asher Silberman.

It is the Jesus Story, but told through the eyes of both archaeological and political history, as opposed to religion.

What strikes me in reading the book is the paucity of information or ‘media’ of any kind in the ancient world. People lived in a world completely devoid of text, print, advertising, (and needless to say, radio, TV, movies or the web). But also of pretty much anything at all.   It is really hard for us, awash in an ocean of ‘stuff’ from movies to music to billboards to even begin to try and imagine what this kind of world was like.  But if you can, then you can also understand that the only ‘media’ available then was the local storyteller or minstrel or prophet (if you were so lucky to be near one). And the prophets words were (or must have been incredibly powerful).  John the Baptist was the Walter Cronkite of his day, times perhaps a million.  He was all there was. His ‘news’ is all there was.  There was no other message. No competing media.

And so when Jesus began to preach, the power of his words, the impact of his message was so strong (and as the book points out, delivered to a community prepared not just for change but primed for revolution), that it is hard for us to fathom the impact this must have had in its time. It speaks not just to the power of what he said, but also to the media vacuum into which his message was delivered.

Today we live in a world of a million competing voices, and it would seem that there are soon going to be many many many more of these.  What once seemed an inundation of television programming in the 60s toady seems quaint. Simple.

Were Jesus to return (or appear for the first time, depending on your predelictions), would his voice even be heard above the clutter? Would he post on Youtube in the hopes of getting a million hits? Even then, would his message resonate?

Olivia Judson, in The New York Times of a few days ago made the very interesting point that evolution happens far faster than we once thought.

The second reason for teaching evolution is that the subject is immediately relevant here and now. The impact we are having on the planet is causing other organisms to evolve — and fast. And I’m not talking just about the obvious examples: widespread resistance to pesticides among insects; the evolution of drug resistance in the agents of disease, from malaria to tuberculosis; the possibility that, say, the virus that causes bird flu will evolve into a form that spreads easily from person to person. The impact we are having is much broader.

I wonder if we as a species are not also subject to the same kind of pressures that we place on the environment of other creatures.  If we stress the oceans then more jellyfish appear.  If we stress our intellectual environment, do we evolve to compensate?

Is it possible, for example, that the spike in autism is not perhaps an evolutionary response to a world awash in noise and information and blather? That perhaps we evolve to block out the clutter? I am sure there are those with better answers than I. I am neither scientist nor theologian.

I am, however, acutely aware that as you inundate people with an endless barrage of anything, their senses begin to become less and less responsive.  The ‘message’ is lost and soon it takes a bigger and bigger kick just to get someone’s attention.

In the long run, this probably is not so good.


8 responses to “A Three Hour Tour

  1. Information overload has been an issue for me lately – I’ve gotten to the point where there is SOOOO much information and visual content, that creative block has set in and now I’m experiencing the pressure to perform under these circumstances.

    I think that at some point, people are going to hit overload – and tune out – unplug if you will. I’m beginning to truly appreciate reading a book, thumbing through National Geographic, etc – and appreciating the time it takes to actually read – and really look at images – and I find myself longing for the days of shooting stills that really were strong visual elements to the written word – you had 36 shots to capture something worthwhile – nowadays – it’s pray and spray.

    Guess my age is beginning to show – but I’m beginning to think the information revolution isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Brain dump finished.

  2. Speaking of information, or rather the lack of it, how come we haven’t heard any response from Rosenblum about the Star Ledger and it’s dim future?

    For so long we got breathless reports of how they were “kicking ass”, yet now, with the promise of economic hard times for all their employees ahead, narry a word from our favorite VJ promoter.

    Is it that hard to stay in touch with those you’ve pushed towards your bright, rose colored glasses, VJ beliefs, only to abandon them in public.

    Ignoring what has happened to them since you took them on as students and cashed the checks from those who brought you in to save their business?

    Apparently so.

  3. Dear $
    The sale of the star ledger was in the works long before I got there, and is hardly surprising given the state of newspapers in general. I am sure you saw that Cox is selling most of their newspapers. Tribune already did.

    I am very proud of what we did with Star ledger. Other papers will follow. The newspaper biz is bearing the economic impact of the web. Watch tv news follow suit in about a decade if not less.

    The move on the part of the Star ledger and others is a restricturing of the whole news business. Get ready. If you think you are safe, you are out of touch with what is coming.

  4. No one is ever safe, no matter what they do for a living.

    Even if it’s running a school for VJs.

    But I will be shooting and editing video, not to mention getting a regular paycheck for doing just that, long after the Star Ledger and other newspapers shut their doors.

  5. Found this interesting. I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything and all the TV folks should just ignore it the same way newspaper folks did their financial and audience numbers.


    Highlight: “Total broadcast-television ad revenues were down 4% in the second quarter, the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) reported, compared with the second quarter a year ago.”

    “Network TV was down 4.8% for the quarter, syndicated TV was up 9.1% and local broadcast TV was down 6.1%.”

    The important thing for the local broadcasters to tell themselves is that it’s just the economy. Once the economy turns around, they will be fine. No need to worry. No need to change. It won’t happen to you.

  6. In case you may have missed it, there is a recession on.

    It’s not just the broadcast business that has lower revenues to deal with.

    All business’s are having harder lives.

    Some much worse than others.

    Funny how you didn’t want to point out the difference between tv revenue compared to newspaper revenue.

    That would be depressing to so many who think newspapers have any kind of real future ahead of them.

    Even with the Internet.

    Ad rates are down of course but, comparing newspapers to broadcast, I’ll take broadcast.

    Broadcasters are the ones making profitable inroads onto the web, unlike newspapers.

    Of course so many here want to ignore the ever growing, and profitable, broadcast television presence on the Internet.

    It would make them look at themselves to see how little they make with their own efforts.

    Both financially as well as pure product for viewers to want to see and hear.

  7. And of course this is an election year, a bumper year for TV ad revenues. I don’t think it is unreasonable to predict some severe belt tightening for tv news for ’09, and some networks and station groups looking for some cost cutting approaches.

  8. ’09 ?!?!?!

    That’s not a prediction you made.

    That is today’s reality!

    The election ads have been way down already to the point no one is counting on them for anything like they used to in years past.

    Everyone knows who is running for each party.

    That alone killed off lots of ad money.

    Belt tightening?

    Every business is going through that.

    Not just broadcast.

    A prediction of cost cutting is as much of a prediction as predicting the sun coming up every day to heat the earth.

    A no brainer on your part.

    You’ll note the broadcast stations doing the biggest cost cutting are those associated with existing, large, print divisions.

    Like CNN and Gannett.

    NBC is in the basement.

    They are going to regret paying so much for the Olympics.

    The return on their dollar is already low for that deal, even with their brief ratings win in viewership.

    Nice little dust up going on over at the Star Ledger too!

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments from their local bloggers who, when invited to submit video work of their own for the paper, instead, embarrassed the paper with their arrogant attitude and lesser respect for a business that still can’t figure out killing trees for information delivery is an out of date failure in progress.

    But they’ll be forced to face that reality soon enough all by themselves as the money continues to dry up faster than they can adjust for any form of business survival.

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