For many years the TV has been cited as the item responsible for the breakdown of the family unit, with crossover responsibilities for increase in crime, reduction in education results and a failure of our younger generation to be able to effectively communicate anymore.
Sitting in our front rooms, the little black box has become the pariah of our modern day society, like some Pandora's box which has bewitched us and robbed us of the faculties that our forefathers are deemed to have had.
This article seeks to provide a modicum of defence for the little black box - or indeed the very large and flat, multicoloured and multimedia box that it has now become! Alternatively, I wish to propose that the TV is innocent of the crimes for which it is accused, and indeed another element sitting in the background is more the culprit, and has quietly been 'getting away with it' for some time.
This 'defence' is based on the notion that the family unit, or indeed the community unit, interacts more effectively when there is a clear common focus of goal. This can be both pleasurable, or less so, as we have witnessed during times of struggle and strife, such as the bombing of London during the blitz or more recently the Tsunami in Asia, where a new community spirit was created that crossed over social, religious and geographical ties.
Now I am not in any way suggesting that we seek to create situations like this to improve effective communication, however if the TV is commonly suggested to have had a negative impact in creating social bonds within a defined unit, such as the family, when the situations highlighted above are deemed to improve such relations, then why is this so? And does it bear up to scrutiny?
Taking on the idea that a common focus is a good thing for communication and understanding, then surely the TV fits this role quite well. Long before the discovery of the TV, the common focus in the family unit was the fireplace, especially in cold countries, and this can be seen as part of human development across both time and geography, whether it be the hearths of Anglo Saxon and Nordic societies or the open fires of African people and Native American Indians.
As technology developed, a by-product was the ability to heat various rooms of the family dwelling at the same time - we shall refer to this as 'central heating' for the purposes of this article.
With the installation of 'central heating', the fire no longer became the common focus of the family, and family members were able to take advantage of all the rooms in the house to pursue other ideas and concepts.
Rather than break the family unit, the TV acted as another virtual fireplace, encouraging people to come together and enjoy a mutually sociable experience, and even more so, to provide a single backdrop or reference to discuss matters that they'd seen.
Now the level and content of the discussion could be heavily influenced by the program material chosen by the family unit, and this, it is accepted, can have a significant influence on the subject matter of ongoing discussion, but that is personal choice.
As a multimedia experience, the TV has developed alongside IT developments in hardware and functionality, so the traditional TV now contains a wide array of functions, including common PC functionality. Lounge-based multimedia systems are no longer only available to the very wealthy or the IT avant-garde. Now we see new communities springing up, where common activities such as networked or on-line gaming are enjoyed, not only in the home, but simultaneously across continents at the same time.
As such, I believe that the TV has been unfairly labelled with (or as a significant participant in) the demise of perceived social culture. If any element should bear the critique for this effect, then I believe that Central Heating remains the culprit - and needs to come clean!
So what role does the modern TV system play in our lives. Well, there is evidence for a considerable amount, ranging from watching programs to a large scale PC monitor to education, and even helping fitness now. Equally it is clear that there is development of the common focus provided by the TV, not only in social bonding, but also in sub areas as a by product of the 'getting together' experience.
With the early emergence of the TV as a medium to educate, many functions of the little black box have matured into viable and powerful forms of educational media. We're even witnessing the move from TV as an incentive towards 'couch-potato' syndrome, to promoting physical activity through technology such as the Nintendo Wii - especially signified by the emergence of the Wii fitness software.
With many of the latest TV units containing a processor capacity which is far greater than that which sent us to the Moon, it is natural that it should saddle the bridge between personal computers and the multi-user experience.
We no longer have to sit in a little corner of our domains studying and learning, when we can use the large screen and full capacity of the modern TV and its prominent location to make the experience more interactive. Connecting media PC units to the large screen monitor of the TV allows us to surf the web and study in the comfort of the lounge, and if appropriate with the family around us.
Parents can monitor the websites their children are viewing, as they can access the internet without being isolated to their rooms - giving both comfort to the parent and freedom to the child.
Parents can become involved in their child's development, as it is often more comfortable to see key information and pursue discussion from a sofa in front of a wide screen, rather than the 'cubby-hole' PC stations often found in the home.
The key to education is to want to learn, and the environment that we feel most comfortable in is often where our education is most successful. Moving the learning experience from a sterile 'alien' classroom to the comfort of our own home is proven to improve the learning curve. By doing so in an area where members of the family can join in, it helps their understanding and engenders emotional support for the efforts of the student - which is critical in helping them through each learning phase.
Modern training techniques, such as those utilised within the IT industry, often employ e-libraries of training material capable of being delivered straight to the home, via the PC or Monitor system on a 24x7 basis.
These training seminars often employ the skills of those at the very top of the industry - imparting their knowledge and skills via a system that works at the speed the student dictates and feels most happy with. The ability to review and learn from these multimedia lessons in the comfort of your own home, at a pace that suits the student (and usually on a screen that makes the viewing all the more enjoyable,) is surely advantageous to the success of the training program.
I believe this all clearly supports the role of the modern TV in our daily lives, gaining our respect rather than our scorn, as was maybe the case before a clear review.
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