The Sheck has been hit hard by a late season flu. It has been awful. I've been connected to my couch for five full days. Today is the first day that I have been clear enough to check my email, read some posts from my Society and Technology students, and hold my head up for more than twenty minutes without throwing it back down in dismay. I am so lucky to have a canine companion who loves to snuggle and a husband who can deal with my crankiness as I go stir crazy. The Sheck is meant to shake, not sit!
Through the cloud of Theraflu, Halls, Echinacea Tea, and Vitamin Water (that's my product placement for today), I realized how much illness made me crave the TV. We haven't owned a TV in more than five years and I rarely, rarely even think about it. But this week, I really could have used some Law & Order reruns, a few cooking shows, and some incredible nature program that astounds me. While I do have a strong internet connection, YouTube, and Netflix Watch Instantly, there was something missing from my viewing experience. It made me think about this article I read in last month's Atlantic. As the article points out, the trend of interactivity is still to be determined in TV, the true on demand nature of the web, not "On Demand" like you get a movie for $3.99 out of the selection through your cable provider, has yet to be migrated television. This disconnect between the convenience of television versus the internet in terms of programmed content became abundantly clear last night after Jon and I watched Barack Obama's speech on YouTube. We wanted to see how it was covered on the major news channels so we checked out the websites for ABC, CBS, and NBC, assuming they would provide video to watch. This was a disaster. The websites were terribly designed such that Jon got up and walked away from the couch. Being librarian, tech enthusiast, developing media student, and curious george (albeit a sick one), I continued to look....and look...and look for anything that resembled websites that might allow someone who missed the news to watch it, or a segment of it, again.
Alas, ten minutes into it, I was too wiped out to continue. But in the clarity of today, I think that is more interesting than I thought last night. It also came to mind today as I listened to the RADIO (yes, they are still sources of news and entertainment, just ask anyone who listens to the BBC, especially Radio 4) this morning. On Point had an excellent show about the speech, as Tom Ashbrook usually does, but it was one of his callers that really got me thinking again. His caller said that he wishes everyone could watch the speech in its entirety. Tom Ashbrook quickly responded that "it's out there".
Yes, just on YouTube, rather than on TV. What am I getting at? I guess I am finally making sense of reading things like Hirschorn and Neil Postman who talk about the power of the television in contrast to someone like Henry Jenkins who talks about the power of the Internet. At one point in his book "Convergence Culture", Jenkins says that there is no where on the Internet that reaches everyone. And that's the difference between TV and the web. There is this on demand quality to the web but it is based solely on your desire to demand it. Do you have the stamina to LOOK? To search? To click? Obviously I did not, at least not yesterday.
And that's where I question whether or how the Internet will be the great uniter that some hope it to be. It demands more from the user than many are willing to give in light of a convenient alternative. Why scour the web when you can turn on CNN and catch everything important in a 20 minuts news loop? (The fact that anyone would think we could capture important news in 20 minutes loops is a matter for a different post). The assumption that information is out there and you just have to find it is assuming that everyone has the resources to find it, the knowledge to do so, and the wherewithal to proceed and acheive. "It's out there" is a powerful phrase: daunting, empowering, vague, and universal.
Last night, I felt like many people: I didn't feel like it. I just wanted to turn on the tv and get some rest.