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(Video Ergo Sum cont'd)

Against this pessimistic diagnosis we must weigh the force of the medium's own codes and conventions and remind ourselves of what Gombrich calls "the beholder's share," namely what viewers bring to their viewing. With the mass audience, which is most of the population, including the educated elite, certain expectations are so inculcated in us that we take them for granted as belonging to the givens in life. One of these expectations is the program schedule itself, which exercises an iron discipline over the networks because of the demands of affiliates and advertisers and competitive planning. However much some viewers say they object to commercial breaks, we know that they will come at points of rising tension, that each commercial will run for a set term, now usually thirty seconds, and that programs will change on the hour or the half hour. Such scheduling procedures are part of the rhythm of television life. To break them, as when we go live for an unrehearsed event, is a deeply unsettling experience.  

Also belonging to the regular beat of television life is the dramatic structure I've mentioned, the problem-solving formula, as well as the standardization of production techniques linking visual image, musical feeling and verbal comment. Though television has had a radical impact on culture, it has, I think, proved to be a conservative force in holding society together, at least in democracies. In other parts of the world, as a symbol of modernity, television may perhaps encourage change and the displacement of sacred cows. Is it too much to suggest that the message of the cut in television, a cut which joins as well as severs, signaling a beginning as well as an end, is to accustom us to change within order? And though the information being transmitted with each message is emotional, are we not convinced that beneath the sending of each message there is a rational force at work? Furthermore, does not television's technology make it possible to look forward to a new kind of language, one that transcends mother tongues and national barriers, one that may persuade the human race that it has a common destiny? 

These considerations lead me to think that the television revolution may, after all, amount to a massive reinforcement of mankind's intuitive sense that there is order and meaning in the universe, a reinforcement, therefore, of the religious instinct. And by the same token, this sense must also lead to a massive rejection of atheistic materialism and philosophies based on chance.  

Where, then, does the word migrate to in the world of television? God, of course, alone knows for sure. The word on television is not an event in time nor an object in space, for television has abolished time and space, nor is the word on television solely an image, though it may be revealed in images. The word on television is perhaps more like a happening, an experience of the heart. For myself, though mystified, I do not believe this excludes the possibility, any more than earlier media revolutions did, of individuals coming to know the word made flesh.  

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Index of Papers   1  2  3  4  5  6  References 


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