Thoughts on Unlimited Media

Hey, gang. Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything. Been having some serious computer difficulties lately and been busy with projects too. I’m writing this on my wife’s iPad.

It’s like I’m living in the future.

I say that a lot in my real life, and it’s only partly a joke. If you think about it, we are living in a science fiction universe. This has always been true. Time and technology marches on and things we take for granted would be absolute magic for people of a different era. But technology moves so fast these days that the time from barely dreamt concept to everyday application can be startling. Especially in electronics.

This is both amazing and troubling. We are, at our hearts, the same primitive beasts who beat each other with clubs. Considering how slowly we evolve biologically and how rapidly our world has begun to change societally, you have to wonder how we’ll cope with it.

One of the ideas that most troubles me is a new version of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Only this dilemma isn’t about food, but media. We are able to satisfy our particular media appetites to our ultimate indulgence. This is such a new development, I don’t think we know how to handle it.

My wife has a habit of watching entire seasons of TV shows in a few days. As far as I can tell, this is normal now. Being old school, I tend not to enjoy doing this. It makes me realize just how different my wife and I are about stuff like this.

But it is a big question. How do you value something that is, more or less, unlimited? Value almost always springs from scarcity. As an older guy, I came from a time when media was a limited resource. If I wanted to watch The A-Team, but Simon & Simon was on the other channel, I had to make a choice. I couldn’t watch both. Coming from slightly before VCRs hit the scene, I couldn’t tape the runner up. The best I could do was wait for rerun season, and hope to catch it then.

Now, I can watch anything I want. I can carry a thousand and one books in a portable device. I can go to websites and obsess with other fans about any show, book, movie, fetish, etc. I imagine. The only limitation right now (provided I have the minimal financial resources to pay for it, though many do not) is my own mortality. There are only so many hours in the day, after all.

I’ve noticed this among most of my friends. I find myself more selective in my media than they are. I tend not to be as forgiving. I won’t watch things that don’t win me over fairly quickly. Most of my friends will give a show four or five episodes. And if these shows have one or two good moments during those episodes, it’s more than enough.

This isn’t meant as a judgment. Given the nature of modern media, my old habits can seem quaint, almost silly. When I say that I found a comic book boring or that a TV show was okay, but not good enough to keep me watching, most people seem puzzled by this. And I can’t truly blame them.

But today’s media feast has made me more picky, not less. In a world where I can partake of anything I desire, why settle for something I deem only “okay”? But it seems the other way to most.

Keep in mind, this is the observation of one guy, who obviously is coming from a different viewpoint. I’m not trying to convince anyone otherwise.

Still, I think the world would be better if we were all a little more choosey. And I believe we do ourselves a disservice by indulging our appetites to the point of gluttony, by devouring more as a matter of habit than desire.

If I can indulge my own point without subtlety, I think in a world where the only thing limiting our appetites is our own judgment, we have to accept our own responsibility. They might publish a dozen Spider-Man comics a week. You don’t have to read them all. You don’t have to watch a whole season of a TV show before deciding if you like it. And you can be a fan of something without being a devoted superfan.

Yeah, it’s kind of weird to say that in this day and age. After all, every canceled TV show, every obscure character, every weird movie, has a devoted following at this point. Obsessive fandom isn’t unusual now. It’s expected.

I realize this is a bit of a contradaction. I’m suggesting that we are both too obsessive of our media while also being somehow undemanding of it. But I’m not so sure these are opposing values. Perhaps in a world with unlimited access, we are less concerned with what we obsess over than just obsessing over SOMETHING.

I don’t have the answers. I’m not even sure what the question is. But I hadn’t posted in a while so I’ll leave it at that for the moment.

Thanks for reading.

Oh, and just in case you need reminding, A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! is coming (Jan 12). Not that you need reminding, I’m sure.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Jeremy Impson
    Posted January 8, 2012 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Technology has recently made it easier to overconsume popular media, but I don’t think the tendency is anything new. We overindulge on food, natural resources, and controlled substances (the very reason society seeks to control them, in fact). I think you are correct when you identify it as gluttony.

    On a tangent, I believe that there is an aspect of enjoyment that stems directly from the wait for the next episode / volume / issue. I catch myself plowing through seasons on netflix as though just the act of viewing the complete body of some franchise is a desirable goal or somehow improves me, even while I fail to actually absorb the material. That explain your observation that we are less critical when we mass-consume. We become obsessed with completion rather than meaningful perception. I try to make it a habit now to re-read or re-listen to favorite novels and podcasts at least once while waiting for the next one in the series. It’s good to have time between episodes in order to process the material, especially if it is rich with subtleties and complexities. It takes more discipline than I have to do that when the next episode gets automatically queued up for you at the end of the previous.

  2. Samantha
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I find the issue of unlimited technology pulling at me in different ways. On the one hand, I love my computer, the internet, and the ability to look up anything I want in seconds. On the other hand, I hate the fact that we have become so dependent on technology. Students can’t get through an hour and a half long class without checking their phones multiple times. I feel bored if the internet is down, and that bothers me. Technology is a tricky, two-headed beast.

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