You are what you watch, and you can be sure that some are watching what you are.
Yahoo Finance’s feature, “Market Movers,” keeps track of the critical factors that are at work in the stock market. In this recent episode, we learn about the competitive positioning of Sony’s PlayStation Vue, vying to dominate the television market in the US.
Host Alexis Christoforous explains: “It’s a very individual thing. When you think about choosing a streaming service for yourself. It’s about your watching habits.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
The basic occupation of all members of the consumer society. Watching habits constitute a major factor of social identity.
The modern American woman or man spends more time than ever watching. Sometimes on TV, sometimes on a PC and increasingly on a smartphone. For that reason, their social profile can at some point be defined by their watching habits. Others — friends, colleagues, family and announcers — determine who you are by what you watch, and with what regularity.
It used to be TV only, but the internet for many people has become an audiovisual medium allowing them to watch everything from funny clips and Skype conversations to sporting events and feature films. With the advance of technology, watching has surpassed reading as the main activity of the attention economy. The couch potatoes of the golden age of television, before the World Wide Web, are being replaced not only by desk potatoes but also by what could be called “public transport potatoes” or simply “everywhere potatoes,” since smartphones have become the main vector for many people’s audiovisual consumption.
The history of media’s influence on US culture can be summed up in a few sentences, but the story is very rich and merits being told in-depth by a specialist of media and culture:
1) The age of reading lasted into the earlier 20th century but began to be disrupted by the advent of the phonograph, the telephone, radio and cinema.
2) Between 1920 and 1950, mechanical entertainment — records, movies, radio — became the new basis of popular culture, but newspapers continued to provide a stable reference for social and political values.
3) 1950 marked the beginning of the age of television, which initially drew on the values of theater, newspapers and radio to structure the cultural messages it transmitted. The dominant mode of consumption of news and culture became audiovisual. TV brought the outside world into people’s living rooms.
4) By 1964, the Canadian Marshall McLuhan was in a position to analyze the power and importance of the media that had taken over the cultural landscape, making at least the intellectual elite aware of how public discourse was structured, transmitted and consumed. He told us the medium is the message.
5) In the mid-90s, the World Wide Web began to connect people, essentially with the written word disseminated in real time and on a massive scale. The first generation of internet users returned to reading and writing as the basis of communication.
6) By 2005, imagery and video began to dominate a growing base of users’ consumption on the internet, which nevertheless gave fairly equal weight to audio-visual and text as the principles sources of information.
7) After 2010, high-definition video on multiple devices brought Americans back to the hyperreal convenience of watching and viewing rather than reading and writing, as in the golden age of television. Entertainment dominated everything else, ushering in the era of news as entertainment (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc.), through which news broadcasts gave the audience the take on the news they wanted to hear, leading to fake news as a specific and focused genre of entertainment.
The convergence of media and technology is nearly complete. PlayStation Vue brings together all forms of popular entertainment — including the news — on all devices. It encapsulates what the culture has become. And it allows everyone to define themselves by their “watching habits.”
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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