14 May 2011

A Discursive on Death By Television

Is the death of a man on television a significant milestone for the 21st Century?

A man took his dying breaths on the BBC this week, which could be considered a revolutionary step forward for media development, although a much more macabre one than Big Brother.

The "viddy screen" is a huge social and cultural element of our lives, whether you watch while on Twitter or are a regular soap digestor, embracing the best of terrestrial television.

Regular readers will be aware of my dislike for the hyperreal portrayal of events in the media, a sensationalist and dumbing down of social norms which has become more and more invasive and destructive in it's pursuit for instant gratification.

The role of TV takes many forms in our culture, from background noise to all encompassing existence, but the overall understanding of the role of the television is nicely put in this article;

As "modern free time" tends to lend itself to citizen activism and the size of the overall population increases, it is necessary to keep people occupied, and TV is ideal for this purpose

But significantly since the beginning of the 21st Century, there has been a development towards not just consuming a television show, but to vicariously experience a television show.

The showing of a man's death, admittedly in an educational context, contradicts and yet emboldens the philosophical concept that in order to "be" you must "do". Without dissolving into a discursive on existentialism, it is necessary to observe how media, whether television, social media or press, has shaped the current status of human existence, purpose and definition.

Death by television is a further determination of a surrogate experience where culture has evolved to such a degree as to negate the very physicality of the human existence.

When all communication and experience can be simplified into electronic communication, we are conditioned into the human body, and indeed life, as being a circumstantial part of existence rather than a fundamental part.

With computer games that allow activity to be part of the great technology revolution, we are potentially moving swiftly towards an actualisation of "social television", whereby people will interact solely by screen and can be observed and observe through these means. The stark reality of a "telescreen" of Orwell potential is drawing closer.

And as we vicariously die, by screen, we are permitting this change.

In the months to come, we will see Channel Four screen the live consumption of illegal substances, again, commencing in educational context . But don't forget that Big Brother the tv show was borne out of Zimbardo's controversial prison experiment. Let us examine human behaviour, and thus we can understand, empathise and have no need to experience.

As Adrenalin junkies will admit, the rush of hormonal excesses from activity is a hedonistic pursuit. But if television continues down this path, we will have no need to jump from planes, as we can employ similar rushes from watching someone else do it.

So yes, I would say the death of a man on television is a likely milestone. But a milestone of a negative fashion, simply pointing us further down the line towards a "Matrix" like existence.

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