A space for students to share questions (and answers) based on their readings and research for the course.
After reading chapter 10 of The Master Switch, I found it interesting that there were two inventors before Philo Farnsworth that had invented technology for the television. Like the radio and other information technologies it seems television has the most competition for a patent. There are too many cases like this where another person has stolen an inventors thunder, so to say, which is interesting and shows that so many people were looking for the next big thing. Nobody could have imagined what impact television would have in decades following Farnsworth but it did seem that those who were fighting to patent the television knew the importance it would have on society, especially after seeing how radio blew up so quickly.As for chapter 13, just reading the first page of the chapter made me stop and think as they discussed the potential impact cable television would have on society in the late 1960s. Could it really prove to be more revolutionary than the printing press? I guess since I never lived in that era I didn't know what the impact of having a seemingly unlimited amount of informational services streaming into your home television would have, but maybe that's because our society is spoiled with that privilege already. It would be difficult to imagine a society without that but cable television was still just an idea in the late 1960s. Crazy to think how far technology has come since these inventions were just hopes and ideas just 50 years ago.
"Television is nothing, if not redundant," said Jon Stewart on his show after 9/11. And this was a theme I saw the two chapters. It’s hard to determine who planted the seed of different media phenomenon like the television, especially when everyone adds ideas onto the other and the phenomenon itself grows! People feed off each others ideas until a final product takes off, and even then, they continue to evolve. I kind of wondered if outside of the US were televisions in the process of being invented or had the idea been done already or were these men the first who started it. Additionally, to see the power of media and the rise of media during Nixon’s time through the medium of television was astounding. I compared it to the power of social media today, especially in politics!
What i got most out of the reading was an idea reenforced that we have been talking about all semester -the question of who was the first to invent it? All semester you have told us to beware of when someone is credited with being the first person to discover something. With television it is no different. Both Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth have claims to being the inventor but there is not a perfectly clear distinction to who actually came up with it first. This is just another reason to take everything you hear with a grain of salt because you never know the full truth.
Chapter 10 in the book focuses on the birth of the television industry in America, or rather the attempts at creating the industry. The text points to the FCC’s role in the failure as well as other compounding factors, but what fascinated me most were,“The direct cultural consequences.... [with] two (later three) networks defining the medium that would define America, offering programming aimed at the masses, homogenous in sensibility, broadly drawn and unprovocative by design, according to the imperatives of ‘entertainment that sells’” (pg 139). My research paper focuses on the role of broadcast media and the notion of “unified masses”. And so I thought it interesting that the term “propaganda”, the very same type of media which spurred the creation of German television, isn’t applied in conjunction to this “homogenous content”. The definitions between the two terms are occasionally blurred, and yet American television would never acknowledge any similarities to propaganda..Chapter 13 in the book focuses on Nixon’s role in the expansion of cable television. There is tremendous irony in Nixon’s liberalizations of media and the launch of the cable industry given his contentious relationship with the press and media, harkening back to the Kennedy vs. Nixon debates. In fact according to the text, Nixon’s attorney general once threatened the Washington Post that its publisher would “get her tit caught in the big fat wringer” (pg 185) if Bernstein and Woodward didn’t stop their investigations. I surprised to learn that Nixon help foster cable television, and even more surprised by the fact that I hold an ounce of gratitude as a result to one of the most highly criticized presidents our nation has ever had.
Building off of what Regina said about propaganda, what most of us donn't realize (with the exception of well informed boradcast majors) is that a small number of companies control everything we watch, read, and hear. To a degree this could be considered a form of prpaganda, considering that all the ads, and content are being decided upon by a small number of groups. However, it was even more so back when TV was getting its start with really only three companies producing content. That, coupled with the fact that the ethics we have in place now where not in place then, and one can come to the conclusion that most of what was broadcast could be identified as propaganda.The silver lining is that government did not have control about what was being broadcast. TV was a private entity, and the government could not come in and tell people what they could or could not broadcast (with the exception of the FCC and content that was deemed inappropriate)
As we've learned a million times over, history repeats itself. The attempt to block cable television is one we've seen way too many times in The Master Switch alone. Every flourishing technology in a whatever time period becomes resistant to the new technology, and eventually the new technology succeeds. Newspapers to radio to newtork television to cable. Since radio, all technologies have had to endure resistance from the previous technology but don't want anything to surpass them; isn't this unrealisitic? Technology has continually growth and it's impossible to think the end of this evolution would have ended it at network television.Personally, I'm confused why the networks wouldn't try to captalize on cable television when it was first presented. Eventually they would (hey, MSNBC, Fox News, etc) so for innovators at the time, it's surprising they didn't think to expand their coverage like we have today.