Thursday, May 5, 2011

Media Obligations

Fifty years ago, no one would describe themselves as a – geez, what was the media of the time? – dedicated “Man from U.N.C.L.E” fan. Sure, they enjoyed the show, but media was a distraction from life.

These days, everyone has a niche, a specialty. You’re an audio guy, or a series watcher, or a gamer, or a role-player, or a sports fan. Which I think is wonderful and terrifying and horribly bad and brilliant. But most importantly, what it is is different. We’ve defined ourselves by our media.

I came to this revelation recently: I feel compelled to watch series, read comic books, and catch movies because I feel that I will fall behind or miss something great if I don’t. Let me rephrase: I feel an obligation to the media I consume.

What. The. Hell.

This is like when you’re a kid and you’re told to eat all the food on the plate so it doesn’t go to waste. If you’re not hungry, you shouldn’t have to eat. But somehow you have an obligation to your vegetables. What’s up with that?

I think it’s terrible, but I also think it’s wonderful. We’re creating cultures in minutes, something that used to take generations. We’re doing something that has never been done before: we’re finding and systematically attacking bigotry and xenophobia.

Don’t think about this as “those people from the other side of the border are evil/weird/smell funny”. That’s an extreme, and frankly is rapidly on the decline anyway (though is still serious and needs to be addressed). But look at this on a micro-scale: when people are shouting down the trolls who complain about editions of Dungeons & Dragons, or making peace between people who prefer Star Wars and Star Trek, and heck – even showing that people who like Twilight can be respected! – we’re building the foundations of a macro-culture of acceptance.

So I don’t think this is good or bad necessarily, or at least I’m in no position to judge. It is, as I was saying, different. And untested. We’re in space, in a ship with no sensors. We don’t know if the information overload and media obligation is good for us or bad for us. If the cultural saturation will result in humankind becoming better at processing information, or if we’ll melt down under the strain of supporting everything we need to know without the physical and mental capabilities to do so.

Heck, even in my job, I’m juggling dozens of libraries, at least three languages, in several contexts, while searching for likely problems and best solutions. And that’s only one of my projects.

So the point of this post is this: to tie in to my last post, I can’t support everything. So I’m probably going to cut back first and foremost on series, movies and so on. Which is a bit sad, but heck – the man of yesteryear survived without watching a new series every month ;)

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