Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Back to our regularly scheduled programming?

Today's slice starts in the lounge of a local automotive service department. My trusty steed's just been rolled in for an oil change, so it's me and trepidation, chilling out, waiting for other costly shoes to drop. There's one other fellow on hand, fiddling with the remote control for the courtesy TV. (I do a double-take: The courtesy TV has a remote??) He settles on Fox News. I estimate he's on the far side of 70. For reasons I don't fully understand but which probably have something to do with election season's hyper-charged tension, I decide to conduct an amateur media study for the next half hour. I watch TV and take notes.

The broadcast itself is unpacking Monday night's debut of the Democratic National Convention. Commentators are aghast that ISIS, given its mounting threat, didn't get more mentions throughout the evening. Fox apparently wants to make up for this, and events have obliged. Newscasters alternate DNC-related head shaking with updates from France about two ISIS-backed terrorists having murdered an octogenarian priest during a hostage stand-off this morning. Donald Trump's "evolving" immigration policies also receive coverage. What struck me, though, was the array of commercials (you know, the bits I'd typically surf away from):

  • The latest step-in bathtub technology
  • Back and neck surgery options at the Laser Spine Institute
  • Angie's List touting the quality of its surrogate dog walkers
  • An anti-Clinton campaign ad
  • A recommended facility for lung-cancer treatment
  • An invitation to check out Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • Lear Capital Investment offering to help you weather the latest inevitable economic bubble
  • Trivago on how its website can help you be the savviest hotel shopper
  • ADT encouraging you to beef up your home security.

That's a lot to be worried about, and I couldn't help but think of the gentleman across from me, probably the target audience on this weekday mid-morning. Filter bubbles aren't just for the Internet, and I realize they're not just for Fox News either. (Maybe I'll have to come back early another morning to wrest control of the remote so I can compare MSNBC's fare...)

The experience reminded me of a comment that Jason Ohler made during ISTE 2016, about the pervasive and potentially insidious influence of companies using big data. "Our output is their input," Ohler said. He went on, "Their outputs become our choices." So, in service of careful, thoughtful media consumption, keep your eyes, ears, brains, and options open.


  1. Love your ideas here and the whole scene of you choosing to make these observations as you awaited your trusty steed (ha!) to be serviced. If you read my post today, part of my slumpy feelings are related to the news, the politics, the sense of darkness... So much to be afraid of and worried about. My friend suggested a media fast and I think I'll take her up on it. My heart needs hope.

  2. I could see the scene before you through your vivid descriptions. Your last line is so important. We are living in interesting times for sure.

  3. I could see the scene before you through your vivid descriptions. Your last line is so important. We are living in interesting times for sure.

  4. Interesting amateur media study. Not too difficult to figure out the target audience from those commercials, is it? Interesting that you might have to "wrest control" of the remote in order to complete your media study for MSNBC. Great final reminder!

    1. Good point about word choice, Ramona. Not sure what led me to that phrase -- Freudian slip? Magnetic appeal of cliches? Why couldn't I just "ask nicely for my turn with the remote"? Or be the early bird and lay first peaceful claim to the digital worm? Cliche, again :)

  5. Yes. When you can't look away (or turn the channel) what you see. Scary. Here's to critical consumption.

  6. As I read your commercial listings, my mind immediately jumped to Beers and Probst's Nonfiction Notice and Note book. I think about Bob's explanation of nonfiction that someone purports to tell us about our world. We do need to be cautious about what we hear and take it with a more inquiring stance. Loved your beginning! Hope the steed did not need more repairs.

    1. "Inquiring stance" -- thanks for sharing that wonderful phrase, Elsie.