Friday, November 12, 2010

Traditionalists Keep their TVs, Progressives Let 'em Go

     Recently we are told that prime time TV and cable is dominated by conservative audiences, as the most popular shows appeal to that group.  In reading this I was thinking of George Lakoff’s book The Political Mind and wondering if the Republicans and Democrats of this essay align with the way Lakoff describes the two cognitive frameworks.

     I offer my unsubstantiated opinion on this--I bet they don’t because Lakoff’s “progressives” probably don’t watch much TV or cable; they use the internet.

     Remember, per Lakoff, the conservatives operate from a Stern Father complex metaphor that is based in authority.  The show NCIS fits this fairly well as it is about a team of Navy crime fighters led by an ex-marine.   

     Progressives operate from a Co-parenting cognitive frame that is based in empathy. The essay tells us that democrats like shows about damaged people; I am unsure if that is what empathy is about. Of the prime time shows listed in the essay I don’t know any of them well enough to say that they emphasize empathy or co-parenting styles.  

     And that is the point.  I don’t know the shows. I am very much in line with Lakoff’s depiction of a progressive; my last essay on the principles of our new Intuitive Age clearly marks me as such.  While I watch some TV/cable I don’t care for prime time stuff.  Of the thirty shows listed as most popular in that essay I have seen only four:  NCIS, Law and Order, Beck, and Olbermann.  Beck and Olbermann I stopped watching in 2006 as I could not tolerate their blatant biases.  Law and Order I have watched when with my daughter; it’s been one of her favorite shows and has helped in her choice of criminal justice as a collage major.  NCIS I watched for a while but have moved on in the last two years.  My free time is used up by reading, writing, using the internet, or being outside.

     I suspect that the democrats who watch a lot of TV and cable are the sub group called Neoliberals; the ones that are generally over age 45, are still steeped in rationalism, and who are still concerned with the issues of the 1980s-1990s (because "there is still so much to do"). Pundits such as Bill Maher and Paul Krugman come to mind.  I suspect Olbermann fits there too. The neoliberals are mostly Boomers or older.

     Who really cares if TV and cable are polarized in the way the essay describes?

     I don’t.  TV and cable are dying industries serving an aging shrinking audience; they will slim down along with the age groups that still use them.  See this, this, and this.

     Why aren’t TV and cable interesting to progressives and younger folks?  Simple, these industries are too monochronic; they are still anchored to linear, one thing at a time, options. Even though much of the content on TV and cable is expressing high context culture ideas, the TV box and its wires are still low context culture delivery mechanisms—one channel at a time.  And, the shows are still preprogrammed, as they have been since the beginning of industry. 

     Our high context culture requires stronger polychronic delivery mechanisms, including multiple screens, multiple windows, toggling back and forth, and the use of as many senses as possible.  And, it needs to be interactive and supportive of social gatherings.  Today’s Millennial young adult desires electrical devices that allow her to be mobile, situationally aware, multitasking, engaged in multiple conversations, and connected, integrated to a global network. I know that technology is being developed to push this further.

     I wish that someone would get out and survey the internet crowd too because surveys of TV audiences don’t have the random sampling range that they once did.

     I suspect that the true polarization in America is between those older folks who hug the remnants of Modernism (conservatives and neoliberals are the traditionalists) versus the progressives and younger folks who are advancing the principles of our high context culture. 

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