Monday, April 25, 2005


TV Makes You Smarter! Really!


The former is the thesis of an article in the New York Times magazine. The basic idea is that TV is more complex today than ever, and this makes people smarter.

I'm not convinced. This idea strikes me about the same as the internet "big thinkers" who claimed information is power. I don't think information is power. Knowledge is closer to power. And using knowledge smartly is even closer. Of course, having nuclear bombs and showing little fear of the consequences of using them might be the real power.

I don't think just because people watch a particular show or set of shows they're getting smarter. That's similar to sitting in front of books by Albert Einstein or other "genius"es. Just having them doesn't do anything for the sitter.

I think that regardless of what people watch, it's how they process the stimulae on screen that will smarten them up. Talking about television, writing about television, having a dialogue, trying to assimilate the information into already conceived notions about the particulars and the world in general should do more to make you smart.

If there's one thing that watching television is likely to do for the viewer, it is making the viewer smarter about watching television. Not that they can necessarily dissect it better, but have a better understanding of the structure (content, commercial, content, commercial, newsbreak, etc), and possibly of the kinds of stories they can expect.


At 2:33 AM, Blogger m a i и e said...

hi, im doing a blog about television and its implications as it has transformed over the years. it's for uni, and havent done much yet but, i found your blog and the idea about tv making you smarter is crazy! heres my blog site...

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Einstein's nightmare said...

TV makes you smarter? I need to ask what "smarter" means? Wiser, higher IQ, able to makes large mental leaps in a single bound? Smart is such an ill defined term that you can hide a universe of BS concepts into it.

A better question to ask is does viewing TV allow one to make better decisions about one's universe? This is one definition of smart. Another definition of smart is being able to draw correct conclusions from a limited data set. Does viewing TV enhance that ability? I can go on but you get the picture.

Going back to the "thesis". Knowledge is exactly what? Information or is it information that gets strung together by logical threads, as the writer JP suggests?

Whatever the case we have a "power" issue. Power is what? OK for once rather than asking a question I’ll give my own opinion. Power is the ability to excersise one's will without being intimidated. You don't need nuclear weapons for that, you need a strong moral (poorly defined word but one we'll leave to the readers discretion) stance and an equally strong will.

Now here comes the opinion. Ready? TV is and was meant to be entertainment. Entertainment takes many forms including the ha-ha's, prurient curiosity and absorption of information. I agree with JP in that one only becomes smatter with TV if one can process the entertainment (ha-ha's, information and other) and put it into context.

Although I’m quite the Liberal (notice the capital L) I don't believe that everyone can effectively process the entertainment. Some of us do so much more effectviely than others. For those with good mental acrobatic skills, TV watching may be cognitively rewarding. For those that can't, what's the harm in getting a few giggles or reguritating a few unprocessed factoids.

My thesis is that "smart" people, whatever they are, can improve themselves with mental vigilance. In other words, process, process, process. For those with less mental capabilities, enjoy yourself. Both can have "power", which doesn't take enormous cognitive skills (hence GW Bush) just will and morality.

I don't watch TV, which should make you wonder how smart I am.


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