Tv In The 21st Century: Cognitive Malignancy Or Brainpower?

931 words - 4 pages

American pop culture has come a long way in the last few decades: from the rock 'n’ roll boom of the fifties, to the hippie aesthetic of the seventies, to the electronic age of the nineties. 21st century pop culture, at least in the technological sense, essentially took on from what the nineties did and elevated its potential. Never has the world seen a greater peak in technology than it has in recent years. Unfortunately, as fascinating as this may sound, it is generally presumed that pop culture tech of this generation—especially television—has had and continues to have detrimental effects on Western culture. Unless one has been living “under a rock” for the past sixty years, it’s safe to assume that everyone has heard the pervasive statement of how television "rots [our] brain.” By contrast, the benefits of this technology are rarely discussed and when the topic does arise, it seems to be hastily dismissed as “phooey.” Despite these labels, many brilliant men (and women) would argue that this advancement in pop culture technology not only provides a form of recreational relaxation, but also has the potential to enhance cognitive capabilities.
Obviously the television isn't a new technological development; it's been around since at least the turn of the 1920s and was readily available for public sale by the late 1930s. After the Second World War, the television grew even larger by becoming commercial mainstream, and by 1955 it was estimated that roughly half of all American homes had at least one. Although certainly impressive, this statistic would only continue to grow with the rise of color TV, cable broadcasting, and a wider variety of programing. In fact, in 1998 it was reported that 98% of American homes owned at least one TV, with that percentage rising to 99% in 2007. Television has without a doubt evolved significantly over the decades, but it wasn't until the 21st century that advancements in LCD technology really brought out the TV's full potential. The earliest TV sets available for sale were 5-by-12 dimensioned (think of radio) boxes with harsh, monochrome pictures, and only a handful of shows were being aired at the time – mostly news, sports, and politics. Comparing this with modern day television, very few people would argue against just how far it has come. However, technological advancements aside, has a new generation of televised programs altered so much that they can actually promote cognitive health?
In his 2005 essay, Watching TV Makes You Smarter, Steven Johnson argues that modern television programs—at least in greater number—have the ability to improve an individual's cognitive functioning. Johnson explains that television shows, more specifically of the drama genre, have become increasingly more complex and cognitively demanding over the years. As Johnson himself put it: "to keep up with entertainment like 24, you...

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