Media

April 20, 2012

I didn’t have cable television growing up. Channels 2, 4, 7, 9 (CBC, eh Canada?), 20 (WB! Animaniacs!), 50, 56, and 62 got me through the first 18 years of life. An internet connection got me through the next 6 years. And then, as someone who actually works in the television industry and can write such things off on my taxes, at the age of 24 I finally delved into the world of Way Too Fucking Many Channels.

It was overwhelming at first, and I mostly still stuck with the old mainstays. But slowly I discovered little nuggets like the movies on ABC Family. Stargate Atlantis at 3am on Sunday mornings. House Hunters on HGTV. Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs! Between the three or four channels that run How I Met Your Mother in syndication, I managed to catch up on the 5 and a half seasons that had passed by the time I found out how awesome it was.

Over time I’ve developed something of a theory about all this media. While it sprouted in front of the television, it seems to hold for all the myriad means of information transmission we’re inundated by these days (note that I’m assigning neither positive nor negative connotation to that statement — it just is what it is).

At any rateā€¦.

Sometimes consuming media makes me want to consume more media. It makes me want to sit on my couch and eat cereal and slouch and take a nap.

Other times consuming media sets me on fire. It makes me want to get up and do shit. It inspires me.

After enough time and thought, I’ve realized it’s not my own state of mind or being that dictates the result, it’s the media itself. Grey’s Anatomy and How I Met Your Mother and facebook seem to fall into the former category. The Daily Show and So You Think You Can Dance and my carefully-curated twitter feed tend to fall into the latter.

Basically, self-contained shows that put everything on the table and require minimal thought on the part of the consumer in order to process the content make up Type 1. Type 2 consists of people who do cool things. Jon Stewart makes me want to be more politically informed and active. The invariably magnificent dancers on SYTYCD make me want to get to the freakin’ gym. Once those shows end I don’t feel compelled to find something else to watch; instead, I’m much more likely to turn off the TV and do something three-dimensional.

I’m not saying there’s no room for the brain candy. I quite enjoy House and 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, all of which arguably fit that label, and all of which are much appreciated when I’m at the end of a long day and my brain is decidedly fried. But I’m trying to be more aware of whether what’s in front of me is a Type 1 or a Type 2, since I’ve found it to be somewhat pathetically easy to lose hours and days to Wikipedia pages and How I Met Your Mother marathons.

There sometimes seems to be a dichotomy between consuming and producing — if you’re doing one, you’re not doing the other, and vice versa. Easy. But instead of such simple classifications, a tiered system may be more appropriate, in which type 2 media allows for productive consumption. Fodder for future endeavors.

Inspiration.

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