Monday, 28 April 2014

Why are mass media entertainments NOT entertaining anymore?


Why are newspapers, television, radio, books and movie entertainments' so-often so UN-entertaining?

Surely their intrinsic function is to entertain?

If so, then how come they seem to get away with failing to entertain?


The answer is that the modern Mass Media also has no intrinsic function but instead generates outputs mainly to evoke reactions from itself. Therefore greatest volume of Mass media communications are internal to the Mass Media - newspapers discussing TV; TV reporting newpapers etc.

The output of the modern Mass Media is therefore generated as seems most likely to provoke Mass Media responses; some of which will lead-onto further Mass Media responses – of a type that grabs and engages the attention of sufficient people in such a way as to fuel further communications (buying more newspapers, generating advertising revenue or subscriptions or buying more equipment or whatever).
In the past, mass media were simply mechanisms for amplification of communications derived from elsewhere - a newspaper serialized a novel, TV broadcast a play or a musical concert, a radio documentary reported some science - such that many people were aware of it instead of just a few.
And for these traditional mass media to amplify entertainments, their communications generally had to be entertaining - that is in some way enjoyable. So they were full of funny comedies, dramatic stories, pleasing music and so on.
Thus, in general, to sell a lot of copies of a novel, people generally had to enjoy that novel; to get a lot of people to watch something on TV, it needed to make people happy, or excited, or make them laugh, or do something pleasing at some level...


But in the modern Mass Media, entertainment does not need to entertain.

Since almost everybody is already addicted to the Mass Media; just so long as a communication compels some kind of attention, then this works just as well as would providing entertainment. And since it is difficult to entertain people en masse and for long periods, in the modern Mass Media given up on entertainment in favour of merely getting attention and evoking a response; by any means...

So although there remains an element of entertainment, the modern mass media mostly attract attention by other (and easier to achieve) means: by evoking disgust, horror, fear, lust, fascination, repulsion, self-satisfaction, pity for others, self-pity, hero-worship, scape-goating...


In sum - the modern mass media aim not to entertain but to provoke strong reactions; and then the mass media react to these reactions, and react to their reaction to these reactions (and so on).

The most representative modern Mass Media event is therefore some kind of staged 'reality' TV show, consisting of people chosen to evoke strong reactions, engineered into situations designed to evoke strong reactions – which may then be selected and displayed to elicit further responses; all this ramifying through and cross-referenced in the print, internet and social messaging media.
In the UK, these include various “Big Brother” and “I’m a Celebrity” TV series; each of which is treated by the Mass Media as a major national event, and accorded saturation coverage.
These ‘reality TV’ shows neither entertain nor inform; but are calculated simply to attract and engage attention by whatever means, and to evoke opinions and generate self-stoking positive feedback in a kind of snowball effect - and all of these iterative reactions may be harvested and channelled into an iterative reactive process - which serves nothing beyond its own growth in media communications.
So, this is how we ended-up with a Mass Media that is, for most people most of the time, compulsive yet unrewarding; addictive but unenjoyable, distracting but not absorbing; hard not-to-watch and hard to avoid talking-about - yet without being in the slightest degree entertaining.


1 comment:

Adam G. said...

One of the most liberating things is to realize that the ritual of watching a movie or reading a book is one that you can choose to end. If you haven't walked out of a movie or put down a book never to return, you aren't free.