Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Revolution has been televised

Each year Beloit College publishes a list that gives you insight into the mindset of the new students entering college this fall. It's a list of things that have always been true for people of this age. Examples:

Ozzy Osbourne has always been coming back.
There have always been flat screen televisions.
Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.
Smokers have never been promoted as an economic force that deserves respect.
Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.

Every year, of course, the students get a little more alien to me as their experience covers a shorter and shorter fraction of my own. That's not just an old person's whine, it's the point of publishing the list in the first place.

Here's the list for people entering this year.

Most of them I don't care about - I wasn't born in the States and don't give a damn about the Jolly Green Giant dropping out of the pop culture, or that for these students, salsa has always outsold ketchup. I never had ketchup before I came here, apart from the original Indonesian version, kecap...which I now can't get because I live in a backwater, i.e. southern California.

I cared that for them, Magic Johnson has always been HIV-positive, because his press conference to declare himself so hit me like a brick. And "Women have always outnumbered men in college" seems weird to me.

But what struck me was number 36.

We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.

Three reasons for that.

First, isn't that weird? Yes, I know that's the point.

Second, how do we know the camera crew is telling the truth? The helicopters feed their video back to editing suites where some guy makes decisions on when and where to cut and decontextualize.

Third, it was a canon of the generation just before mine, the real Baby Boomers, or Hippies as we called them, that real social action did not take place on camera. This is the Gil Scott Heron song that embodies this tenet.

The student year 2026 will see a significant change in this respect. YouTube was unleashed in 2005. Students born that year will always have been able to watch footage shot by ordinary people on their cellphones and uploaded for free. It will be absolutely normal to them to see things on video that have never been approved by a paid editor, spun, politicized or paid for by advertising. Then the revolution will be televised indeed.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.