Children overwhelmingly prefer playing with their friends and parents over watching TV.
When children across the world were asked to choose between watching TV or playing with friends or parents, they overwhelmingly choose to play with friends (89%) and parents (73%) with TV a very poor substitute for social interaction at only 11%.
Nearly half of the parents think play should be educational. Children disagree.
Nearly half (45%) of all parents think that play is best when it’s educational. This rises to two thirds of parents in China, Slovakia, Czech Rep, Spain, Hungary, Russia, Poland and Portugal. A further minority at 17% (China, Italy, Russia and US) actually prefer their children to learn things rather than to simply play. 27% think play should always have a purpose. As for the children, 51% actually prefer to play rather than learn.
Cable and satellite television may be having an even bigger impact on fertility in rural India. As in Brazil, popular programming there includes soaps that focus on urban life. Many women on these serials work outside the home, run businesses, and control money. In addition, soap characters are typically well-educated and have few children. And they prove to be extraordinarily powerful role models: Simply giving a village access to cable TV, research by scholars Robert Jensen and Emily Oster has found, has the same effect on fertility rates as increasing by five years the length of time girls stay in school.
The soaps in Brazil and India provided images of women who were empowered to make decisions affecting not only childbirth, but a range of household activities. The introduction of cable or satellite services in a village, Jensen and Oster found, goes along with higher girls’ school enrollment rates and increased female autonomy. Within two years of getting cable or satellite, between 45 and 70 percent of the difference between urban and rural areas on these measures disappears. In Brazil, it wasn’t just birthrates that changed as Globo’s signal spread—divorce rates went up, too.
[T]he funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. ... PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do. “Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”
Linda Simensky, vice president for children’s programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: “How do we get kids to read books?” ... Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books.
“sock barrel”: a collection of roughly identical jokes all about the same thing. Pick one, cut the rest.
“hang a lantern on it”: Instead of trying to hide a script/credibility problem, address it in full measure, so it can be dealt with and discarded. “How does she break into the base?” “Hang a lantern on it, how tough it is to get the codes, but that makes her twice as cool for pulling it off.” This is often a bit of sleight-of-hand, but hell, you’re probably using it to address some—
“fridge logic”: a logic problem in the script that the average viewer would only ask themselves about, say, an hour later when they’re at the fridge getting a snack during commercials. TV is a very tight little medium time-wise, with an enormous amount of hand-waving to begin with. Often a logic problem that seems to smack you in the face because you’ve had the time to read the script, reread it, give notes, break it down, etc. is going to fly by your average—and hopefully emotionally engaged—viewer.
“Well, how’d she get from Dallas to Houston.”
“Could she make the drive to the airport in time?”
“That’s fridge logic.”
Note that you’re not trying to be lazy here—you’re just dealing with the fact that every line of exposition is a line that isn’t active or particularly interesting, and you only get so many of those in 44 minutes before your show is now boring. Logically flawless, but boring.
In a plot twist worthy of Lost, it turns out that TV commercials aren’t obnoxious interruptions after all. They’re helpful interruptions, which increase your enjoyment of TV by periodically reminding you how much you’d rather be watching your favorite show.
That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that commercials restore a sense of novelty to TV programming by breaking up the cycle which we become bored with following what’s on the screen.
In one of several experiments, the study’s authors screened the sitcom Taxi for two groups. One group saw an episode with commercial interruptions, and the other saw an episode with no interruptions. Those who saw Taxi with commercial breaks enjoyed it more, by a decisive margin.
There’s a wonderful article in the new Atlantic by Mark Bowden called “The Hardest Job in Football.” That hardest job is being the director of a television broadcast of a game. Bowden focuses on a man named Bob Fishman, whom he believes to be the best at this job, as Fishman sits in a control room before a bank of TV screens. Each screen shows what one of the many cameras scattered around the stadium is seeing, and Fishman’s job during the game is to scan that bank of screens and decide what the guy watching the game at home on his TV should be seeing at any given moment. It’s fascinating to think what cognitive skills make someone good at this. You have to be able to take in the import of an image in a millisecond — a moving image! — and, in a few milliseconds more, evaluate it in relation to all the other images you’re viewing. But can only do this well not by thinking of the intrinsic visual interest of a particular image, but rather by having in mind a narrative structure, a sense of what the game is about — and not just what it’s about in some general sense, but what it’s about at this particular moment. And that will vary according to whether a team is ahead or behind; whether they are deep in their own territory or deep in the opponents’; whether it’s near the beginning or the end of the game; even what stories have been in the news leading up to the game. The director’s narrative sense, then, needs to govern his visual sense. Fascinating stuff.
When all you want is Friends (or even its Arabic equivalent), prepare to weed through Italian soaps, Iranian talk shows, the Pentagon channel, Egyptian poetry, Russian porn, Mecca 24/7, Italian porn, state-run news, Kurdish divas, soccer, fútbol, American rap on Arab MTV, Bollywood revels, false prophets from Holland, German business commentary. When you finally come to Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, they’re dubbed in Japanese.
I suppose the price you pay for living in a country that doesn’t produce too much TV for its own good is that you’re forced to learn about the rest of the world. This learning shouldn’t be confused with CIA World Factbook-learning. It’s more like what you’d get from a good intercontinental love affair. At the very least, watching the satellite means being subjected to the fact that this planet is crowded and teeming with desires for every kind of stardom. Amidst them all, our little languages and preferences are the tiniest of snowflakes falling in six continents’ worth of static.
Since the first days of the [Telenovela] institute’s research, I began to notice common patterns in the way each country related to telenovelas, and, at the same time, the way in which a country’s relationship to telenovelas revealed something unique about it. A Canadian researcher, Denise Bombardier, described it perfectly with her phrase “Give me a telenovela and I’ll give you a nation.” In general terms, however, telenovelas implement what the critic Tomás Lopez-Pumarejo (my principal theorist at the Institute) described as “the drama of the subconscious”: They are stories that revolve around ontological questions: “Where is my son?” or “Where is my love?”
There is a clear relationship in the way in which the telenovela soap operas explore the social tensions of a country and convert them into collective therapy. This process worked very well in countries that had recently emerged from communism, where people were casting about in a psychological search to deal with the class taboos that had dominated for so long. As a result, a drama centered on the impossibility of love because of social or economic obstacles was extremely powerful. Several studies of the time during which Los Ricos También Lloran was broadcast in Russia indicate that programs simultaneously broadcast from the US (such as Dallas and Dynasty) were popular but never generated the same level of interest, because Russians could not identify with the family problems of an oil millionaire in Texas. The higher production quality of those programs didn’t seem to matter either, and so companies like Televisa did not overly concern themselves with investments in production. It was the drama, the emotions worn on the sleeve, and in part the exotic settings that gave the telenovelas a special attraction.
I watch Grey’s Anatomy for the fast-paced gore and the overblown personal dramas. I watch its spin-off, Private Practice, for all that along with its thoughtful treatment of bioethical dramas – the same dramas we’re seeing in real-life hospitals and public debate.
The bioethics debate isn’t just a clinical and scientific debate or an abstract and philosophical one. It’s a debate about how to best fulfill the human longings for long life, good life, health and family. There’s all sorts of humanity mixed up in it - competing human longings and fallible human judgment deciding human life’s creation and existence. While philosophers and politicians squabble, doctors practice bioethics every day; and they don’t always have the time for debate when human life is at stake and the ethical choice isn’t clear.
In 1997, the BBC aired a three-hour documentary based on Stewart Brand’s book, How Buildings Learn. Brand has posted the whole program on Google Video in six 30-minute parts: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six.
If you’re hesitant about whether to watch the series or not, check out this two-minute appetizer of perhaps the meatiest tidbit in the book: the oak beam replacement plan for the dining hall of New College, Oxford. (via smashing telly)
Update: An old version of the New College web site says that the oaks were not planted specifically for the replacement of the ceiling beams even though they were used for that purpose. (thx, emily, david, and phil)