2. Television 



Nam June Paik / 1963
Exposition of Music – Electronic Television



In 1926, a new communication medium called ‘television set’ was born into the world. Television is the most familiar man-made object which is owned by ca. 74% of the wolrd’s households. How much do we know about TV that has become an accustomed and habitual medium in our daily lives?

Early television was a powerful new media that could bring the whole family together in front of the TV screen with only one or two channels. It is unquestionable that this audio-visual media which processes both a sound and a visual component simultaneously, that was separately operated by radio and newpaper or prints, could become most influencial and significant mass media in the 1950s and 60s. Although in the 1950s, color TV was released, the number of channels that an analog television could provide was still limited. However, digital broadcasting which started in the early 2000s, can transmit eight different signals in the same bandwidth (6 MHz) occupied by a single channel of analog television, the number of channels has been exponentially multiplied, and this technology has changed traditional television viewing trands.


“How long before every artist is his own television station?”

// Nam June Paik

The reason that we are no stranger to television which coexists with us is that it contains words and actions. In other words, television is an inanimate object resembling a human being.

As we insert ourselves into the human world with word and deed, television that embraces them naturally participates in the world. In the sense, by the act, that is, turning on the TV, we initiate communication and connection with the world. Of course, the words and deeds expressed on television are not the same one with Arendt's subjective actors. Rather, the words and acts on television are close to the imitation or mimesis which according to Aristotle prevails in all arts

its impulse springs from the beginning which came into the world when we were born and to which we respond by beginning something new on our own initiative.

// Hannah Arendt, Human Condition 


The fictional story reveals a maker just as every work of art clearly indicates that it was made by somebody; this does not belong to the character of the story itself but only to the mode in which it came into existence. The distinction between a real and a fictional story is precisely that the latter was "made up" and the former not made at all. The real story in which we are engaged as long as we live has no visible or invisible maker because it is not made. (HC. p187)


It is one of the peculiar characteristics of the photo that is isolates single moments in time. The TV camera does not. The continuous scanning action of the TV camera provides, not the isolated moment or aspect, but the contour, the iconic profile and the transparency.


// Understanding Media, Marshall Mcluhan, 1964

With the arrival of TV and its iconic mosaic image, the everyday life situations began to seem very square, indeed. (...)TV simply involved everybody in everybody more deeply than before. (...) Depth involvement encourages everyone to take himself much more seriously than before. As TV cooled off people, giving it new preferences and new orientation of sight and sound and touch and taste.

As a simple consquence of this participational and do-it-yourself aspect of the electric technology, every kind of entertainment in the TV age favors the same kind of personal involvement. 

Not unlike the character of the woodcut and the cartoon is the TV image, with its very low degree of data about objects, and the resulting high degree of participation by the viewer in order to complete what is only hinted at in the mosaic mesh of dots. 

From the three million dots per second on TV, the viewer is able to accept, in an iconic grasp, only a few dozen, seventy or so, from which to shape an image.

A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peance. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them.

All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perception and arbitrary values. 

All meaning alters with acceleration, because all patterns of personal and political interdependence change with any acceleration of information. 

And now the Internet provides the technological framwork for the real revolution in the structure of mass communications.

TV is the medium that rejects sharp personality and favors the presentation of processes rather than of products.(...) The adaptation of TV to processes, rather than to the neatly packaged products, explains the frustration many people experience with this medium in its political uses. 

Acceptable entertainment has to flatter and exploit the culture and political assumptions of the land of its origin. These unspoken presuppositions also serve to blind people to the most obvious facts about a new medium TV. (UM, 415-419)


“Despite official freedom from censorship, a self-imposed silence renders network documentaries almost mute on many great issues of the day.”

// TV Guide, Edith Efron


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil-Scott Heron, 1971



You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and drop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip
Skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televisedThe revolution will not be televisedThe revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruption
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
Blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell
General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
Hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuaryThe revolution will not be televised
The revolution will be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theatre and
will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
Thinner, because The revolution will not be televised, Brother

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays
Pushing that cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not predict the winner at 8:32or the count from 29 districts

The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers in the instant replay
There will be no pictures of young being
Run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still life of
Roy Wilkens strolling through Watts in a red, black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the right occasion
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and
Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damned relevant
and Women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day

The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock News
and no pictures of hairy armed women Liberationists and
Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb, Francis Scott Key
nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash
Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth

The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a whitetornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a germ on your Bedroom
a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that cause bad breath
The revolution WILL put you in the driver's seat
The revolution will not be televised

WILL not be televised, WILL NOT BE TELEVISED

The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live


Introduction of Radical Software
For what lies at the core of their enterprise was nothing less than the realization that the structure of communications had forever changed. It wasn't that change was proposed, or in the offing, but that a truly radical transformation had already taken place in the minds of these people, and it was now their collective task and social obligation to come to grips with that "paradigm shift."

Have we managed a balance between corporate and personal forms of mass communication? Does the issue of the digital divide indicate that we have still a way to go to truly give voice to the world's still voiceless poor? Do we still privilege one-way communication structures, or have we truly embraced the two-way and multi-path potential of media untethered to the implicit power relationships of old media structures? All these issues, raised and debated, were the locus of critical content that was Radical Software.
// David a. Ross, 2013



Mark
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