Sunday 22 November 2009

Death of TV

This was part of an interesting BBC Horizon programme in the last century - somewhere around early 1996, but based on work I did at Ultralab in 1994 - other Ultranauts involved too of course - what a team that was! At that time children were being demonised for watching too much TV, having no concentration, etc. The usual stuff. My work simply started with the hypothesis that children might have become quite good at watching TV, were literate enough with broadcast media to be able to watch multiple channels and may even have been bored by the "I'm only asking you to do one thing, surely you can manage that" kind of rant heard in a few classrooms.

We got groups of four, mixed age, from a mix of schools, and showed them four programmes. They could arrange the screens (small VHS/TVs) any way they liked. Short version was that they could manage 4 programmes, with great con concentration evidenced. They answered tough detail questions (no conferring!) and even meta level reflections about character and plot. Groups on average took 20 minutes to set the volume levels right so that, as one reflected "I can focus my ears on the one I'm not watching"...

Anyway, here is the core of the show - the bit I was involved with. It's a QuickTime .mov file and a bit raw - compression codecs not to be trusted in those days, I'll try to post a Flash version too, eventually! The research was recreated a bit over a year later for this show but was pretty faithful to it, apart from the programmes we showed them varied a little for © reasons.

I can't believe how young I looked. Sigh.

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