Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Social television and other rubbish

click photo to enlarge
Occasionally I read something that makes my jaw drop so far that it hits the table and rattles my teeth. That happened the other day when my newspaper introduced me to the concept of "social television".

Now you may know all about this up-and-coming trend, but I lead a more sheltered life, consume relatively little television, and so hadn't been introduced to the novel format. Apparently what it involves is watching a programme - factual, fiction, "reality", it matters not what - and at the same time submitting your comments and reading those of other viewers through the magic of Twitter and Facebook. These can appear either on your laptop or phone that you have beside you as you watch television, or on the TV screen itself which is then split between the progamme and the comments.

Perhaps I'm too "last century" but I think that if you are able to give your attention to making or reading comments as you watch a film, a series, a documentary, any programme, then you're probably viewing worthless drivel whose sole function is to generate money for those who conceived it, and is doing no more for you than waste the short time you have between birth and the grave. The fact is, if a TV offering does not fully engage you then it isn't worth watching. Moreover, aren't we, by the very act of viewing rubbish, by reading the comments of other people about that rubbish, and making our own contributions to the puerile dialogue, in danger of self-defining ourselves as vacuous, grasshopper-minded divots? I will admit to never having engaged in this kind of thing, but I have read the email and text comments solicited by TV news programmes, and the comments that online newspapers now invite. Many - probably most - of these remind me of the outpourings of what a UK politician once famously described as "the green ink brigade": that is to say the fevered, bilious letters of the angry and slightly deranged, written in coloured inks designed to catch the reader's eye and make the writer's points more forcibly. It seems to me that the kind of "participation" that "social television" offers is meaningless, does nothing to improve the quality of TV, and is as significant and ephemeral as litter.

Speaking of litter, that's the subject of today's photograph. A few days ago I came across what appeared to be a strip of plastic used in vegetable packing that had escaped its confining warehouse and found a new purpose decorating dead weeds and a piece of metal on some nearby waste ground. Having recently taken down our Christmas tree this wind-shredded plastic strip looked to me like a grim version of the tinsel that I'd help to unwind, and so I took this shot.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On