Kill Your (my) Television (and similar).

I don’t believe anyone really holds television watching as a noble pastime, rich with empirical or moral value. It doesn’t often fill bellies or pockets, my town (Los Angeles) notwithstanding. It holds our attention, but.. does it do much else? Are we even using our imagination, watching it? Or our we being used by it?

Regardless of it’s lack of tangible benefits, we do a LOT of it. The average American watches around 3 hours a day. Heavy watchers trend above 8 hours a day.

This has a huge impact on our culture and us as individuals. First consider the marketing/socialization angle. As a nation, TV has defined our culture with increasing impact over the past 50 years. From products to politicians, it’s invented what matters to us as a nation. In today’s shift to things like TiVo and bittorrents, the overt marketing is stripped out, though of course, the non-overt comes through full strength as we watch the stories, the “information”, the values and experiences on the screen.

Unfortunately, it appears that we are pretty much built to be compelled by the television watching experience. Our brains respond preferentially to multi-modal integrated stimulus stream of a visual/auditory media. Arguably this is because a rich stream is closest to what we experience and interpret in real life. Because of this, functional brain nodes used to process reality and learn about it are activated by tv-watching. It’s not a complete activation, though, the way “reality” is – there is little action on the viewer’s part. TV watching is passive – it is difficult to do unless you are watching passively, and you immediately miss stuff when you start talking or attending to much else.
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i lay down for the night and started to read. after about 20 minutes i got a bit tired, and the words started to look jumbled.

i refocused on the words and kept reading. suddenly it was total nonsense!
what is this? these words make no sense!

when i focused on a word, i realized i was seeing words like ‘what’ instead of “where”. or i’d see “think” for “though”.
if i just tried to read automatically hovever, it was like i was aphasic. a jumble of barely understood words, with most of them wrong.

when peering closely at one word, i realized that i had a blind spot just to the right of foveation. or not exactly a blind spot, but an area where i just couldn’t see the letters on the page. if i slowly tracked my eyes from word to word i could still read, but it was laborious, and almost felt like i wasn’t really reading at all, or using some other part of my brain that doesn’t normally read.

i realized that trying to read while automatically scanning, even when slowly, i couldn’t perceive enough of each word to correctly identify it. i had been substituting in words based on length, shape, and beginning characters – i couldn’t tell at first, so my experience was as if aphasic.

upon wakening, i could read again. no visual problems, but nausea and headache all day. post migraneous release.
all i can think at this point is that what i experienced was just a premigraneous aura … but instead of sparkles it was somehow invisibile. a distortion of perception that didn’t appear to be a distortion.