Active and Passive Media

How about splitting media types up by their activity. Activity being the sense of “mental activity.” Mental activity is of course incredibly complicated and probably well beyond my expertise (or lack thereof) but, I will do it anyway because I can.

What I mean by mental activity is some sort of mental effort having to be put forth in the sense that the media doesn’t simply “invade” the senses. This is more of a spectrum, not hard divisions but, I suspect media types lend themselves more towards one end of the spectrum or the other.

The easiest pair for me to point at is TV and reading on physical pages. I will be using these as the Pinnacle/extreme ends of the spectrum. TV I consider one of the main examples of passive media whereas reading a physical page is the most active.

I consider TV passive because of the fact that essentially, one immobilizes themself and then just receives the data (images and audio primarily).  One does not have to engage with that data, just receive it.  Of course, one has the option to engage with the material and analyze it but it is not required; not to mention, let us be honest, a majority of the media taken in on TV does not require analysis of that sort.

Reading, specifically, from a  physical page, is one of the more active mediums because, although one immobilizes themselves again (like all media that isn’t purely audio), they actually have to hold onto the material and move it around to an extent and mentally take in the text.  One cannot “read” something without at least deciding to do the reading.  I have yet to figure out how to “turn on” a physical book and just let it run, if there is a skill there that I failed to learn that others know it makes this point moot. (Or, if someone can multi-task while actually reading because I certainly cannot.)

Entirely useless aside, skip to stay on track:

A strange parallel to this comes from all that research on sitting and how it is dangerous.  Although it is probably overblown to an extent, some of the movement systems I am interested in talk about sitting/squatting often.  The sitting they refer to is just sitting on the floor and squatting as a resting position.  Both of those are actually much more “active” than sitting in a chair.  Sitting upright on the floor or squatting down, although a resting position, requires muscle engagement to maintain balance or not simply flop down into a laying position.  Sitting in a normal chair, although not a requirement, lends itself to “passive” sitting, just laying back and letting the chair do all of the work of keeping oneself upright.  It is certainly work well for me right now as I type this. Active sitting vs passive sitting, a new way to get healthier?

Anyway, active/passive media.  TV would be at the passive end, photos would be slightly more center, audio further towards active and then reading would be the most “active.”  Generally.  This spectrum is of course not set in stone and one can be active while watching TV and fairly passive in reading a relatively simple/easy book.

This separation is not particularly interesting in and of itself but, what if this difference leads to a different sort of mind-set?  By this I mean, something like the idea of “you are what you eat” and habits, if someone watches a lot of TV and habitually tends towards the passive sort of viewing, what sort of habit does this cultivate?   It would seem that it cultivates a passive type of habit which then could bleed into the rest of their life and lead to becoming a more passive person overall.  I sometimes wonder if that passivity is becoming more pronounced as more people spend more time watching TV passively and sitting passively.


Fear of Death

Recently in a class the topic of prisons came up and how prisons are the place that society tends to send mental health patients and anyone who doesn’t either look or act like the norms set. That prompted this little piece:

Fear of death causes the fear of having to deal with anything reminding us of life, the frailty of it and parts of it that aren’t pleasant. Only by accepting and living with death can life be appreciated, thus making prison populations smaller and weakening the prison system. Until then prisons are going to be the model of life for everyone.

Fear of death and therefore fear of life, makes society split everything up into little pieces. This fear causes everything to be compartmentalized into smaller and smaller little separate pieces for us to deal with and never actually get a look at the larger picture. We have our private/semi-private space, we have a certain time to go outside, certain times to eat, no one sees when we die, as few people as possible see us when born. We then create a section of the world that is only for “us” or whatever your group is and exclude and include others according to your whims.

Cells, time to walk around outside, times to eat, times to sleep, fences all around. Apartments, “free time,” lunch break, curfew, borders. Which one is more free? Arguably the second, I cannot fully disagree with this, but I can point out the trajectory this second lifestyle seems to be taking and it ends up quite similar to the first one, only with a bit less gray.

Everything becomes a little tiny piece of life but is never put into the full context of a life, all because of a fear of death and life. So it is easier for society to put everything that doesn’t fit with the norm into a confined area that we do not ever have to deal with: hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, schools even. If the individual doesn’t fit the norm, put them into some space to either make/train them to fit the norm or just keep them out of the way until later on. Prisons will expand unless we begin to think differently.

Types of Life

There are two types of life, the life that is able to stand at the edge of the abyss and stare into it. Deeply into it and laugh, whole heartedly laugh and love the chaos within this abyss. Then once they are worn out from laughing they have to be able to dive into this abyss and be the light within it, organize the chaos according to what they want and then leave others still at the edge of the abyss to laugh in their own way and create their own light.
Then there is the life that is afraid of the edge, afraid to look at the abyss and would rather have some sort of organization in life.

The Experience Machine

In class last week the, seemingly famous, thought experience about the “Experience Machine” was discussed.  I’m not going to go into the history of the experiment itself; you can look that up yourself.  The general idea of the machine is that there is this computer made into which you can program any and every possible human experience.  Someone can go ahead and basically pick from a menu any experience that they want to have and then “plug into” the machine and have those experiences.  This machine makes it possible to program an entire life of experiences into it and while experiencing these things one’s body is just sitting in the physical world not moving at all.  After getting this sort of machine the question is: would you plug into the machine to live your life attached to a computer?  Generally people say no, but that is not what I am interested in.

I am most interested in the “why” people generally say no to plugging into the machine.

I propose the idea that generally people say no to plugging into this machine because people want to attempt to leave something to “pass-down,” i.e. a form of immortality.  I am not saying anything that has a value of “good” or “bad” just something which will be remembered and known after one dies.   Leaving something behind after one dies is a sort of “victory” over life because a person becomes in a way immortal; which pretty much every one wishes for because no one wants to let go of life and “lose.”  A place that this is discussed more in-depth is Plato’s dialogue Phaedo, an online version found by simply searching for it on Google. (I do not have permissions so I have no direct links) The important part is when Socrates begins his speech on love, but read the entirety, it is good for you.

This want for immortality is what leads people to not wanting to plug into the experience machine even if they can program all of the pleasant experiences that they want into it.  No one can leave anything behind in that machine.  The example used in class was writing a novel.  In the machine one can experience writing a novel, but no novel is actually, physically written.  People would generally prefer to actually have the novel though instead of just experiencing it.  It lets someone have a sort of “victory” over life which is the natural want of most people, animals and plants even.