Television As An Individualized Process
A Thesis Presented to
(Corrected And Modified January 2000)
Roy David Follendore III
Copyright © August 1980
This paper is dedicated to the spirit of creative thinking.
It was not until I was a senior and high school that I decided to become an artist. Although I have been drawing and painting as far back as I can remember, these actions were pretty much automatic and probably a direct result of my natural interaction with my environment. After a three-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, which solidified my desire to become an individualist in my work as an artist, I enrolled in the Memphis academy of arts. There I perfected my skills in the use of all of the tools which the academy or I thought might be needed to more expressly communicate these individual esthetic ideas and ideals.
It was natural that in that process I came to grasp with television production as a part of those tools of communication. My studies in advertising, illustration, and painting, as well as my major, photography, was an expressive lead into the television production which I produced and wrote my senior year in partial fulfillment of my bachelor fine arts degree.
This television production, Continuum , was produced over a nine-month period at WKNO, a PBS station on the campus of Memphis State University. Although I had been using black and white “porta-pak” television equipment at the Academy for over a year prior to this production, it was at this time that through these professionals at WKNO (most notably, Mr. John Lester, Director) that I really came to understand the differences of perception of the viewer vs. producer.
Upon presentation of Continuum to the Faculty and student body at the Memphis Academy of Arts, the most notable result was the ready acceptance of the audience to the unique format, which the tape exhibited. At the same time that the virtues of the esthetic communicative qualities of television were being exhibited through Continuum, I was to learn another lesson even more poignant. The Board of Directors and management of the station refused to transmit the tape to the community. Although the artistic community accepted and praised the production, the gatekeepers rejected this radical approach to television.
Although I felt blocked and frustrated, I was intent on carrying on and in doing so, understanding the problems to which I was confronted. I entered Memphis State’s Individual Studies program and was able to cross mix the study of Fine Arts with the heavy dose of communication theory. In doing this, I acknowledge the help of Dr. Leonard Lee and David Appleby of the Speech and Communications Department as well as Brack Walker and Calvin Foster of the Graphic Design Department. It is their tolerance, guidance, and understanding that molded my own determination as an artist so that the study of this dilemma of television, which I found through a creative attempt of production, could be better understood. It is through an interactional point of view that I as an artist/producer became a researcher; and as such, it is from the point of view of an artist that I write this thesis.
Most of all I wish to acknowledge the inspiration and perspiration, which my wife Julia Sides Follendore has contributed. Her excellent choreography of Continuum as well as support throughout my graduate studies is the “Great White Birds of the Sunset” and to her I give my credit and love.
Follendore, Roy. M.S. Memphis State University, August 1980. Television As An Individualized Process Committee Chairman: Brack Walker
There are two viewpoints of which the producer/director must be aware. The first is his own: what he is accomplishing in terms of aesthetic and technical communicative qualities. The second is how the individual viewer will consciously see those efforts. Even at best these two viewpoints are only similar. The individual views the production according to his own sensual, interactional, and psychological parameters. The following thesis is directed at exploring the connotations relating to this dilemma as well as interpreting what it means to both perspectives. This is an interactional approach as I am actively involved with the subject matter that I am researching. The importance to me as a producer of artistic work is to understand how the individual influences his own television perceptions in terms of expectations and preconceptions thereby consciously and/or unconsciously individualizing this media process.
Chapter I : Television As A Process In Terms Of The Individualized Perceptions Of The Viewer
The T.V. set is somewhat like a lens through which the efforts of hundreds are directed to millions over vast periods of time. The Director and the Producer are gatekeepers at the production end while at the other end it is individuals (in singular) who make up the masses.
The director of a program is involved with the application of aesthetic judgment as it relates to the producers interests. The producers’ interest in a normal network solution deals less perhaps with aesthetic content than the values of the financial backers who are without a doubt interested in monetary returns. It is how the individual views such a systems products, T.V. production, through that fantastic visual instrument, the television set, that this paper is dedicated.
To research this, I have tried to bring into play the macro view of the process of television from aesthetic, historical, and scientifically practical perspectives. The need to more effectively communicate visually as an artist producing television programming has lead me to this interactional orientation toward research, i.e. problem solving. I also understand that therein exists an important interactional perception of science and sociology, which can be arrived at only from within the attempts of the researcher to perceive and communicate through the internal systematic intuitive process. So that while one reason for writing this thesis is to inform, another reason for this writing is simply to grasp the continuity of relationships between the technical processes of the television system and the process of interrelationships with human perspective, with which I work.
Television is primarily a visual process. The ability of the human being to accept and initialize the vast amount visual information transmitted is a fundamental aspect to the television’s exceptional efficiency. But the hardware involved is hardly academic. However, it is this interrelationship of the man/machine concept to which importance of this paper I attach.
Toward this process there are three general social areas which effect communication. These elements include the historical, psychologically sensual, and the interactional perspectives of orientation. Each of elements is bound to the other in terms of orientation. The technical considerations of television are the result of precursor historical events of communication process. This in turn resulted in the birth of the process we call television. The interactional element of the television process deals directly with the result of the historical elements and specifically with the individual’s perceptions of that process. The psychologically sensual orientation of the individual places the emphasis on these elements of the television communication expression of the process and deals with the thinking behind that specific sensual perception.
In reality, the divisions of these areas are actually too closely integrated to be divided and in effect are the process of television. This then is an interactional view; a point of view that I feel is more closely aligned with that perspective of the individual viewer. In this manner, television as an event of process can be studied. Television, the process of human sensual perspective, as biased by historical orientation, can be evaluated so that this philosophically based perspective research paper can be used for personal aesthetic goals and needs as an artist and as a student of the visual communication process.
We arrived from the depths of history as a generation used to horrific shocks on the national and international scale. Historically we Americans are well informed about this as a result of efficient journalism. Newspaper stories of war, famine, and humor prepared the way in society for the birth of television. Radio provided an easily adaptable transmission format, which adapted then to a highly profitable system of television networks we enjoy today. Through this system we are now used to television answering our needs at the touch of a button. The homogenized images and sounds emitted from this appliance are accepted into the homes of almost everyone financially able to afford it, and many who are not. It is not surprising, “The most prominent, though not the most important, function of television is to entertain. The second major function of television is to inform and educate.” What is surprising is that in less than two hundred years man has gone from the arts, to the remarkable advent of still photography, to the socially altering images of modern television. Thus when discussing the historical basis of television, I feel it is important to include the significance of basic social effects art and photography has had on our society in context to the individuals in our society.
The ancient social institution surrounding art images has guarded the aesthetic significance of imagery for modern man. When photography arrived on the scene, the only images that people had to compare were art images. Before this time artists captured the essences of events. “It is one of the chief functions of the artist to render experience arresting by rendering it alive.” Formats for such iconic renderings had long been established. For photographers of their early period, whose product was by its nature so exact at reproduction, it was natural that they would produce images emulating painters and other artists of the day. “For the observer, one function of the fine arts is certainly to provide the peace of beauty and the escape of detachment.” After all, at this time, this was an attempt to make photography and the photographic experience understood. “The artist himself, when he is anything more than a perfumed aesthete, would be the last to deny the moral power and imaginative effectiveness of his medium.” The ultimate illusion of the photographic process soon became the ultimate illusion of the motion picture process. “Works of art often start an experience going that is enjoyable in itself, and this experience is sometimes worth having, not merely an indulgence in irrelevant sentimentality.” Critics of photography, however, soon claimed photography could never be reality (untouched by inspiration of its own), a process without the controls of human inspiration and individualism.
“No matter how imaginative the material for a work of art, it issues from the state of reverie to become a matter of a work of art only when it is ordered and organized, and this effect is produced only when purpose controls selection and development of material.
The characteristic of dream and reverie is absence of control by purpose. Images and ideas succeed one another according to their own sweet will, and the sweetness of the succession to feeling is the only control that is exercised.”
The advent of the motion picture did nothing to absolve the controversy of the artist/photographer relationship. In fact, the images of the motion picture, derived from the still photographic process reflected an even greater departure from the artistic efforts of the still “photographer” of the past. “Photography as knowledge is succeeded by photography as photography.” The photographic effort of motion pictures related more to the “theater” of the visual arts. The elements of time and movement created “convertibility” of reality so apparent with theatrical experience. Audio soon supported this experience, but it was and is the visual image that carries realism. In any regard, by the time television arrived the serial experience resulting from the motion picture experience emulated the theatric experience.
Originally, the television experience had been developed as a real time event. Something would happen in one place and be seen through television simultaneously in a number of other places. (The first equipment used to accomplish this was heavily mechanical in design, but it was eventually modified into the electric T.V. camera and electric T.V. set. The introduction of magnetic recording tape and the video tape recording machine relied on those previous developments.) When the video tape recorder was put into use in combination with all electric cameras and receivers, it changed the nature of television—the video image, an electronic representation of the original reality, became like film imagery capable of storage, modification, and selective display.
In many ways the social acceptance of television has to do with the media experience the first new generation of video viewers (like myself) underwent than with the technology. Born at the end of the Second World War, these “kids” were the first to have grown up with television in their home. They were the first to feel the profound impact of the medium that destroyed time and space in their daily lives. Their sensitivity to television as a magic box of realistic fantasies was and is even today extreme. Their experiences mark the beginning of television’s sociological impact and they were the first to have complete individual interactional relationships with network television productions.
Because television is primarily a visual intellectual process, it is the phenomena of the individual human being to adapt and initialize the vast amount of visual information transmitted that is fundamental to television’s exceptional efficiency.
Thus in reality the technical phenomenon of the T.V. extends into the audience . The entertainment is transmitted to the home in the same moment the viewer is transported to the event. Not the hot media of the film but the cool electronic event of the home: the set itself forms and frames images as though a physical object. This concept of a visual framed window confrontation underlines television’s believability. The crystal ball effect (the believability) is enhanced and supported by the reality of the set object self. It is a mirrored image of the mind’s eye and the T.V. set (reality) in between. Like film, in a very real sense, the television experience parallels closely the continuous conscious experience of the individual. “Because they enhance perception and help organize and relate material, multi-image presentations allow producers to compress the time needed to create impressions. In single image presentations, impressions are created through a process of addition: images are added on top of images, one at a time, until a thought is conveyed or an impression is created. With multi-image presentations impressions are created by the flow of multiplying images not just with by the individual image. The impressions are not presented so much as revealed. This is possible because a multi-image presentation in some ways duplicates—and in some ways surpasses—the process of human perception. We normally see in panoramas, our eyes sweeping the space before us, until something of interest arrests our attention. Then we narrow our focus and concentrate on that object. If that object is of great interest to us, we may narrow our focus even more.” Perhaps this is even more so reflected in the very ways, which the television experience is used and developed. The individual narrows his focus on that one object. The fact that the T.V. is an object rather than an immaterial projected screen is important.
As one turns on the television, he expects to see an image. “The process of selectively “seeing” the world around us takes place rapidly. Our minds may focus on dozens of objects in a matter of seconds. From the individual focus our minds begin to build an overall impression. Basically multi-image presentations duplicate this process.” Equally, one expects to see images when he views a film, but the individual approaching a film knows the subject matter and has some reasonable idea as to style, etc. Television images are less deliberate and more confrontational. Like everyday life the images become repetitive and random , less precious. Aside from preplanned viewing, the audience approach to selection is by necessity less contemplated. (Again, television images are cheaper to receive and consequently less deliberate than film). Like true reality, the images of the television experience continually command and go. When we then view it, the images then become part of an alternate reality for us. Whereas, film indicates preciousness of purpose, television sidesteps this by virtue of its capability to create cheap realistic imagery. Retaped or mixed and replayed at will, the mechanics of the machinery built in the system we use to produce and transmit the television demands purpose of thought but does not require it. Live television does not have to be indirect as with film or tape. The unconscious recognition of this fact probably accounts for the “You are there” feeling which television can project.
In the convenience of the home and without the theatrical necessities of film, television is continuous and instantaneous, not unlike life experience itself. Outside that of the transparent reflections of the screen, television promises only an experience as dramatic as individual wishes to attach to the engagement.
Television is an idea rather than just machine; it is more than a machine of communication designed through modern technology to transmit ideas and thoughts using representational imagery and associated sounds thereby communicating from one person to another. The system(s) of personal influence to which television is aimed is not just a matter of so much wire and transistors. The social influences of television are the effects of television. If one were to disassociate policies and intention from production and direction of programming, only a small (potential) part of the television would be presented. The study of television communication and ways in which to better communicate through television demands understanding of not only the symbolic information transmitted but a working definition of television processes in relation to the point of view of the individual viewer. Such an interactional individualized approach is long overdue.
“One reason for the absence of such research may well be that we have no clear idea of the kind of atmosphere that is created by either interpersonal or mass communication. Hence it would be difficult to determine whether the one is becoming more like the other.
A subtler hypothesis about the influence of interpersonal interaction on mass communication might be proposed as an explanation for the tendency of some media to rely heavily on “lowest common denominator” content . When audiences consist of groups of heterogeneous persons, the media must provide material that will have some appeal to everyone in the group. When audience members are isolated, the media are free to present specialized content without fear of losing the interested individual.”
Once again, it is important to remember where this impact began. The public was made prepared for video by the film industry in the thirties and forties, which provided both information and entertainment. When the lights went out and the curtain was pulled back, the audience was pulled into film’s alternate reality . But the individual television viewer no longer has to go outside his home to consume and experience that alternate reality. Today, within the confines of home, anyone by confronting his television set can be conducted to any part of the earth and to other planets. Thus television not only creates the illusion of reality, at the same time it extends the world’s reality into the individual’s everyday experience. Just as the television experience became socially accepted, the images on the screen have become a representative series of things individually accepted. Thus, the television experience no longer is an event but a phenomenon. And, through this phenomenon, the public has brought public events into their personal lives.
Television is the direct result of our electronic technology carried beyond film: and unlike the motion picture, the phosphorous television image presented to the viewer is a continual process of change. The processional event of television differs from film fundamentally as a result of this means by which the information is transferred to the viewer. The film, the theatrical atmosphere of the presentation--- the darkening of the audience environment, the feeling of the ritual, and the public expectations of the film imagery are both a direct result of the projected media by which the film images are transferred. (Marshall McLuhan)
But, consider the symbolic representation of the mass communications process as presented by the network television system. The system is, to the vast majority of the population, an open system. The system dictates programming directed at the majority, leaving no input for the typical viewer. Only the standard television controls are available to such an individual. The choice is usually yes or no, or how bright, or how loud to observe the program.
The situation is rather like that of a (lecturing) speaker and the audience. An individual in the audience might have the option move to change audio levels, or see better, or even leave; but regardless, the content is beyond the typical individual’s control. Like commercial network television today, the individual observer is normally without direct influence to the system. This form of communicating is modeled to be a social influence controlling the individual’s perception . It is for this communication objective that the system is oriented and directed. Instructions concerning such objectives for change in individual behavior are classic. “A precise statement of communications objectives helps determine how, when, and where a program will be produced. Writing a communications objective is not a matter of simply describing your presentation’s focus or theme. To do that is to confuse a statement of content with a statement of audience reaction. To say that you want “to explain the features and benefits” of a new product is not a communications objective; unless of course, your aim is to prepare the audience for a test. Such a statement merely outlines the content to be used in the presentation. In stating your communications objective, you should frame your goal in terms of some change in human behavior.” 
Even though the individual is treated as an observer, through role-playing he personalizes the messages. Interaction of the individual to the program and thus individual change of behavior is key to individual viewer’s perception as far as television production is concerned. “Media audiences are not masses in any serious sense, and do not behave as if they were.” The communication objective is depersonalized and is directed toward particular classes and social segments of the audience rather than to individuals. The depersonalized singularity of the objective acts (are) like grease for the transmission of the television-marketing message. Marketing concepts of the day have long relied on such a relationship to persuade the right segment of the audience. (Nielsen ratings in fact depend on this type of consideration to persuade networks to use their services.)
The actions of the programming playing on the individual’s consciousness is beyond control of that individual. Once one makes the decision to view the event, the information is uncontrollable. From a macro point of view, this (uncontrolled) information can change social patterns of thinking. Example: It has been said that television is the eyes of the nation that the national conscience of the United States somehow changed when television came into its own. Vietnam exposure by the media to the nation is sometimes cited, “Vietnam was television’s war.”
Thus through the eyes of television, America’s national conscience is constantly being manipulated. The issue then becomes how the “eyes of the nation” manipulate the individual perspective .
From an interactional individualized perspective, television is like a window to the world but is also an object to be confronted and a device to be controlled. In the past (and particularly) during the fifties and sixties, the need for this control perspective has both been exaggerated and underrated. The result being that official regulation of the television industry is often over reactive while public training toward the goal of self control and self regulation has been until recently, almost nonexistent. Planning by the individual family members of program viewing at one time was limited; a result perhaps of the fact that most families had only one television set and the choice of channels were limited. But, today many have access to cable broadcasts as well as home cassette taped programming, thereby changing viewer orientation of television. Many families have more set(s) allowing each member to select his own programs. Just as unique interactional experiences of each person’s perceptions are different, unique differences in every family member’s experience are possible today through the same event of television. The effective result of an event begins to exist with a parallel reflection of a series of unique and original experiences. Through technological devices, such as videotape machines, today’s television offers a sensory experience of choosing , not just transformations. But whether this brings the viewer close to the self or to things around the self, aesthetic judgments relating to the decision of the director, writer, actors, cameramen, etc. is transferred in such a way as to be readily and conveniently incorporated into individual personal experience, and expectations. Thus, expectations of the individual viewer are most important.
These expectations become apparent by the applications, which the producer of programming redundantly caters. This redundancy of the television media is the major limiting factor as well as the major stabilizing factor in the selection of production topics. “The favorite topic of the mass media, bar none, is violence. Violent crime is the biggest seller of them all. The first specialized reporter in American journalism, hired in 1833, covered the police beat. The most typical article in the Yellow Press at the turn of the century was the crime story.” Crime, especially violent crime is a fine example of this type topic that holds public interest thereby stabilizing viewer attention. It is also an example of expectations perpetuating emotional attitudes. “Social scientists have repeatedly found that the public’s interest in crime is grounded less in excitement than in fear. The mass media did not create the fear of crime. But by catering to that fear, they perpetuate, exaggerate, and distort it. It is ridiculously easy to cover. Since the reporter works hand in glove with the police, crime stories almost invariably favor the official point of view.”
Remember however that because expectations of individuals can and do change, so can those expectations of the media . Pope John Paul II recently implied that the mass media (television) do sometimes misrepresent expectations, which the individuals may have toward a given subject. While, “Sources of mass-media content cannot gear their messages to individuals in the audience, and cannot easily judge how the audience is responding in time to change the message accordingly. The media audience can easily avoid conversion to new attitudes (and even exposure to unpleasant truths) by ignoring, misunderstanding, or forgetting what it does not want to know. In the end, the mass media are so complex, and so diverse in their sources and channels, that no single viewpoint is likely to dominate the media for long. As a result of all of this, mass media pervade the lives of all Americans, adults as well as children: we are all in some sense products of our media.”
In conclusion, perhaps the most important aspect of the confusing process of television from an individual’s point of view is the vast amount of visual images and therefore information, which is displayed and characterized by the way in which it is programmed . The manner in which information is transferred in terms of approach of that individual, point of view, in stereotyping imagery, and other production value judgments are in effect, a type of visual language designed to effect that individual. All kinds of programming use visual language. We learn from entertainment too and are influenced by fiction and “straight” news as well as by intentional persuasion. Television retains these icons of visual language in much the same way as “Art” has in the past. But television is dynamic and involves the transfer of much more information. This relationship involving both producer and director and affecting the individual audience member is also a part of this social process involving that individual’s receptive communication qualities.
These are the icons of our approach, involving production that is not only a learned process of observation but also becomes our immediate viewer reflex. The habits which gatekeepers of visual and audio information (namely the director) impart is an important congruency in forming new and existing visual languages between that viewer and the resulting production. Specific types of audience are used to seeing imagery in certain sequence(s) as well as time frame(s). This has an important effect in the director’s selection of the type of programming that can be attempted on specific audiences in terms of the type of imagery displayed. Of course if we want to not only define, but to measure the effects in terms of visual elements , the sequence or content must have common factors. But such measurement is not always the same as understanding and it can even sometimes be misleading. Perhaps in this regard, verbal language as applied to visual imperatives, are not logical in all respects. The concern for this type of individualized communication programming control could have a positive communicative impact on future programming. For now it is best left to the critics to attempt such a methodology. Today, with our monetary marketing value systems this measurement of social interaction of visual relationships are developed and (are) aimed through programming in (a) shotgun pattern toward the individual in the audience.
It is these intrinsic monetary marketing value systems that are employed in such a process and applicable to today’s media. There are well-researched rules of thumb that are applied by directors and pro ducers, which contribute to mass stereotyping of individuals through their persuasive productions. Here is a more or less random list of six findings from this type of research. It represents a kind of visual language of persuasion used by producers and directors to gain audience rating and therefore individual behavior changes.
1. “It is usually better to state your conclusions explicitly than to let your audience draw its own conclusions.
2. Arguments presented at the beginning or end of a communication are remembered better than arguments presented in the middle.
3. Emotional appeals are often more effective than strictly rational ones.
4. When dealing with an audience that disagrees with your position, it helps to acknowledge some validity to the opposing view.
5. Attitude change may be greater some time after a communication than right after it.
6. High-credibility sources (such as doctors) provoke more attitude change (than) low-credibility sources (such as patients), even if the reason for the credibility has nothing to do with the topic of the communication.”
In effect today’s value systems of visual language is inherently within television solved by virtue of the economic considerations. Transcending new novel approaches , considerations regarding this system of monetary “free enterprise” within television incorporates one element as far as programming, that of mediocrity, by the need for appealing to the majority regardless of aesthetic content. But, the viewer of today’s programming is aware of the media’s attempts to force an action through given sets of stimulus. The individual viewer expectations are important to any given set of visual programming and must be incorporated into relationships of today’s communication environment.
Behavior brought to a communications transfer of language is open to measure. Harder to measure is the individual attitudes which become points of logic by which individual behavior takes place. Through interactional perspective, action and symbolic action by virtue of those attitudes in processional development of human communication is emphasized and can be measured.
Television then can be described as an externalized process where many sets of expectations and many sets of attitudes (the individuals) meet on the individual level a specific set of expectations and attitudes (the programming) through action and symbolic action. On the macro point of view in terms of audience ramification (which commercial T.V. programming is oriented), the match is oriented “democratically” (the majority). The reach for a majority of viewer’s attitudes and expectations most of the time is inherent. On dealing with such a value, the majority is manifest regardless of the individual’s concepts of considerations and justification. But, pre-packaged programming contains philosophical considerations mismatched to the audience at best. “Even though advertising and propaganda are not always successful, they achieve enough that few manufacturers or ideologies would try to do without them.”
The masses audience perceived by the producers under such a system is a fictitious one whose variables are changed according to marketing directions.
From the opposite point of view, the individual is often perplexed by this interaction consistently received. The true individual audience member (in singular) is unique and independent of most of the mass value systems. Although every single one of us has a common dominator, each is separate and unique in values. In this way we individuals mold our own independent behavior, regardless of attempted modifications of behavior. This creative reception of packaged programming of commercial television perhaps accounts for the ability of the individual to tolerate mismatched programming. Individual value judgments float with the action of the programming by virtue of individual interpretations.
The congruence of the audience as measured by the receptiveness of the majority of individuals to indulge in processing of visual information is a yes-no and cannot be interpreted as acceptance or rejection of such programming; but a joint action reflecting social grouping as well as mutuality “sharedness” or “congruence” of the individual’s orientations toward self, other, and object may also be possible.
This black and white value system of the individual toward programming is elemental in so far as the production is concerned. Such individualized concerns are interpreted in terms of marketing as black and white (the set is off or on—the individual buys or does not buy.)
The individual as a individual is therefore at the same time ostracized as an individual as well as incorporated minimally within the existing commercial television process. This is the crotch of such dilemma between a relationship of individual audience and intentional productive communication on a mass individual scale. The relationship is full of interactive and reactive elements when approached from such a philosophical perspective. But, television as an individualized process is a pivot of interpretation of explanation of the television/human relationship in terms of communication.
Chaffee Steven H., “The Interpersonal Context of Mass Communication,” in Current Perspectives in Mass Communication Research, ed. By F. Gerald Kline and Phillip J. Tichenor (Sage Publications, 1972)
Commager, Henry Steele, “Television The Medium In Search of Its Character,” in Modern Culture and the Arts, ed. By James B. Hall and Barry Ulanov (Mcgraw-Hill book Company, 1972)
Dewey, John, Art as Experience (Capricorn Books, 1934)
Edman, Irwin, Arts and the Man (W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1967)
Kenny, Michael F. and Schmitt, Raymond F., The Book of Programmed Multi-Image Production (Eastman Kodak, 1979)
Sandman, Peter M., Rubin, David M., and Sachsman, David B., ed., Media: An Introductory Analysis of American Mass Communication, (2d ed.; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, inc., 1976)
It has taken me twenty years to provide solutions for the implications expressed in this paper. When I first undertook the effort to write this thesis I was deeply involved in trying to understand the process and implications of communicating images to individuals through various mass media. I wanted this to be a kind of thinking academic paper about the subject.
When it was being written, I considered most visual communication media, including painting and sculpture to be a kind of mass media. I had already earned a BFA in Fine Arts from what was then the Memphis Academy of Arts (MAA). That experience gave me a deep appreciation for the important history of images within our societies. The issues that I became interested in were the result of my explorations in the Fine Arts.
There I had discovered the age-old ideas surrounding importance of presentation media. The context in which art is presented, directly affects the perceived value. Art that would be otherwise perceived as trash could be perceived as having value in the right environment. Art that would be otherwise perceived as having great value would be perceived as being trash. I directly observed that visual context was having a great cognitive impact on the viewer. After spending some time exploring the concepts and implications of static icons within visual communication, I concluded that context is associated with a dimensional quality that could only be vaguely indicated through iconography.
The 1979 environment in which I began to write this paper had no home computers. Television was at that moment the most important communications force in existence. The impact of television on my personal life to that time had been great. I had attended both MAA and Memphis State University (MSU) on the G.I. Bill, which I was entitled by virtue of my enlistment during the Vietnam War era. Television had helped change the world and probably had on a number occasions probably prevented its destruction. I had a technical background from military service schools. As an artist and a researcher, it was therefore natural that I would be attracted to the exploration of Television communication. It was through this thesis that television became the means for exploring the concept of a dynamic contextual icon. The choice of television as a subject of this thesis provided the means to consider the problem space that I was interested in exploring.
The same kind of problems that exists with respect to television is also being repeated today as part of a dominant proscription for the dissemination of information through the Internet. Today, not only is the Television uncontrollable with respect to human context, the presentations from the World Wide Web is also uncontrollable. The “thinking paper” process was fortunate, though it at first appears to wander. The reason is that ideas contained within remain relevant exploration treaty of the problem space.
Twenty years is a long time to be working on a single problem. It seems that in many ways my orientation to the issues that were presented in this paper have been recognized in many different situations. While I did not use this thesis as a proscription and to be perfectly frank, until this week I had not carefully reread it since I originally wrote it. I had thought that I had left it behind. While I knew that the roots of my work began with this thesis I simply thought of it as outdated. After coming across the paper I took the time to read and absorb it. Although I found many errors that were not corrected for obvious reasons on manual typewriters, I also was delighted to find many interesting thoughts, which were never outdated or abandoned. In fact, for the most part it is easy to replace the word “television” with “Internet” and get the same feel for the problems that I have been researching.
By reading the paper I rediscovered many of the origins of the research work and crypto inventions, one of which (U.S. Patent number 6,011,847) was just patented four days ago. For instance, expressed within this thesis is the idea that there is little contextual content control given to viewers. This idea that “content is beyond the typical individual’s control” is an important part of the justification for my new patent. In effect, the heart of the problem that my new patent may resolve is the concern that for the viewer “Once one makes the decision to view the event, the information is uncontrollable.” Until the technical tools exist for the media programmer (author & publisher), information (and knowledge) still arrives out of context and still represents an unpredictable impact. Programming for the masses may produce entertainment but it also introduces communication problems. These kinds of issues all came into focus through the work of writing of this paper and directly led to the ideas for the need of Virtual Private Networking, and Object Oriented Cryptography which I originated at the beginning of the 1990’s.
It is in this context that I believe that the thesis represents an important intellectual contribution. I do not apologize for what seems to be a rambling process for at the time it was an intellectual reach to consider many seemingly distinct and distant concepts as a whole. In retyping this paper into digital format I obviously thought about things that I should have added or left out. My ultimate decision to keep the presentation of this thesis as faithful to the original paper was predicated on the idea that the root is the beginning of growth for future branches. The corrections that were made were typographical or grammatical in nature to make the paper easier to read. I made a deliberate and concerted effort to maintain the original content.
Roy D. Follendore III
of reality......... 10
denominator” content......... 13
institution surrounding art images 9
II: Television As An Individualized Process, A Historical Perspective...... 9
III: Television As An Individualized Process, A Psychologically Sensual
IV: Television As An Individualized Process, An Interactional
V: Television As An Individualized Process, Some Conclusions..
objective is depersonalized......... 14
congruence of the
individual’s perception.... 14
conversion to new
characterized by the way in which it is programmed.. 17
Dr. Leonard Lee
the media 16
gatekeepers at the
psychologically sensual, and the interactional perspectives....
not presented....... 11
reactive elements......... 19
mirrored image of
the mind’s eye... 11
new and existing
visual languages..... 17
relation to the point of view. 13
director and affecting the individual......
playing on the individual’s consciousness.........
reach for a
majority of viewer’s attitudes and expectations..
rules of thumb
that are applied by directors and pro.........
of choosing....... 15
toward the individual...... 17
T.V. extends into
the audience......... 11
T.V. is an object.........
Television As A
Process In Terms Of The Individualized Perceptions Of The Viewer
the “You are
there” feeling 12
the effects in
terms of visual elements......... 17
orientations toward self, other, and object
the medium that
destroyed time and space 10
event of television....... 14
visual language of
persuasion used by producers and directors.........
 Henry Steele Commager, “Television The Medium In Search of Its Character,” in Modern Culture and the Arts, ed. By James B. Hall and Barry Ulanov (Mcgraw-Hill book Company, 1972), p. 405.
 Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man (W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1967), p. 17.
 Ibid., 23.
 Ibid., 49
 John Dewey, Art as Experience (Capricorn Books, 1934), p. 276.
 Susan Sontag, Photography in Search of Itself, New York Review, January, 1977, p. 53.
 Michael F. Kenny and Raymond F. Schmitt, The Book of Programmed Multi-Image Production (Eastman Kodak, 1979), p. 14.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Steven H. Chaffee, “The Interpersonal Context of Mass Communication,” in Current Perspectives in Mass Communication Research, ed. By F. Gerald Kline and Phillip J. Tichenor (Sage Publications, 1972), p. 114.
 Kenny, Programmed Multi-Image Production, p. 18.
 Chaffee, Mass Communication Research, p. 114.
 Peter M. Sandman, David M. Rubin, and David B. Sachsman, ed., Media: An Introductory Analysis of American Mass Communication, (2d ed.; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, inc., 1976), p. 430.
 Ibid., p. 411.
 Ibid., p. 412.
 Ibid., p. 11
 Ibid., p. 9.
 Ibid., p. 10.
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