The Age of Television: A Study of Viewing Habits and the Impact of Television on American Life

The Age of Television: A Study of Viewing Habits and the Impact of Television on American Life

The Age of Television: A Study of Viewing Habits and the Impact of Television on American Life

The Age of Television: A Study of Viewing Habits and the Impact of Television on American Life

Excerpt

On the evening of March 7, 1955, one out of every two Americans was watching Mary Martin play "Peter Pan" before the television cameras. Never before in history had a single person been seen and heard by so many others at the same time. The vast size of the audience was a phenomenon in itself as fantastic as any fairy tale. The age of television had arrived.

In the stream of history, a great invention is always both effect and cause. It arises from the existing base of knowledge and technology, and from the kinds of questions which the challenges of life in his place and time suggest to the curious mind of the inventor. Once it has come into being, the invention acquires a dynamism of its own, merging with a thousand other forces and events to set in motion new ways of action and thought.

Television broadcasting as it exists in America today is not merely the product of a science which has mastered mysteries of light and sound and electronics. It is also the creature of an economy capable of producing and distributing goods on a massive scale and of a society so complex that its business cannot be handled by face-to-face communication.

The Mass Media and the Great Society

America in the mid-twentieth century is the supreme embodiment of what social philosophers since Adam Smith have characterized as the Great Society, and which they have contrasted with the simpler life of our ancestors or "primitive" contemporaries. This is a society in which people assemble in large aggregations, in which wealth grows through the increased productivity made possible by a division of labor. But as work becomes specialized, and as the tempo of life is speeded, the relations between human beings change their character.

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