"Those who would mould public opinion must take due account of the relative effectiveness of eye and ear modes of stimulation, and particularly those modes of such vast and rapidly growing proportions as the screen, the radio and television. What effects are these comparatively new instruments of entertainment, of instruction, of propaganda, of culture exerting upon society. To which of these new tools of communication are people attending most readily? Are people remembering what they see on the screen and hear on the radio? Which do they remember better? And what do we expect from television?"
– From Eye vs. Ear in Moulding Opinion (The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3, Jul., 1937), by Frank R. Elliott,
Holy Cow! 1937!
We haven't even fully answered –much less assimilated– the original question and here we are now, grappling with the effects of intercontinental travel, cable television, satellite communications, MTV, Reality TV, the 24 Hour News cycle, a thousand channels to choose from and a set top digital video recorder to capture it all, not to mention personal computers, portable media players, mobile phones, smartphones, smart missiles, first person shooters, video game consoles, causal games, social games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, texting, sexting, tweets, blogs, apps, email, social networks, the erosion of copyright, the end of privacy and the emergence of globalization, ubiquitous branding, guerilla marketing, environmental installations, product placement, branded coffee sleeves, ad-wrapped buses, digital signage, desktop publishing, instant messaging, chat rooms, online forums, streaming video, beat matching, pitch correction, loops, samples, plugins, hyperlinks, passwords, adwords, broadband, cloud computing, databases, floppy discs, laster discs, compact discs, hard drives, flash drives, backup drives, global positioning technology, Internet search, Silicon Graphics, silicon implants, collagen lips, avatars, Unix, Intel, AOL, Apple, IBM, Windows, Photoshop, MySpace, cyberspace, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, jpegs, mp3s, movs, office docs, dot coms, hook ups and STDs, slow motion, stop motion, 3-D, P2P, Hi-Def, holographic, motion graphic, closed captioning, closed circuit, open source, outsource, sound bytes, ringtones, podcasts, viral vids, keywords, metatags, 'I Like', 'Friend Me' , friends with benefits, wiki this and wiki that, free content, cross border discontent, hacking malcontents and porn, porn, porn just about anywhere and everywhere you look.
Gee, is it any wonder that the last decade has been characterized by attention deficit disorder, Adderall, crystal meth and serotonin reuptake inhibitors? Ha, and fasten your seat belts because this ride has only just begun.
And it makes me think that given the sheer number of stimulants available –media and otherwise– we live in a day in age when it may never be too early to teach our children patience, yoga, zen, and other skills necessary to sometimes sitting still and doing absolutely nothing at all.