Saturday, September 18, 2004

Adult Participation in Modern Culture

It is a great time to be an adult and a parent. Most American pop culture is driven by the inchoate desires of 14 year-old boys, so up until very recently, adults were simply shut out from mainstream culture, if they were inclined to grow past “Must See” TV. Now, thanks to DVRs and the Internet, which have given the consumers demand-driven media, adults can partake in popular culture once again.

For example, I hate the radio—obnoxious, ignorant DJs, insipid, redundant commercials, and the same songs over and over. Before the Internet, I would have to drive to a music store (I still think of them as “record stores”), get frustrated with a surly minimum-wage slave who had no interest in music made prior to last year, and purchase an album I wasn’t precisely sure I liked. I never would have risked a new genre, or an unknown artist, because the chance of being unhappy with my decision was too great.

However, Yahoo!’s LAUNCHcast Plus has been the best 30 dollars we have spent in years. Unlike mp3 peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, the burden isn’t on the user to go out and find new music. It recommends music I never would have encountered on my own, by relying on my prior ratings. I have discovered Scott Miller, The Two Dollar Pistols, Chet Baker, Mississippi John Hurt, Kasey Chambers, and The White Stripes, to name a few. What a wonderful experience! And I can play the station on my computer while I write, not doing anything but listening. It is a wonderful thing for my daughter, too, since she loves music. I can play her the music from my childhood, songs from people like Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson, and Don Williams.

The same quiet revolution for the middle class has occurred with the digital video recorder (DVR). To be able to watch pre-recorded television and painlessly remove the commercials is a wonderful thing for everyone, but is a real blessing for a parent. Ten years ago, I probably would have been one of those mothers who simply didn’t watch TV, and rejoiced when the set died. Today, I am convinced it can be a wonderful tool for families. We can pre-record shows on the History channel or the Discovery channel, or even some children’s channels (they are the absolute worst), and feel comfortable with our children watching television with us. The ability to pause the live broadcast as well as record means that viewers are no longer slaves to the TV’s schedule. This will have a significantly positive impact on parenting.

For those of you who don’t want to be tied to a subscription service, such as TiVo, Replay TV, etc., or want to avoid the constraints of a single-use appliance, there is hope. If you have an old computer laying around, you can build your own PVR (personal video recorder).

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