#7: First Contact

It’s really hard to pinpoint the memory of my first experience with a PC or the Internet. I can think of a time when I was in 3rd grade where I would go over to my friend’s house and watch her play on her PC. We weren’t allowed to be on it for long. This trend continued, where I would be in contact with PCs through friends but we had limited amounts of time that we could be on it.

The internet was slow and so were the graphics but it was the most fascinating thing.

It wasn’t until fifth grade that we got an old desktop computer. It was big and clunky with no Internet access. I could only play Minesweeper or the pinball machine game or try and entertain myself with Microsoft paint. I didn’t spend too much time on it.

It wasn’t until sixth grade that my family bought a laptop which was nice for its time. It had a webcam and DVD player. Initially, I still didn’t have internet access but soon my begging paid off and my parents got WiFi.

Once able to connect to the Internet, I was amazed. I was able to watch YouTube videos and access hundreds of games. To my parents’ chagrin,  I went from being a heavy TV watcher to a heavy Internet user – a perfect example of displacement theory. Since the laptop was portable, I was able to stay up late at night and read or watch movies.

My parents had gotten the laptop so that I could use it in middle school for projects and homework. Having internet access at home truly helped. I didn’t have to walk to the library anymore or pay to print. I was able to do it all at home.

The Internet and PC have definitely made my life easier. Once we purchased smart TVs, I was able to access Netflix and Twitter on my TV. My parent’s decided to “satellite shave” and cut back on our Dish package. They even fancied the idea of cancelling our TV package altogether but the cons outweighed the pros so we kept our subscription.

We have talked in class about sports being a major benefit to TV service providers. This was a major factor when we debated whether or not to cancel our subscription. My dad wanted to be able to watch soccer and boxing in real time. My mom wanted to be able to watch the news when it aired. So we slimmed down our bundle instead and kept Internet.

Since then, the Internet has diversified my entertainment options. It’s impossible to really communicate the full scope of the Internet’s impact on my life. For one, it has made communication much easier with people from different countries. I can talk to my family from Mexico way easier than in the past. My parents also cut the international talk option from our phone plan as WhatsApp lets you text and call through the Internet. (An example of the theory of relative constancy, we pay for internet using the money we saved by cutting international talk.)  We are better able to share memories and keep in touch which is really important to us.

In summary, the PC and Internet have really improved my lifestyle. However, it has also been a test of my self-control since it is very easy to procrastinate with all the information and entertainment at our hands. It’s hard to remember life before computers and the internet and it’s even harder to think about them going away in the future. These are here to stay for certain but how we use and regulate them will continue to change.

 

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#4: The Future of TV

Millions of people tuned in last Sunday to watch the Super Bowl. Some for the actual game, some for the halftime show and some for the commercials. It’s repeatedly the most watched TV broadcast of the year. And also the most expensive. A 30-second ad went for fifty million dollars this year. But there is no shortage of companies who will pay to have their ad featured.

Why is that?

Social Learning Theory could help explain such a phenomenon. Advertisers know that people learn by modelling the behavior of others. We operate in a culture of consumption and companies are ready to spend millions in order to be featured on TV.

If we learn by modelling others, why not use TV? After all, television is the most used communication technology in the United States.

One of the greatest tools of socialization has been the television. Since its inception, people have used it for specific agendas. Political leaders have used it for propaganda in order to rally support for wars and policies. Companies use TV to get us to buy their products or use their services.

Television programming evokes responses from audiences in many ways. A great TV show can spur sentiments stronger than patriotism for the story and its characters. A show can create an entire empire by selling its merchandise. TV ads can stir controversy and spur nationwide boycotts.

Celebrity endorsements are another example of the power of social learning theory. If a respected celebrity with a large following endorses a product, subtly or covertly, sales usually increase. The more people like a celebrity, the more in-demand that person is.

We learn by watching others.

Even if we were to take the programming aspect of TV out, the physical object itself still influences our decisions. If someone you know buys the newest Samsung TV with the curved screen you might be inclined to purchase one yourself (once the price goes down, of course). TV gadgets like TiVo can initially encounter hesitation but once people see their friends using it and enjoying it, people gain the desire to own it too.

Back to programming, social learning theory works here too. A lot of new shows gain popularity through word-of-mouth. This is especially true of shows that don’t broadcast through traditional networks. I started watching Stranger Things because my friends kept telling me how amazing it was. Orange is the New Black, Mozart in the Jungle, and Narcos have become hits despite not airing on traditional networks.

There has also been a switching of conduits. Once a TV show has gathered a following on traditional broadcast but for some reason has been cancelled, on-demand services like Netflix pick them up. For example – Black Mirror. It originally aired on the British Channel 4 but was then taken over by Netflix. The show got an even larger following once American audiences began to watch it and tell their friends. This is also true of Breaking Bad which became a hit in the UK once it was uploaded to Netflix.

With services like Netflix and Amazon, television reaches even larger audiences giving producers more people to socialize. A dark aspect of social learning theory is that media can often reinforce negative stereotypes in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on.

People learn about others by watching TV. Millions of people get information via news channels and as much as audiences like to think that they are receiving unbiased news – they’re not. Television news stations continue to shape the way we view the world which can sometimes lead to  a type of mean world syndrome where people believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is.

Politicians use this to their advantage, utilizing fear as a tool to push their agendas. One of the downsides of social learning is that technology like television can be used to dehumanize certain groups. People watch and emulate others, sustaining the status quo.

Because TV is such a powerful tool of socialization, there is no decline in its horizon. Television is the most used commtech and is the second most owned. Whether it will oust radio in the latter regard remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – social learning is propagated through television which gives executives, producers, and companies no reason to not invest in its future.

People may think traditional television is threatened by Netflix or Hulu but I think these services enhance TV. Television can exist without Netflix, Netflix can’t exist without television. TV is still going strong and I doubt that will change in the years to come.

 

My Netflix Recommendations

Thanksgiving break is fast approaching and we all know what that means – eating, sleeping, capitalism, and avoiding responsibilities by watching Netflix.

However, a certain dilemma also pops up. What the hell do I watch?

It seems as if Netflix has a never-ending array of possibilities yet none of them seem appealing. Fret no more – I’ve compiled a list of movies and shows that I recommend for your viewing pleasure.

(These are in no particular order)

  1. Black Mirror

    I talked about Black Mirror in my previous post so that should give you an idea of what it’s about. Basically, each episode is independent of the other. They’re about the dark side of a technologically advanced world that’s not so different from our current one.
  2. How to Get Away with Murder

    This show is a wild ride. The main character, Wes, was Dean in Harry Potter. He’s grown up a lot as you can tell. The storyline is suspenseful and the show is super addicting with lots of twists and turns.
  3. Stranger Things

    I’m sure you’ve heard about this show or have watched it already. It’s so freaking good. There’s only eight episodes in the first season so this is perfect to watch over break.
  4. Tucker and Dale vs Evil

    Okay, so despite what the trailer may make this movie seem, it is surprisingly hilarious. In short, ” In the vein of Shaun of the Dead, Tucker & Dale is a wild, wonky tale of two hillbilly buddies trying to survive their vacation in the woods when they are mistaken for killers by a gang of college kids.” What ensues is hilarious.
  5. Bob’s Burgers

    Bob’s Burgers is a great show if you wanna laugh and lift your spirits. It centers around Bob and Linda Belcher and their three kids Louise, Tina, and Gene. You don’t have to watch it in order so there’s no strings attached. Although it’s animated, it’s not really a show for kids.
  6. That 70’s Show

    As you can see from the clip, it’s super funny. It’s set in the 70’s and features a group of friends going through life in Wisconsin. Like Stranger Things, the show does a good job on making the setting look as real as possible.
  7. Arrested Development

    Arrested Development was picked up by Netflix for it’s fourth season. The show changes a little in format but it’s still pretty hilarious. It centers on a dysfunctional family in California. Basically,  Michael Bluth finds himself forced to stay in Orange County and run the family real estate business after his father, George Bluth Sr., is sent to prison for committing white-collar crime. He tries to juggle the wants and needs of his spoiled and eccentric family while being a good role model for his teenage son, George Michael.
  8. Wilfred

    Elijah Wood is nothing like his Lord of the Rings character. He tried to commit suicide but survived (you’ll know why in the first episode) and then sees his neighbor’s dog as an Australian guy in a costume while everyone else just sees a dog. It’s really funny and a little crude but worth watching.
  9. Dexter

    Dexter is a blood splatter analyst by day but a serial killer by night. Miami is the perfect backdrop for his story. Granted, I haven’t seen it all but it’s incredibly addicting and has a lot of unexpected twists.
  10. Rebelde

    For all my Spanish speakers out there (or anyone, you can use subtitles), this show is LIT. It was my favorite show growing up and I was obsessed with the band. It’s kind of hilarious looking back at it but I don’t even care, it was really good. It’s like a Mexican version of High School Musical meets Hannah Montana meets Degrassi. Only 1000000x better. Netflix has all the episodes (I think) but be warned, there’s like 300.
  11. Breaking the Magician’s Code

    So my friend recommended this show and I was skeptical at first but then  I was hooked. It’s about the secrets behind all the magic tricks you see in magic shows. It gets kind of addicting. The narrator gets progressively creepier in his comments about the assistants but the tricks make you look past that.
  12. Make Happy or what.

    Bo Burnham is pretty freakin funny. I had heard about him from friends but I didn’t really pay attention until my friend got me to watch Make Happy. Honestly, I wish I had watched it earlier. I haven’t gotten around to watching what. but I’m sure it’ll be just as funny. It’s great to watch when you feel down.

This list is not at all comprehensive. Honorable mentions are Parks and Recreation, Orange is the New Black, American Horror Story, Law and Order: SVU, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

So, hopefully this list helps you as you binge-watch and eat leftovers. I know that’s what I’ll be doing.

We Need to Talk About ‘Black Mirror’

Warning: This post contains spoilers. PLEASE WATCH THE SHOW!

Black Mirror is a British sci-fi anthology show that Netflix has since picked up. It began in 2011 and was created by Charles Brooker. It’s a collection of stand-alone dramas where each episode is self contained.

Each episode features a whole new cast, setting, plot, and even universe. Some fans theorize that they all take place in the same universe but Brooker has said they’re not connected. Although you can make your own decision on that.

Black Mirror is about the dark side of a technologically advanced future. It explores the possibilities humans can draw up with technological power. It’s often been compared to The Twilight Zone.

Since this post is addressing those who have seen Black Mirror already I’m assuming you’re as emotionally distraught as I am after watching it.

Granted, I’ve only seen season 1 and the first episode of the second season but that’s enough. For the sake of length I’m going to focus on the three so far that have messed me up the most.

3.”The National Anthem” Season 1, Ep. 1

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This episode messed me up. I was thinking about it for days afterward. I wanted to vomit thinking about it.

The thing about this episode is that this is something that could definitely happen today. A princess getting kidnapped, the prime minister being forced to do an act of public humiliation in order for her safe return – all of it is plausible.

Michael Callow faces pressure from the party, the palace, the people, and his wife. What gets me is that they definitely could have avoided the outcome.

Do DNA tests really take that long? And why didn’t the princess try to send a message that the severed finger wasn’t hers? Why weren’t people stationed outside so that they could see when the princess was released? Is it fair that they omitted the part of the report where the princess was released 30 minutes before the broadcast? SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL BRITAIN?!

Honestly, this episode made me hate everyone. I was disgusted by humanity in those moments.

I honestly couldn’t begin to imagine the trauma Callow had to endure. It was sick. And then his wife hates him for it? That’s some bullshit.

2. “Fifteen Million Merits” Season 1, Ep. 2

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Okay, so the universe in this episode is fucked. Like, you live in a cell where you are relentlessly bombarded with shows. You have to spend “merits” to skip them. If you’re low on merits you are forced to consume everything that pops up.

The only way out seems to be to ‘compete’ on a talent show. Then apparently you live a more luxurious life and maybe get to see the outside world.

Bing and Abi’s little relationship is cute. He really wants the best for her. And then his good intentions lead to her degradation.Honestly, how messed up is that.

This universe gives me so many questions. Why are people forced to be on bikes all day? How did this come to be? Who enforces these rules? What happens if you try to escape? Is escape even possible? Is the forest in the final scene real? Do ‘celebrities’ not interact with each other? Does government exist?

I think it was these unanswered questions that made the episode all that more striking. I still wonder what will be their ultimate fate.

1. “Be Right Back” Season 2, Ep.1

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What’s so interesting about Black Mirror is that the time setting is so ambiguous. You have hints of a highly advanced technological future, with very advanced AI and phones, but you still have remnants of today.

This lets us shift the focus to the plot. Which made me cry.

Martha is grieving her deceased lover when she finds out she’s pregnant. Her friend informs her of a service that lets you ‘talk’ to your loved one. It analyzes all the things they have ever posted to simulate how they would talk.

It gets creepier as she moves further into the program. She goes from texting to speaking on the phone to actually having a clone of him.

Of course the clone doesn’t have the exact personality that Ash does. But what’s so creepy is his human-like demeanor.

I like the parallels between her natural life giving process (pregnancy) to the artificial life she’s given Ash’s clone.

Ultimately, it’s not enough for her. It’s too fake. So she commands it to jump off of a cliff. And then he starts begging for his life after she unwittingly tells him to do so. The we skip forward and see she’s been hiding him in her attic for years.

The story was so heartbreaking on many levels. I could just imagine being in her shoes. Losing someone you love would be devastating. But could we honestly resist the temptation of ‘bringing’ them back to life?

I guess we’ll see in the future.