Video Memory Implantation

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:03 am    Post subject: Video Memory Implantation Reply with quote

by Ron Kaufman

"More than any other single effect, television places images in our brains."
-- Jerry Mander in Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television.

Last night, Tom Bosley was in my dreams. I'm not even sure who Tom Bosley is, but he was hosting a game show in my dreams. The other contestants and I were standing on a huge flat surface with empty ovals that resembled a gigantic standardized test answer sheet. The host, Bosley, was holding a huge paint brush and ran around dipping the brush into paint buckets with different colors. The contestants then had to guess what color he would use to paint each empty circle. (Hey, it's a dream.) I then awoke in shock.

Illustration by Heath Patterson

Having bizarre dreams is not really unusual for me. However, as someone who has not watched TV on a regular basis in my home since the early 1990s, I wanted to know why this person was in my dreams? I've certainly never met Mr. Bosley and could not even recall any TV show, video or movie I watched with him in it. After shaking the sleepiness from my head, I linked over to Wikipedia to look him up. Apparently, Tom Bosley's most well-known work was in the TV shows Happy Days, Murder She Wrote, and Father Dowling Mysteries - none of which I have ever watched. When I was young, I always thought Happy Days was a stupid show and never watched an entire episode. The other programs I only vaguely recall and don't remember ever seeing them on television or anywhere else. I then linked over to the Internet Movie Database and looked through his entire list of appearances and don't recall watching any of them. So, once again, why was he in my dreams?

Tom Bosley is inside my subconscious along with Brad Pitt, Linsey Lohan, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, Robert De Niro and thousands of others even though I don't watch television on a regular basis. Like nearly ever member of highly-industrialized nations across the planet, I am exposed to movies, video, magazines, news and advertising at a rate unprecedented in human history. Celebrities' names and faces are all in my brain along with the real-life people I encounter on a daily basis. My conscious brain knows the difference between my wife, father, mother and brother as compared to Christian Bale, Patricia Arquette, Wolf Blitzer and Natalie Portman - but can my subconscious-deep-brain truly categorize the differences? How often do people I've never met appear throughout my dreams? Personally, I hate celebrities and can't stand celebrity news. I avoid watching or reading about celebrities and their drug habits, pregnancies, weddings and obscene wealth. In my opinion, policemen, firefighters, nurses, social workers, teachers and people who run homeless shelters should deserve money and praise - not actors and athletes. I don't want to know the color or length of Britney Spears' hair.

Am I doomed to forever carry the images and memories of celebrities inside my brain? The answer, unfortunately, is Yes.

The reason is a concept I'll call "Video Memory Implantation" and it is explained with great detail by TV-critic Jerry Mander in the book Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television. Widespread TV usage did not start in ernest until inventor Philo Farnsworth created the Image Dissector camera tube in the 1920s. During the preceding 3,000 years of human history all moving images were real images. The human brain did not need to produce any distinction between real or unreal. "Human beings have not yet been equipped by evolution to distinguish in our minds between natural images and those which are artificially created and implanted," explains Mander. "Until the invention of moving-image media, there was never a need to make any distinction or defense."

Mander argues that the brain cannot fight against the continuous and unending encroachment of modern video technology. We will naturally and fluidly believe all that we see:

"When your are watching TV, you are not daydreaming, or reading, or looking out the window at the world. You have opened your mind, and someone else's daydreams have entered. The images come from distant places you have never been, depict events you can never experience, and are sent by people you don't know and have never met. Your mind is the screen for their microwave pictures. Once their images are inside you, they imprint upon your memory. They become yours. What's more, the images remain in you permanently."

Try and erase the images of Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw, Bill Clinton, Sigourney Weaver, Sean Connery, Ronald Reagan or Paris Hilton. Could you erase them, or did reading their names bring up a picture/image shell of those people? For hundreds of thousands of generations, human life depended on truly believing everything that could be seen. Our brains are hardwired to permanently place all images of life into categories for recall and understanding. We will never know what Julius Caesar's voice sounded like, or how Napoleon walked or even how Abraham Lincoln actually delivered the Gettysburg Address. Until the 1900s, video did not exist and so our ancestors brains only contained the images of life they experienced with their own eyes and ears.

The modern mind is now changing. Video Memory Implantation takes the unreal and fictional and makes them real. Mander explains:

"Now, with electronic media, our senses are removed a stop further from the source. The very images that we see can be altered and are. They are framed, ripped out of context, edited, re-created, sped-up, slowed down and interrupted by other images. They arrive from a variety of places on the planet where we are not and were filmed at times which are not the present. What's more, many of the images are totally fictional.

"Meanwhile, the images proceed inward as though they were the same as natural, unprocessed imagery. They move, walk, talk, and seem real. We assume they are real in the way images have always been real."

What is real on television? Are news programs real? How about sports programs or talk shows? Sit-coms are not real, but what about history programs or nature shows? And through it all run thousands and thousands of commercials. Are TV advertisements real? Our minds have become a mixture between video images and "real" images.

The Matrix (1999)

Morpheus: "What is real. How do you define real. If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."

This is similar to the main allegory running through The Matrix films. The main characters in these movies struggle with the differences between the cybernetic-video world created by machines and the "real" world. To the untrained human mind, the computer-generated Matrix and the real world are nearly the same. The human brain puts all images and memories together into one form of consciousness and therefore it takes special effort to distinguish one from the other.

The Matrix films are an intentionally confusing genre of science fiction because the worlds of the real and the computer-generated mix and merge. The humans and the machines fight for control of both worlds in a cyberpunk fantasy. The battle is really between control or freedom for the human mind.

The concept of Video Memory Implantation, though not specifically defined, is well known to advertisers. In fact, television advertisers depend on our minds blurring the lines between our real desires and those advertised on television. Modern advertising will usually give little information about the actual benefits of the product (just watch any of Apple's iPod commercials). Most of the time, we don't even know where a product is manufactured and who benefits from our purchases. What we are being sold are lifestyle choices, not needed commodities.

Advertisers depend on blending their lifestyle products with your unconscious mind. Needs, desires and functionality are all mashed together with the ultimate goal of influencing your life and producing a "loyal consumer." Television is quite good at establishing a close relationship between the viewer and products on the screen. "The average length of a shot on network television is only 3.5 seconds, so that the eye never rests, always has something new to see," writes Neil Postman in the book Amusing Ourselves To Death. "Moreover, television offers viewers a variety of subject matter, requires minimal skills to comprehend it, and is largely aimed at emotional gratification. Even commercials, which some regard as an annoyance, are exquisitely crafted, always pleasing to the eye and accompanied by exciting music."

Postman continues that "there is no question but that the best photography in the world is presently seen on television commercials." For a medium is which image is everything, infecting your mind with an affinity for consumer products is nothing less than a holy crusade for advertisers. Once a product and catchy promotional jingle gets inside your head, it's there forever.

In The Matrix films, the heroes fought to break free from their imprisonment inside the video world. However, we cannot break free even by turning off the TV set. In 1637, French philosopher René Descartes wrote "I think, therefore I am" as the Enlightenment in Europe struggled with the meaning of existence. This idea made sense at the time because all images in the human mind were products of direct unfiltered sensory experience. Descartes' writings spurred centuries of thought and discussion. However, are our minds the same today? Because we have filled our memories with McDonalds ads, Heineken commercials, sit-coms and game shows can we still say our brains are our own?

"Imagination and reality have merged," writes Mander. "We have lost control of our images. We have lost control of our minds."

Video Memory Implantation is changing the human brain forever. It may now take many many years for the human mind to once again break free.
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