4. NO TIME TO THINK
"When I put on the television, after a while there's the feeling that images are just pouring into me and there's nothing I am able to do about them." This liquid quality of television imagery derives from the simple fact that television sets its own visual pace. One image is always evolving into the next, arriving in a stream of light and proceeding inward to the brain at its own electronic speed. The viewer has no way to slow the flow, except to turn off the set altogether. If you decide to watch television, then there is no choice but to accept the stream of electronic images as it comes.
The first effect of this is to create a passive mental attitude. Since there is no way to stop the images, one merely gives over to them. More than this, one has to clear all channels of reception to allow them in more cleanly. Thinking only gets in the way.
There is a second difficulty. Television information seems to be received more in the unconscious than the conscious regions of the mind where it would be possible to think about it. The retina collects impressions emanating from dots. The picture is formed only after it is well inside your brain. The image does not exist in the world, and so cannot be observed as you would observe another person, or a car, or a fight. The images pass through your eyes in a dematerialized form, invisible. They are reconstituted only after they are already inside your head.
Perhaps this quality of nonexistence, at least in concrete worldly form, disqualifies this image information from being subject to conscious processes: thinking, discernment, analysis. You may think about the sound but not the images.
Television viewing may then qualify as a kind of wakeful dreaming, except that it's a stranger's dream, from a faraway place, though it plays against the screen of your mind. The stillness required of the eyes while watching the small television screen is surely an important contributor to this feeling of being bypassed by the images as they proceed merrily into our unconscious minds. There are hundreds of studies to show that eye movement and thinking are directly connected. The act of seeking information with the eyes requires and also causes the seeker/viewer to be alert, active, not passively accepting whatever comes. There are corollary studies which show that when the eyes are not moving, but instead are staring zombie-like, thinking is diminished. Television images are not sought, they just arrive in a direct channel, all on their own, from cathode to brain. If indeed this means that television imagery does bypass thinking and discernment, then it would certainly be more difficult to make use of whatever information was delivered into your head that way.
If you see a person standing in your living room, you can say, "There is a person; how do I feel about this?" If, however, the person is not perceived until she is constructed inside your unconscious mind, you'd have to bring the image up and out again, as it were, in order to think about it. The process is similar to the way we struggle to keep our dream images after waking.
If television images have any similarity to dream imagery, then this would surely help explain a growing confusion between the concrete and the imaginary. Television is becoming real to many people while their lives take on the quality of a dream. It would also help explain recent studies, quoted by Marie Winn and many others, that children are showing a decline in recallable memory and in the ability to learn in such a way that articulation and the written word are usable forms of expression. We may have entered an era when information is fed directly into the mass subconscious. If so, then television is every bit Huxley's hypnopaedic machine and; Tausk's influencing machine.
IX. INFLUENCE OF IMAGES ON THE BRAIN
1. NATURAL OR ARTIFICIAL
More than any other single effect, television places images in our brains. It is a melancholy fact that most of us give little importance to this implantation, perhaps because we have lost touch with our own image-creating abilities, how we use them and the critical functions they serve in our lives. Not being in touch, we do not grasp the significance of other people's images replacing or gaining equality with our own. And yet there are no more terrifying facts about television than that it intervenes between humans and our own image-creating abilities and intervenes between humans and our images of the concrete world outside of our minds.
How do images, any images, directly affect human beings and how we humans slowly turn into whatever images we carry in our minds? What makes these matters most serious is that we, human beings have not yet been equipped to distinguish in our minds between natural images and those which are artificially created and implanted. Neither are we equipped to defend ourselves against the implantation. Until the invention of moving-image media, there was never a need to make any distinction or defense.
And so the final effect, as we will see, is that the two kinds of image: artificial and natural, merge in the mind and we are driven into a nether world of confusion. Like the Solaris astronauts, we cannot differentiate between the present and the past, the concrete and the imaginary. Like the schizophrenic, we cannot tell which image is the product of our own minds, which is representative of a real world, and which has been put inside us by a machine.
EFFECTS OF TELEVISION ON THE BRAIN, PAGE 18