The unrelenting penetration of television and its proxies into
virtually every aspect of human existence may have reached it epitome
with the introduction of Toilet Television here in Bangkok.
Fueled by giddy post-WWII spending in the 1950's, America embraced
television along with other new technologies as harbingers of a fresh
Toward the end of the '50's, TV trays found their way into our homes,
allowing the entire family to watch the evening news in the comfort of
their living room as they ate dinner. Television networks
provided seductive programming immediately following the news
shows, thus television replaced both conversation around the
dinner table and most family interaction afterward. Friends would come
over to watch television with us as much as to talk.
In Thailand as in much of the rest of the world, similar changes were
taking place, though the placement of events along the timeline lagged
Television had become a constant presence in the home, and as such was
often left on but largely ignored. To counter the lack of attention,
advertisers turned to the orientation response -the inborn
predisposition to look at a sudden stimulus. Television advertisers
create flashing images and attention-getting sounds, and when the
viewer involuntarily responds by looking at the television, the
advertising message is delivered.
Disturbingly, the televised battle for the consumer’s attention has
spilled out of our homes and into the supermarkets and shopping malls.
Television has been a mainstay in Laundromat for decades but now
television sets appear in such places as airport and bank lobbies,
police stations, and restaurants -nice restaurants at that. Giant
screens flash television commercials across expansive shopping malls
while smaller flat panel displays hang on supermarket shelves and flash
their images while braying their sales pitches.
The consumer’s attention has become a commodity to be bought and sold,
and a consumer with less than a Theravada Monk’s concentration has lost
a measure of control over his most precious asset -his mind.
One would hope for some place to escape, one last refuge from the
continuous torrent of advertising messages, but alas, all hopes were
dashed as I entered the men’s room at the Central Shopping Center in
Bangna, and was greeted by a presentation on Toilet Television.
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Contents copyright 2004, 2005 by Richard Cappels All Rights Reserved.