I grew up in a time when my day would often be scheduled by the time that a particular show or program was being broadcast. That’s the behaviour that made TV Guide the most popular magazine of the time.

The power of mass media and broadcast media was the power of the editor to decide what was most important. It didn’t take much to realize that prime time television content and schedules were determined by what was most popular and entertaining, and therefore most effective to draw the greatest amount of attention to the paid advertising that was the primary source of income for the industry.

In 1986, Leiss, Kline and Jhally published the first edition of a book entitled Social Communication in Advertising, which was released in a third edition in 2005. Advertising tends to create a world where product preferences define one’s personal brand and social tribe. Programming content can vary in purpose from objective reporting of current events, talk shows, political opinion, business analysis, escapist dramas, action adventures, situational comedies, and reality television. The programming often uses the opportunity to display the products and purchasing preferences that portray the lifestyles that we identify with or aspire to.

In a media and social environment where communication is defined by commercial messages, it seems we dare not criticize the purpose and structure of our society, lest we bite the hand that feeds us. It seems the only power we have left is the power of the power button, with the binary choice: ON or OFF.

I have, in effect, chosen to turn off most of the media channels, by spending my leisure time in physical activity: walking, hiking, running, cycling, rowing, speed skating. I spend most of my work day as a producer of content, as a writer, designer and web developer. The rest of my time, I consume media that, for the most part, does not include advertising, if I can help it: books, movies, podcasts. We do have our favourite television shows as well.

My favourite authors have been editors who seek the voices of those who don’t tend to get a lot of airtime or media attention. Back in the day, I would read books by Bill Moyers, Studs Terkel, Paul Johnson, and Robert Bellah: A World of Ideas, The Great Divide, Modern Times, Habits of the Heart.

Now that podcasts are proliferating at an alarming rate, it is much easier for anyone who wants to have a voice to find a way to disseminate their ideas. And there are many who are serving others by providing a platform for ideas that stray from the mainstream. I am finding value in discovering the voices of those who have been exploring life on the margins, among the poor, among the disenfranchised. That is where I have rediscovered faith, hope, and love.



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Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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