The Citizen Machine: Governing By Television in 1950s by Anna McCarthy

By Anna McCarthy

The Citizen laptop is the untold political historical past of television’s formative period. Historian Anna McCarthy is going behind the curtain of early tv programming, revealing that lengthy earlier than the age of PBS, leaders from enterprise, philanthropy, and social reform activities in addition to public intellectuals have been all obsessively all in favour of TV’s strength to mildew the proper of citizen.

Based on years of path-breaking archival paintings, The Citizen computing device sheds new mild at the position of tv within the postwar American political panorama.

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The Citizen Machine: Governing By Television in 1950s America

The Citizen computing device is the untold political heritage of television’s formative period. Historian Anna McCarthy is going behind the curtain of early tv programming, revealing that lengthy sooner than the age of PBS, leaders from company, philanthropy, and social reform activities in addition to public intellectuals have been all obsessively interested by TV’s strength to mould the proper of citizen.

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In a survey of children’s attitudes towards work he found that what a large majority of them most valued in an occupation was its capacity to exert power over others. This was followed by money, prestige, travel and the opportunity to help others, in that order. He then constructed an ‘index of power’ by which he could give each job on television a ‘power value’, which reflected the proportion of dominant acts to submissive ones. This showed that all those concerned with the law had power values well above average, with judges, attorneys and police officials being the most powerful of all television occupations; their power values were exceeded only by the more rarely represented occupations of foremen, ranch owners and clergymen.

This relatively favourable treatment of racial minorities was prefigured in an earlier study by Head (1954), which showed that although racial minorities were portrayed lower down the social scale than whites, they were slightly less likely to be criminal and significantly less likely to be presented unfavourably: only 4 per cent of blacks were bad, and only 8 per cent portrayed unsympathetically. The fact that racial minorities are treated more favourably in the symbolic world of television than in society may indicate that the liberal desire to integrate them socially is ahead of the social fact, and that television is playing an active role in this ongoing social change.

A paradigm itself is defined by a certain similarity between its units – for example, words appropriate to ‘a family meal time’. But within the paradigm, the units are clearly distinguished from each other. Thus, a unit in a paradigm has two dimensions of meaning: its relationship with and at the same time distinctiveness from its fellow units. The second dimension is the more crucial; a unit’s meaning is defined in opposition to others in its paradigm, and we therefore understand a sign by contrasting it with what it is not.

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