The 20th century saw the emergence of several new media platforms. In the 1930’s, television sets were first distributed for personal home use. During this period of time, though, the technology was still new enough that the average citizen was not able to afford one. Moreover, the time in American history when this technology emerged in the mainstream was a time of economic hardship for just about everyone. Throughout the rest of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, however, television sets became much more commonplace in many households.

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As with all technological advancements, their new status is often what sets them apart from the technological norms of the time. For example, motion pictures, radios, and cinemas were more common forms of technologically distributed media during the time when televisions were first distributed. As such, it was more common for the everyday citizen to take part in a moviegoing event or to have a stereo in their living room. Often, radio programs had the same basic programming that televisions came out with in their earlier years. These include sports broadcasts, music, and the news. When television sets were becoming more common in the average household, they received broadcasts from rabbit ear antennas or another type of antenna that used radio frequency. By today’s standards, these would be considered primitive means of receiving televised reception. As with any technology, though, advancements take place over tie. When these happen, the old technologies become more standard to the common people that may have been unable to afford them at one time.

A modern-day example of this is smartphones. In general, cellphone use is an evolved concept that did not become commonplace to the average person until the turn of the 20th century. During the first decade of the 21st century, though, the standard brick phones and flip phones that people became accustomed to using eventually became less popular with the release of the iPhone, Android phones, and Palm phones. For the time of their initial releases, though, the technology was seen as advanced and sophisticated. By the middle of the 2010’s, though, smartphones in some form or another became the new standard for the average consumers. A similar trend took place with television, although it took a longer period of time to evolve in terms of technological functions and becoming a standard household item.

Over time, televisions became a new standard in households. Along with its technological advancements (switching from black and white screens to color screens, coaxial outputs, AV support, etc.), technologies outside of television sets by themselves have contributed to its advancement. These include video game systems, sound systems, and the means by which people are able to view channels on their television set. For much of the latter half of the 20th century, services were made available to provide multiple channels on their television sets. These include cable services as well as satellite broadcasting. In the 21st century, digital video recording (DVR) service were also provided by many television service providers. These essentially took the place of the VCR, allowing users to save their favorite shows on a box connected to their television. By the time that these became more widely available for the average consumer, television had already come a very long way in terms of its technological advancements.

In the modern day and age, television has seen even more progression over the short course of the 21st century. During this time, tube televisions became widely replace by flat screen televisions. Moreover, the display standards have also evolved during this time. LCD and plasma screens were popular for awhile, and now it seems as though high definition and 4K resolution has become the new standard for video quality. In addition, the means by which people commonly view their favorite programs has also changed (Lester, 2014, p. 339). We live in a time where satellite and cable services are becoming obsolete at the hands of internet-based services that run a fraction of the cost of standard cable services.

As our society has come to accept television as a media normality, one could argue that its development has taken place in such a manner as to draw people to it. Many television programs focus on conveying certain points or ideologies to the viewers watching them (Lester, 2014, p. 336). A more basic example of this concept is through commercials. Even from the time we are children, programming catered towards are tastes are designed to convince us that we prefer certain products over others. A study has determined that preschoolers’ favorite foods tend to be based on what they see on commercials or in their favorite cartoons (Borzekowski & Robinson, 2001). While this is just an example of the many outlets of mind control that television has the potential for, its widespread use and its evolution to more universal standards indicates that it is a tool with the potential for mass influence. In Western culture, there tends to be more freedom in terms of what is permissible programming. As such, different programs cater to different demographics. Another study has shown that many people with high exposure to programming seem to develop their self-identities based on what they view regularly (Mastro, 2010).

When any technological medium becomes a social norm, its level of mass influence increases. Often, the development of the device itself (in this case, the television) entails its potential for its adaptation to popular culture as well as the ways in which it can be used to influence the decisions and lifestyles of consumers. While the history of the television is a technologically complex one, its history has allowed it to become the tool of mass influence that it has become.

  • Borzekowski, D. L., & Robinson, T. N. (2001). The 30-Second Effect. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(1), 42-46. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(01)00012-8
  • Lester, P. M. (2014). Television. In Visual communication: Images with messages (pp. 336-341). Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  • Mastro, D. E. (2003). A social identity approach to understanding the impact of television messages. Communication Monographs, 70(2), 98-113. doi:10.1080/0363775032000133764