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Volume 6, 1993.
What science fiction is about is change, and change is the central fact of life for all of us inhabiting this planet now.
Fiction is simply dreams written out. Science fiction consists of the hopes and dreams and fears (for some dreams are nightmares) of a technically based society.
Social science fiction is that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings.
We're all in science fiction now.
Science fiction, whether presented in books or film, has always speculated about the impact of technology. No longer limited to pulp magazines or cheap novels, science fiction has gained increasing respect from literary critics, as well as increasing popularity with the public. Now, a cable channel dedicated entirely to science fiction is available across much of the country, and shows likeStar Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and others can be seen every night on numerous channels.
Science fiction shows on television explore numerous implausible possibilities, including fantastic (and sometimes not so fantastic) communication technologies. In this article I explore the messages about communication and communication technologies implicit in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (hereafter referred to as STNG). Based on this analysis, I will discuss some possible influences television shows like STNG might have on our perception of communication technologies. Our perceptions are influenced both through the messages implicit in the programs, as well as through the medium of television itself. I will argue that the presentation of science fiction on television creates an important dynamic and dilemma: the reinforcement and compulsion of technology by technology.
Analyzing the presentation of communication technology on television is important because of the coaching of interpersonal behaviors that occurs in para-social interaction: "the seeming face-to-face interaction between spectator and performer"(Honon &Wohl, 1956, p.215). As later researchers (Caughey,1978, 1984; Avery & McCain, 1986; Cathcart, 1986) extended the concept, para-social interaction was applied to relationships with media figures who did not address themselves directly to the audience, like soap-opera figures and dramatic series characters (such as those on STNG). According to Cathcart (1986), such shows may "coach us in the appropriate responses to be made when we become involved in personal, emotional relationships" (p. 217).
It is the coaching function of television that is critical in this case. para-social interaction does not simply provide a substitute form of interpersonal relationship; it also provides rules and patterns for interpersonal behavior. Television communicates cultural lessons and information to the entire nation, and "these cultural lessons are assimilated to some degree by audience members throughout the country who then incorporate elements of the sponsored imagery into their everyday interpersonal relations" (Lull, 1986, p. 607). Our daily experience of media inclines us toward particular forms of social life and creates a "shaped world that reflects the essential possibilities of media" (Idhe, 1983, p. 63). Media characters become our role models; these role models do not spring from a void, but are produced from the culturally biased mind of a writer who in turn has been influenced by para-social interaction with other media figures (Caughey, 1984). But most importantly, "interpersonal uses of television, especially when they involve conversation, contribute to the maintenance of ideological imperatives" (Lull, 1986, p. 609). One ideological imperative that this paper will argue television maintains is the importance of technology for communication.
Communication on the Enterprise
The television series Star Trek: The Next Generation is a archetypal example of both the popularity and change-orientation of science fiction. First, the series enjoyed considerable success during its first year, and at present both weekly ongoing segments as well as daily re-runs are broadcast on various cable channels. In 1989, STNG was "aired by 233 stations, with 97% coverage" and was "the top-rated first-run drama in syndication, placing it sixth in the top ten syndicated programs" (Banks & Tankel, 1990, p. 29). Secondly, the series has a consistent sub-text of preparation: the mediated portrayal of technological change and progress (Banks & Tankel, 1990). The series therefore is a prime site for television's portrayal of the impact that communication technologies may have on our lives in the future, as well as offering us insights into how communication technologies are assessed in the present.
Fifteen hour-long episodes were chosen at random for analysis. The episodes were broadcast on a local cable channel that is a part of the ABC Network, and were videotaped for the analysis. Rather than using a particular coding scheme, I proceeded inductively while paying close attention to the uses of various communication technologies by the characters.
Characters in the series STNG use three different communication technologies: communicators, intercoms, and view-screens. The communicator is a small pin on the breast of each crew members' jumpsuit, which is activated by tapping the pin. On board the Enterprise, communication often occurs via the ship computer's intercom system. Finally, long-distance ship-to-ship or starbase-to-ship communication is conducted on the large view-screen located on the bridge, although occasionally such communication occurs privately on the computer screen in Captain Picard's ready-room (a private office-like room just off the bridge). I will first focus on the two non-visual forms of communication, technologies that to a large extent are already operating. Second, I will analyze view-screen communication, a technology which according to AT&T is not far off video phones and visual teleconferencing are already being tested.
Crew members STNG are interrupted even more easily at any time by their communication technologies than we are by the telephone. Interruptions are continuous on board the ship, and the interruptions always take precedence over the interrupted activity. Captain Picard is paged while riding his horse on the holodeck or while sleeping ("Haven"), crew members are interrupted while ostensibly on "R&R," and face-to-face interactions are invariably cut-off when technological communication begins ("Pen Pals"). In an illuminating scene in "11001001," Data (an android), while painting, stops and looks off into the distance. Jordi (the chief engineer) asks Data, "What are you doing?" to which Data responds, "I am awaiting inspiration." Promptly on cue, he is paged over the ship's intercom by Ensign Crusher and leaves for the bridge; the presumably humorous implication is that technology can even mediate the divine, and inspiration is a mere speaker away. The ship is a military vessel, and thus communication is typically about developing crisis situations that must be dealt with immediately. When characters are paged on board the Enterprise, their response is immediate regardless of whatever activity in which they may be engaged.
Contact is incredibly simple to initiate. Tapping the communicator and then saying the person's name is normally enough to establish contact. While onboard the ship, communication is further mediated by the technology of the computer. Simply calling out the person's name, or even just their location, gives the computer enough information to connect the two interactants. Watching an exchange where Captain Picard talks with three different people in a row simply by calling out their name or location ("The Evil Within") instills one with a sense of wonder; communication could never be this easy without the aid of technology. The unthinking dependence of the crew on communication technology is evident on a majority of the shows. In "Realm of Fear," for example, Data pages Captain Picard over the ship's intercom when Picard is in his ready-room and Data is on the bridge--a mere door away. Instead of walking through the door to speak to Picard face-to-face (after all, on board the Enterprise one does not even have to open the door), Data relies on technology to do the walking.
The crew's dependence on technology is the most evident when communication breaks down. The chest communicators, for all their vaunted high-tech features, are amazingly vulnerable to disruption by countless natural and unnatural phenomena that the crew encounters. In "The Royale" and "The Evil Within," communication is cut off between a team on the surface of the planet and the ship. When this occurs, it causes a general panic at both ends. When Data realizes they cannot contact the ship, he states: "Without communication, we should beam up immediately" ("The Royale"). Captain Picard, on board the Enterprise, comments later that Commander Riker knew that the correct procedure upon losing contact is to return immediately. Similarly, when Counselor Troi is trapped in a pod by a sentient black ooze that cuts off communication, the creature "feeds" on the worry and fear the crew members feel when they cannot establish contact with Troi ("The Evil Within"). In "The Big Goodbye," Captain Picard is trapped in the holodeck, unable to communicate with the rest of the ship. The inability to communicate is constantly seen as a negative. When technology breaks down the crew rarely makes an attempt to revert to "primitive," face-to-face interaction; instead, all of their energy is focused on repairing the technology. Even when crew members know that the correct procedure upon losing contact is to return to the ship, they ignore this option and instead concentrate on resuming technologically enhanced communication.
The mere presence of the communication devices dictates that they must be used and answered. In fifteen hours of the series, I did not once see someone refuse to answer (when able) a communicator page or an intercom hailing. The responses are automatic and unthinking. In "11001001," Data calls out to Picard, and when Picard does not respond Data assumes the Captain is not on board when in fact Picard is trapped in the holodeck. Later in the same show, a crew member comments that they were receiving "no response from the Enterprise," and this is interpreted as a dire sign since Captain Picard and Commander Riker "would respond if they could." In both "The Outrageous Okana" and "Haven," when an unidentified ship is hailed and it fails to respond, this is immediately and categorically interpreted as an inherently hostile act. However, when face-to-face interaction is refused, this is not immediately interpreted as a sign of hostility but instead is granted a variety of possible meanings.
The physical behaviors of the actors as they respond to the communicators and intercom are much like our behaviors when speaking on a speakerphone. The crew members stare off into space, in no particular direction; or in the direction of the origination of the call, as when members of away-teams on the surface of a planet look up presumably to where the ship is in orbit; or at the computer terminal on the wall of the ship. The actors all project a blasée attitude about speaking to the air, enhancing the sense that such communication is perfectly natural (although if we were seen talking to a pin on our chest it might raise some eyebrows).
The communicators and the intercom often play important roles in the plot. Crises, important information, startling news, and most other types of information that increase the urgency of the plot typically are transmitted via technological communication media. Sometimes such devices are used to create a false sense of urgency which is later deflated. In "Pen Pals," Ensign Crusher is called in to see the Captain, and we see a look of apprehension on his face. However, once he reaches the conference room, he discovers that his fear was unnecessary; he is being offered a chance to lead a survey team.
Communication over long distances with other ships or starbases is usually conducted on the large view-screen at the front of the bridge. When these communications take place, both parties usually want to conduct "screen to screen" interaction and want both video and audio, but will settle for audio if video is unavailable. The tendency is to use all of the available technology to its fullest extent.
The addition of video to mediated interpersonal communication expands the amount of sensory data available to callers, and also expands the intricacies of such communication. First, the physical appearance of the caller plays a newly important role. The position of the caller, whether sitting or standing, carries a great deal of nonverbal information. When Picard receives messages from Starfleet, the admirals are inevitably sitting in a chair in front of the seal of the Federation, while Picard stands at attention in the middle of the bridge (see "Realm of Fear" in particular). Eye contact regains importance; when the smuggler Okana begins talking with his back to Captain Picard, it creates tension ("The Outrageous Okana"). Thus, in "screen-to-screen" interaction, physical appearance is again important, yet even this can be altered through the medium.
In video conversation, social distance is simulated in a variety of ways. In "The Emissary," Lieutenant Whorf approaches the view-screen to order another Klingon to cease attacking. The effect of moving closer to the screen causes his appearance to dominate the view-screen of the other to the point that all of the background is obscured. The effect is quite similar to "getting in someone's face" and shouting at them, a socially intimidating posture. In "Manhunt," Counselor Troi's mother pushes her way into the range of the view-screen, shoving the captain another ship out of the way in the process, interrupting the conversation. both verbally and physically/visually. Picard, as the quintessential polite, urban, civilized star traveler, invariably begins video contact by standing in the middle of the bridge--a considerable distance from the view screen and in the center of attention, bolstering his authority.
The background, which can be obscured or expanded depending on the para-social distance between the callers, also affects the interaction. Noises and sights in the background can distract the attention of one or both of the 9 interactants. The range of the video camera and the field of view on the monitor play a crucial role in determining what can or cannot be discussed. Okana's queries about noises, the source of which he cannot see on his monitor, are irritating to Captain Picard ("The Outrageous Okana"). One of the men chasing Okana makes use of the surprise capabilities of the view-screen: while speaking, a father pulls his daughter who had been off to one side into the range of the view-screen to reveal her pregnant figure, supposedly the doing of Okana.
Terminating a view-screen call has an even greater sense of finality than ending a voice-only conversation. Shutting off the video image abruptly is nearly analogous to murder. Not only a voice is silenced, but an entire visual image is disintegrated, erased, wiped out of existence. The increase in sensory data heightens the illusion that interaction is physically taking place face-to-face, and the immediate visual disappearance of the other is even more disturbing than a slammed receiver. Captain Picard is quite often abruptly cut off by Starfleet admirals after they have given an order; not only does this action give Picard no chance to reply, but it also quite emphatically diminishes him, symbolically telling him. Picard, on the other hand, is usually quite polite in his video conversations; one exception is his muting of the sound to confer with his crew when dealing with the quarreling fathers in "The Outrageous Okana."
On their trips to places "where no one has gone before," the crew members of the Enterprise rely heavily on communication technologies. The portrayal of communication technology on this series has the potential to change or reinforce our perceptions of communication technologies, and it is this potential that will discuss in the following pages.
Technology, Communication and Culture
The impact of communication technologies on culture and consciousness has fascinated cultural scholars. Innis argued that "changes in communication technology affected culture by altering the structure of interests (the things thought about) by changing the character of symbols (the things thought with), and by changing the nature of community (the arena in which thought developed)" (Carey, 1989, p. 160). As cultures moved from morality to literacy and acquired printing technologies, they changed from a bias toward time to a bias toward space (Innis, 1951; Ong, 1962). New technologies such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, and finally television were developed, all increasing the realism of long distance communication: "In this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness" (McLuhan, 1964, p. 64). Increasingly, technology changes our consciousness and our culture and at the same time increases our dependence on technology for communication. While Carey argues that "technology is technology; it is a means for communication and transportation over space and nothing more" (1989, p. 140), I would argue, as does Postman, that technology serves self-perpetuating purposes by increasing our sense of dependence on technology.
According to Postman, technology can become the ruling force in a culture that induces a dependence on technology in all aspects of life. Postman offers an orality/literacy cultural perspective organized around three stages of technological control: tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies. In tool-using cultures, tools solved problems of physical life and served the symbolic world of art. The main distinction between tool-using cultures and technocracies or technopolies was that tools did not attack (or at least were not intended to attack) the dignity and integrity of the culture (Postman, 1992). In a technocracy however, tools played a "central role in the thought-world of the culture" (p. 28). Tools attacked the culture and became the culture; the attack, however, was still mostly unintentional. Inventors such as Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler struggled with the impact their discoveries had on the spiritual and cultural worlds of their day, not wishing to destroy either realm. The technological and traditional worlds coexisted with the technological world gaining strength but with the oral traditions of the past still present.
When a society reaches technopoly, a totalitarian technocracy rules over the culture. According to Postman, the U.S. is the only such culture. In technopoly, efficiency is everything; human judgment is subjugated to technological. Life finds meaning in technique, and all forms of culture are placed in submission to technology. With the rise of technopoly, society loses any transcendent narrative for moral underpinnings, social institutions lose their strength to control and filter information, and technology rushes in to take control. Doctors and patients feel they must use all of the available technology, even if it is unnecessary. Students think they can't write a paper without a word processor. Statistical objectivity becomes the only source of authority; statistics abound on television, granting newscasters a status equivalent to the oracle at Delphi. Scientism becomes religion as we use natural science to study human behavior, try to organize society around "scientific" principles, and place our deepest faith in science. Traditional sacred symbols are trivialized and used to sell anything (look at Christmas), an action Postman calls "cultural rape, sanctioned by an ideology that gives boundless supremacy to technological progress and is indifferent to the unraveling of tradition" (p. 170). This "secularization of imagery" ("She wants her TV," 1991, p. 50) depletes and degrades the content of our symbols; the "interesting" symbolic content of the Sistine Chapel for most American visitors is the techniques and technology used to restore the paintings!
The control of technology is reinforced in the various communication technologies; the content of our media is often the promotion of the technologies of our media. Television provides us with images of technology that "presume the efficacy of the contemporary technological society, itself a result of the confluence of science, cultural practice, and economic formation" (Banks & Tankel, 1990, p. 24). Technological progress is not critically confronted since technology is the prejudiced cultural symbol system. The presumption of efficacy allows television to uncritically promote the propagation and proliferation of technology. Television in a sense retums the favor of the technological power that created it by reinforcing and compelling society's consumption of further technologies.
The series Star Trek: The Next Generation is definitely a product of a culture that prizes technology. The series promotes the use of technology in communication in several ways. First, the series consistently portrays technologically enhanced communication as easier, faster, and more exciting than face-to-face interaction; at least as long as the technology is working properly. Rather than walking next door to talk to the Captain, Data uses the intercom. On board the ship, a conversation with any other person on board is a manner of simply saying their name; the computer takes care of the rest. Because of the speed of the communication technology, it is inevitably used to convey the most important information.
The series also fosters a sense of dependence on technology by presenting a failure of communication technology as a horrifying situation only resolved by restoring technology to its rightful place of power. When communication links are broken, characters are not portrayed as enjoying the privacy but rather panicking at their loss. The implication is that without our communication technologies we are somehow less safe, diminished, forced to rely on our primitive natural abilities.
Characters portrayed on STNG are at ease with the communication technologies they use. The portrayal of technologically mediated communication as natural overwhelms and obscures how the technology structures the interactions and enforces obedience to itself. An example of how technologies structure interactions can be found in the research on telephone use. Telephones do not replace face-to-face interaction, but they do supplement and alter such interaction. Wunzel and Turner found that the telephone reduces "the amount of unmediated socialization among friends and family still living in the vicinity of the caller" (1977, p. 56). While advancing transportation technologies make it increasingly possible for people to meet face-to-face, the telephone makes such interaction seem unnecessary. Conversational obligations are more rigid in telephone interactions. While in face-to-face interaction you can sit in companionable silence, in a phone conversation you are expected to hold up your end of the conversation either with grunts, sighs, uh-huhs, or perhaps even a full sentence now and then (Hopper, 1990). When you engage a person who does not assume their obligatory alternating role, the conversation is filled with uncomfortable pauses and a rising sense of irritation. Since the persons answering a phone are "bound by the rules of the 'telephone game,' they are open to attempts to conversationally importune them which they cannot legitimately escape, but which etiquette dictates that they should endure" (Ball, 1968, p. 64).
One of the most obvious and significant alterations the telephone brought to interpersonal interaction is observable in the characters' use of the technologies on the Enterprise communication via communicator or ship intercom is inherently of paramount importance and takes precedence over all other forms of interaction. Everyone is well aware of the insistency of a ringing phone. If a phone is left unanswered for long, the tension of people in the room increases until someone finally jumps up and answers the phone. We allow the ring of the telephone to interrupt nearly any activity, including our most private moments; the presence of telephones in the bathroom and bedroom says a great deal about societal priorities. We are all aware, furthermore, "that the insistent ringing of the telephone takes priority even over an ongoing face-to-face business conversation" (Aronson, 1971, p. 155). The possession of a telephone implies and demands that you will answer it whenever you possibly can. reinforces the cultural bias to attend to and obey technological demands on our time to a greater extent than interpersonal demands, and labels the ignoring of technologically mediated communication as deviant and anti-social. When characters refused to answer the call of technology, they were questioned, disciplined, or even destroyed.
The series reinforces the presumption that technological communication is normally exciting, startling, or important; although on rare occasions we may be disappointed, we should always expect the "best" and the "brightest" information to come via our communication technologies. Again, this is in pan based on the alterations to social interaction brought about by the telephone. As McLuhan and Powers note, "the major social effect of the telephone is to remove the identity of the caller. If the caller is not identified or chooses not to identify himself he loses touch with a geographical location and a social function" (1981, p. 195). Since we cannot tell who is calling us merely by the ringing of the phone, callers of potentially unequal importance are all equal until the receiver is lifted, and sometimes even then (con artists make their living on this principle). Thus, we feel obligated to answer the phone, and our feelings of excitement or irritation as we answer have little to do with the identity of the caller on the other end. With the telephone, our initial emotion is dependent more on circumstantial influences in our immediate environment of which the other caller is rarely aware. We may be expecting an important call, which fills us with anticipation at the sound of the ring, but we cannot be sure of the identity of the caller. As Ball said, "the momentous may be anticipated, but the trivial may await us" (1968, p. 65).
With the introduction of video to communication technology--whether through view-screens on the Enterprise or video phones in the near future--proxemics again play a role, although the dynamics are altered somewhat by the medium. Social distance is manipulated by changing the distance between the caller and the camera, not between the caller and the actual person. We react to a technologically mediated visual image, not to a human being. This simulation of social distance has been called "para-proxemics" by Meyrowitz (1986), who combined Honon and Wohl (1956) with Goffman (1959) and Hall (1966) to develop the concept. Para-proxemics is a model of how television uses distance to signify relational characteristics. The portrayal of characters in different positions and sizes in relation to the background affects how viewers perceive characters and how they respond to individual characters. A Klingon pushing his face close to a view-screen or a close-up of a vicious criminal on the news are both examples of a pseudo-invasion of personal space. Meyrowitz points out that para-proxemics and impressions are never the same as actual interactions--we cannot be physically seduced by television (yet) for example. However, we can and do "respond to the idea of intimacy or aggression" (1986, p. 270).
The addition of the visual to technological communication is one more step down the path away from face-to-face interaction. While some may argue it is one step closer to face-to-face interaction, I believe that screen-to-screen is not the same as face-to-face. False visual information can still be easily transmitted; television and movie sets are sufficient evidence of this. Although the physical, visual image of the other returns, the other still is disembodied and without a sense of place. When we talk with someone via a video phone, where exactly are we? Are we in the room with the other, or in our own room, or somewhere that is nowhere? The lack of a shared physical location raises a question of intent is video phoning interaction or voyeurism? The pornography industry will undoubtedly take new strides "forward" in exploiting the voyeuristic aspects of video phones. Video phones may increase the illusion of face-to-face interaction without a concomitant increase in the depth of the interaction or the responsibilities involved.
Television, by encouraging, reinforcing and compelling the use of technology in interpersonal communication, may be pushing us down a road where our only companion will be our cellular phone (with video, of course). Television creates an image of interpersonal communication via technological media that is so exciting, so simple and so life-like that our day-to-day, face-to-face interactions cannot help but suffer by comparison. Not all of our face-to-face conversations are of earth-shattering importance; but the ringing of the phone, the beeping of the communicator the chiming of the view-screen on television always denotes something of momentous portent. Television encourages a Pavlovian response to technology; the phone rings and we jump out of our chair to answer it even faster than Captain Picard taps the communicator on his chest And face-to-face interactions begin to seem less important than waiting for the phone to ring.
Obviously, technologically mediated communication has certain advantages: speed, ease of use and efficiency to name a few. Yet certain person enhancing, relationship-enhancing, and information-enhancing elements of interpersonal communication are lost when technology is placed in the middle. The ability to reach out and touch someone, contrary to what AT&T may have us believe, is not possible with the telephone. The lack of a shared physical location diminishes the relationship's bonds as it leads to moderated behaviors or "middle stage" roles that are shallow in comparison to our real, "backstage" selves (Meyrowitz, 1985). Although it may be an obvious point, technology cannot substitute for physical face-to-face interaction; human interaction is best when all senses are at work, including touch. For example, it is nearly impossible to share a moment of companionable silence while on the telephone, yet much can be said in moments of silence when the other is actually present. While the point of this essay is not to bash technology, the impact of technology on interpersonal communication is of critical importance. Television tends to exalt technologically mediated communication over face-to-face interaction. As critics we should not blindly accept this exaltation, but question it.
In the future of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the holodeck provides another technological form of interpersonal interaction; here, the persons who interact with the crew members are computer-generated holograms. As long as the program is functioning correctly, these experiences are more life-like than life, safer than life, more exciting than life, and more exotic than life. Is this where we are headed? To a future where we depend on technology for our interpersonal conversations, where we jump to the call of technology, where refusing to obey its demands is deviant, where the technology is more exciting than the reality, where the technology is in fact more real than the reality? I believe we can avoid this through an awareness of the problem. As McLuhan stated:
The first and most vital step of all, is simply to understand media and its revolutionary effects on all psychic and social values and institutions. Understanding is half the battle. The central purpose of all my work is to convey this message, that by understanding media as they extend man, we gain a measure of control over them. ("Playboy Interview," 1969, p. 74)
A "loving resistance" (Postman, 1992) of television is possible, and perhaps necessary to maintain our humanity. If we allow ourselves to succumb to technology and continually keep the pains and sorrows and struggles of humanity at a safe, para-social distance, we become nothing more than extensions of the technology which was originally created to serve us. Increasing the distance between ourselves and others and decreasing the amount of physical contact also decreases the essential intimacy of human interaction. The Savage and The Controller in Huxley's Brave New World both understood this dilemma, and I am confident that the position of The Savage, while more difficult, is also more human:
"But I like the inconveniences."
"We don't," said the Controller. "We prefer to do things comfortably."
"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."
"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."
"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer, the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind."
There was a long silence. .
"I claim them all," said the Savage at last.
Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. "You're welcome," he said. (1956, p. 288).
I claim the right to exalt physical, intimate, face-to-face interaction over technologically mediated interaction, despite television's arguments to the contrary. And I will ignore television's shrug and sarcastic "you're welcome" as well.
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