media addiction

The orienting response is a known neurological autonomous response that's triggered by sudden movement or contrast. It evolved as part of our nervous systems in order to be responsive to novel movement in the trees, potential predatorial attacks. Our attention is riveted by sudden movement, our hearts pound, our bodies tense.

Television and movies are cut successfully to trigger the orienting response. This is one dimension of why some psychologists believe television can actually be physically addictive. "Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor," by Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, published in Scientific American, details just how real such an addiction can become.

"24," the show featuring Kiefer Sutherland as a federal agent in the Counter Terrorism Unit, counts down its minutes in real time, with one hour in the show equaling one hour in the audience's life.

Reality TV. Surround sound. 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, THX, DTS. Hi-def. Blu-ray, HD DVD. Extended editions, director's cuts.

The increasing popularity of serial entertainment, where the show never ends.

IMAX. 3D. Interactive rides. Tactile transducers. Video on the go. Media PC. iPod.

Gaming. PS3, X-Box 360, Nintendo. Online games. Blogs. MySpace.

How much time do we spend looking at screens? Studies like this one are starting to show that online networking amounts to more shallow contacts, and fewer deep contacts in tangible relationships.

What would happen if we stopped using media for a week? TV, internet, radio, newspaper, magazines? What would be left?

What's happening behind our backs as we look at the screens?