I’m a firm supporter of the idea that the devices we use, the movies and shows we watch and the books we read growing up shape much of who we are and how we view the world around us. I grew up watching Disney films, F.r.i.e.n.d.s and Harry Potter– and whilst it may sound dramatic I feel as though in some ways I wouldn’t be the same without them. And at times I take this for granted I think- having such a significant driving force to media and culture present within most rooms of the household, often forgetting there are people alive today who once lived without them. This afternoon I had the privilege of conversing with someone who experienced this emergence of television within the mid-20th Century- My Grandmother Francis.
Francis remembers at 10 years of age experiencing this emergence in the year of 1956. She presses on the fact that television sets were highly expensive upon their introduction. Because of this, Francis and her friends would run down to Ashfield shopping centre where the first televisions were displayed in the windows of electrical shops. Here they would find a crowd of people watching the TV’s through the shop windows- no sound, just moving pictures. She has memories of running there after school come 4pm, their school cases in hands. Upon arriving at the shop window they would place their cases across the floor and sit on them whilst they watched the moving pictures- which were of course broadcast in black and white. I liken this audience reaction to the reaction of audiences when a new model of the iPhone is released- hovering around shops and shop windows in awe and curiosity of a new innovation.
It wasn’t until about 5 years later, at the age of 15, that Francis experienced the medium of television within her own home, due to it being such a massive household purchase. Prior to this she remembers people in her life who had purchased one for the home- her neighbour who lived four houses down from her, and her Aunty. Francis explains how exciting this was to know someone who owned a television set and remembers the way groups of friends and family would get together on Friday nights to watch television shows together as an alternative to visiting the cinema. She remembers gathering to watch The Three Stooges, Looney Tunes, Felix the Cat, 77 Sunset Strip and The Mickey Mouse Club.
Following my listening to her early memories I proceeded to ask whether she saw this emergence as a force for changing ideas about home spaces and privacy. Francis thought about this for a minute, and decided that it did. TV viewing became a social experience among friends and family in the sense that they had to gather together to share the experience within the one household. She states that it made social experiences within the home more congested as people sat together in front of the one screen rather than spread across the house, remembering the fact that hardly anyone left the room whilst the TV was on due to it being such an event.
I do believe that the media experiences we encounter whilst growing up shape our lives and worldviews significantly. I believe it does so for us as we await new innovations and cultural experiences, and did so for my Nanna 50 years ago as she describes “this wonderful thing that came into our time”.
Picklum, F, 2013. Personal Communication, 27 August 2013