Google launched Google TV last night. Their video (see below) is graphically cool. I really like the way they communicate – they define cool so many times. But TV isn’t just a channel like they think it is. TV is an institution. It’s furniture. It’s immovable. That’s ok though, Google have not moved it. We’re still watching the TV, and the fifteen foot factor has not been eliminated.
What’s still the problem, however, is that Google are acting on the instinct that has bedeviled attempts to connect the Internet and TV. This is what I call the moron paradigm. The moron paradigm is a little like Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a metaphor for the dumbing down of society, as TV and mass communications began to drive lowest common denominator type social development across America. We don’t so much shows, as watch TV. We may have a cellophane wrapped trilogy of “The Godfather” sitting in a drawer in the lumber room, but if “two” is on TV (as Tony Soprano may have put it), we’ll get in the popcorn and finish dinner before it starts. Why? I don’t know. It’s part of the moron paradigm.
Another part of it is the surfing itself. There’s a control element there, a satisfaction (on behalf of the wannabe alpha male at least) that they control the entertainment device. Moving from station to station, looking at what’s on, watching for a bit, then moving on, dipping into 24 hour news, the behavior is all part of the experience. Moving the Web onto TV, moving TV onto the web, Google haven’t decided which one they are. So they’re both. (tagline “TV Meets Web. Web Meets TV.”) Which means they’re neither, and I just cant see them creating a category in between two such powerful mechanisms. If the web is on TV, then it’s TV. If TV is on the Web, then it’s content.
A final point on this – the social aspect of TV. A wired reporter in 2006 abandoned the cable subscription for the TV. What happened was that his family stopped talking to each other, because they didn’t gather around the TV in the evenings any more, just shuffled off to their laptops in the four corners of the house. That scared him a bit. Interesting anecdote though. Are we all individualizing too much? Is the web too democratic? Do we need a little more order and direction from some higher ethical governess?