The Interactive Box

Article 2: Master or Slave

by G. C. Wong Ping Hung
Supervisor: Dr. B. Nuseibeh
Partner: K. Pindoria
Information Systems Engineering II


A Good Servant

One eyed demon



No information medium in this world has a greater influence over society than television. With the emergence of interactive television, there is little doubt this medium will have a bigger impact on our lives. Depending on how we use the television, it can either prove to be a good servant by providing us with with information and entertainment, or it can lord over the way we think and treat other people.

A Good Servant

The television can be a useful equipment to keep in the house. It can be used to keep children entertained while their parents go about doing their daily chores. It is a good source of information. Children's programmes such as Sesame Street have the ability to teach basic reading, writing skills and arithmetic skills before our children actually start attending school. Documentaries expose us to our environment, and the different cultures of different countries. News keep us up to date with what's happening around the world.

However, most of us use television more for entertainment than for education. After a hard day's work, what better way to relax other than sitting in front of your tv with your favourite drink and watching your favourite programme. Through satellites, we can watch live sporting events in the privacy of pur own living rooms, and cheaper too. It is the next best thing to being at the actual event. Television acts as a babysitter as well. Parents can keep rowdy children entertained and quiet while they do their chores.

Interactive television is going to change the way we view our programmes. We will be able to choose the movies we want to watch and when we wish to watch it through Video on Demand (VOD). We can attend lectures in other countries through the television (Distance Learning). We can even do our shopping through television. Interactive television will also link us to the internet. We will be able to send electronic mail, browse the world wide web and things which were once only possible with a computer. We can reach out to people in faraway countries and cities. The world at our fingertips, and we need not even leave our house.

One Eyed Demon

Good as it may be, there has been several arguments why television ought to be removed from our lives. These arguments are not unfounded. The same with the internet. That is what makes interactive television seem like a greater threat to society than the current form of television. Before we consider the possible adverse effects interctive television could have on our society, let us look at the present relationship between television and mankind.

Television violence and sex have been much debated issues. In prime time television, there are between 5 to 7 such scenes per hour, as well as the use of offensive language. The average human being watches about 40 hours of television a week, subjecting his brain to more than 200 acts of violent and sex scenes per week. Being mentally immature, teenagers may start to imitate what they see on television. Nowadays, there are certain programmes that portray themes such as "killing is cool", "violence is the answer to everything", and "sex is always available". These themes give teenagers a wrong idea of how they should live.Even our children are not spared the violence on television. It may seem hard to believe, but children's programmes contain more violence than prime time television. Simple acts like a person being squashed, sliced, hit on the head with a frying pan, and still be able to get up and walk away may seem funny to us, but we do not know what images are imprinted onto children's young minds. They may think that these acts are applicable to real life, and grow up bearing these kinds of thoughts.

Television can also give us misconceptions about beauty. Handsome men and beautiful women often grace our screens, and we may think that the world loves people who look that way. People who are not slim or who do not have muscles all over their body may think that thay are ugly, and develop an inferior complex. Children, too, may think that is the way a real human being should look like, and start looking down on people who do not conform to such images of beauty.

Television has been blamed for the erosion of family life a person,s imagination. Gone were the days of the weekend outings where parents spend time with their children , and children invent games to play in the park. Nowadays, it would be much easier to stay at home home and watch television. With everyone's eyes stuck on the screen, there is no need to talk, no need to invent games, no need to go out. Just sit and watch.

Interactive television will definitely have a greater impact on our lives . It has the power to actually remove it. With so much information in our hands, we tend to spend more time in front of the television, surfing the world wide web. We will lock ourselves from the real world, trying to find out more about it. But what is the point of such knowledge if we do not experience it. Also, the media tends to overexagerate information. Things may or may not be as serious as it seems. But we will never know if we do not step out of our houses.

Not only that, the internet spoils our relationship with other people. We lose our friends and social lives. It is true that we can talk with other human beings through the internet, but it is easy to lie. We recreate ourselves, living out our fantasy lives. No one on the internet will find out, because no one can see you. We may have friends on the internet, but we do not know if, like us, they are living in their dream worlds. In real life, it is harder to lie, but it is easier to make true friends.

Interactive television also tends to make people lazy. Home shopping may be convenient, but people may develop slothiness, doing everything through television. They need not go out to buy groceries or clothes. This will in turn affect retailer shops and markets. There will be less demands for such shops, and their numbers will dwindle.


Slave or master? We have seen that if we use interactive television wisely, it can serve us really well in terms of entertainment, convenience and education. The damage starts to happen if we become too obsessed with it, letting it run and influence our lives. As seen from above, it can indeed be a cruel master, leading to the the breakdown of society. But it cannot be totally removed from our lives. It is up to society itself to prevent interactive television from becoming our master.


"Our Problem is Defining Violence: The Statistics are Frightening" by Bill Walsh
"Pulling the Plug on Television's Sex and Violence" by Bill Johnson
"The Impact of Television on Children's Education"
"Impact of Television Violence" by John P. Murray
"Weighing the Internet: The Human Factor" by David Klein

To the beginning...

Suggestions???Mail me then. Thank you!