It seems to me that we [by which I mean humans in the 21st century] are gradually becoming reliant on sight for information, entertainment and communication.
We look at screens, ‘text’, watch videos, click on things, send pictures, receive pictures, ‘like’, insert emojis. Sometimes we read things.
I’ve posted before about how you can see groups sitting together in a bar or restaurant. all staring at their tiny screens. But this reliance on sight over the other senses appears to be growing and also becoming heavily image-biased.
Harking back to the fifties and sixties [as I am inclined to sometimes], as a child I listened to the radio. Although we acquired a TV [tiny screen, huge cabinet, black and white], as a family we sat together to listen to a range of radio programmes, from comedy to history, from current affairs to literature. I have strong memories of being unable to sleep, terrified by listening to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, ‘The Speckled Band’-a tale of a snake that was trained to slither down a bell pull and kill on a whistle signal.
‘Round the Horn’, a comedy sketch show which aired at lunchtimes was a family favourite, as was ‘The Navy Lark’.
There was also ‘Children’s Hour’, which had me glued to the radio each evening, especially for serialised books. After hearing ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ read in instalments I became a devoted fan of the entire Narnia series and still have the treasured, childhood copy of the book that I longed for, the Christmas I was 7 years old and woke up, thrilled to find on the end of my bed on Christmas morning.
At school we were accustomed to radio programmes as part of our curriculum. ‘Singing Together’ taught us about music. We sat at our desks following the songs in little pamphlets and joining in to learn the songs as requested by the presenter.
We cavorted to ‘Music and Movement’, following the instructions, and listened, spellbound, to history reconstructions as seen through the eyes of time-travelling children.
And nowadays, in later life I continue to be a fan of talk radio, listening in to news, current affairs, magazine programmes, consumer programmes, arts, literature, comedy, plays and much, much more. I’ve also continued to listen to a daily ‘soap’ drama that our ancient babysitter was addicted to, sixty years ago! This is the UK’s longest running soap-The Archers, which began life as a farming programme and grew into its wellies as a story of provincial life. Over the years themes have covered infidelity, bereavement, mental illness, crime, coercive control, sibling rivalry, poverty and homelessness, besides lost cats, floods, hoaxes and amateur dramatics. Nods are made to current affairs [recent references have been made to Brexit].
But how many people listen to talk radio these days? The way we take in news and entertainment is changing fast, with new platforms emerging every day. At school children learn from interactive white boards-all visual. How often do they get to use only their listening, without distraction?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. What do you think?
Our family had a Christmas meal together with three generations. The oldest recited times tables the middle ones worked them out and the youngest had to learn them so I guess they recited them, too. As a teacher we knew that some children learned better through their ears than their eyes but, you are right, life in general has got more visual.I believe words last longer than images, but then they are my favoured method of communication.
I love your family tradition-thanks for the anecdote!
I could not live without my radio. I have been listening to The Archers since before I was born and even in Australia we continued listening to Kenneth Horne at Sunday lunchtime, broadcast by the ABC. But I think people are still listening – to podcasts and catching up with Radio 4 in the middle of the night feeding babies or on journeys.