Photo by Pawel Kadysz

With great responsibility comes great power

Looking for a way to adjust TVs for transparency and right levels of responsibility.

Recently, an article about the sad side of TV-addiction and Globo dominance in Brazil was published in the New York Times. It took my attention after a few friends shared it on Facebook. I read and decided to share it too, with a comment. My comment was so long that it became this Medium post. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times's article:

“A 2011 study supported by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics found the percentage of households with a television set in 2011 (96.9) was higher than the percentage of those with a refrigerator (95.8), and that 64 percent had more than one television set. Other researchers have found that Brazilians watch four hours and 31 minutes of TV per weekday, and four hours and 14 minutes on weekends; 73 percent watch TV every day and only 4 percent never regularly watch television. (…)
So what does this all-pervading presence mean? In a country where education lags (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently ranked us 60th among 76 countries in average performance on international student achievement tests), it would imply that one set of values and social perspectives is very widely shared. Furthermore, being Latin America’s biggest media company, Globo can exert considerable influence on our politics.”

Source: Escaping Reality With Brazil’s Globo TV

The topic is not new for me but touched me in different ways. First and foremost, it talks about the country I was born, love and lived for the most of my life. Second, it talks about a company, Globo, which I worked for three years. As it was not enough, it also talks about transparency in politics, a topic I deeply explored with Meu Rio (Purpose/Avaaz), the activist group I joined right after I left Globo.
Following that, the next big thing in my career was to design UI/UX concepts for the new generation of TVs of a giant manufacturer.

The TV is one example of a medium that became a powerful, persuasive and manipulative tool for many. It was largely used to sell a political point of view, and to advertise products and lifestyles that you don’t want to buy. But, undoubtedly and despite all crisis, the TV industry is still profitable and exciting. And, like in many other industries, it is hard to measure the subtle consequences.

Somehow, money has driven most of humanity self-alienation. The side-effects of pursuing short-term results for “selling more TVs” and “increasing audience” can somehow harm our society in the long term.

I believe that responsibility should come before power.

There is a popular saying about the relationship between ascendancy and obligation: With great power comes great responsibility.
In general, people are naturally fascinated by Power and Money. These motivators are constantly reinforced by the stories that dominate media headlines. I tend to believe that power and money together blind people to measure the magnitude of their influence and consequent impact. For this reason, in a good sense, I believe that responsibility should come before power.

This mix of values raises in my mind questions:

  1. What is my responsibility in this game?
  2. How can I, as a designer, contribute to a better and more educated society?
  3. What kind of mechanisms can we use to measure the impact of a business model in this matter?
  4. Can one working for a giant be influential enough to contribute to the full integrity of the company?
  5. How long will take until the decentralized media take over the TV?

I don’t know how to answer those questions, and they might not even have obvious answers. But the awareness of our responsibilities is a good start.

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