August 23, 2006
A couple of months ago the New York Times ran a piece about Media Immersion Pods being the new new thing in Tokyo. These "drug dens for internet addicts" are cubicles that can be rented, for solo or couple use, and are rammed with every kind of media access device you could possibly desire: pc, tv, dvd, playstation and so on.
According to one of the quoted pundits
The Japanese love liminal spaces
and these dark little media nooks fulfil a deep and persistent cultural longing, caused by the rigid Japanese hierachy, to shed your identity, to leave your social status at home for a few hours. Or even all night - as the article points out - one hour can easily become two, or seven.
This led me to think there might something more universal about this need. Media bingeing seems to be an emerging trend around the world - a corollary of on demand culture. Always on broadband has enabled immersive gaming where millions of people enjoy a rich second life for many hours a day. Timeshifted viewing, be it PVR or boxset, allows you to chew through episodes of Lost or 24 all weekend. The continuous partial attention that the connected generation give to multiple media streams [internet, tv, phone, iPod] at the same time could be seen as a smorgasboard.
We are a society saturated by media, so it seems counterintuitive that the time poor would spend the free time on a media binge. But perhaps it makes sense if we think of it in terms of empowerment. If we are bombared constantly by media, perhaps a good media binge is a way of taking back control.
Health Warning: Like any kind of binge, a media binge can be fatal if you don't know when to stop.