ARTS1090: Do you really understand what being a couch potato means? March 20, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 1:56 pm
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Michael, Mike. “Disciplined and Disciplining co(a)gents: The Remote Control and the Couch Potato.” In Reconnecting Culture Technology and Nature: From Society to Heterogeneity. London: Reoutledge, 2000, 96-116.


This passage draws the reader in with a lively, typical episode of couch potato behaviour, especially when I don’t find myself guilt-free of ‘couch potato-ness’. However, Michael explains that couch potatoes do not choose to act in an exclusive manner, rather, it is co(a)gents which diversely influence the couch potato.


By inventing new technologies that increase our convenience, there is an ‘interlocking of human bodies and technology’, so ‘the idea of disembodiment is thus attached to a notion of progress’. We feel superior by having more advanced technology than our counterparts many decades ago. The television remote control has developed from being connected with a wire, to shining light beams at receivers around the screen, then to the usage of high frequency sound, and to our modern remote control that uses infrared light. After finally settling on how to transmit signals from the remote control to the television, developments to the control does not stop here; more and more buttons are added to the small, elongated device. We, as consumers of television media, subconsciously believe that minimal energy in varying television content makes the television watching process ‘interesting’.


The remote control is also very symbolic in the household. The typical model, as studied by Morley (1992), is that the breadwinner of the house is usually the one who monopolises over it. I think it is possible that a change in sexual roles and gender equality in the last decade would somehow dilute the monopoly situation. For instance, back at home during when I was still at high school, it was usually me who intially turned on the television after class; my mum then shouting from the kitchen to change the channel for watching news while making dinner; and the television is off during dinner; proceeded by my dad switching it on again after dinner. Power over controlling television seems to be less important due to a decline in regular viewers and the increased number of televisions as well as other technologies in the household.


We often believe that couch potatoes are bad (as I mentioned in the beginning), as we associate a sendentary, unproductive and self-enclosed lifestyle with it. Nonetheless, there are many other determinants in shaping a couch potato; and as the best we can do: be an intellegent media consumer.


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



2 Responses to “ARTS1090: Do you really understand what being a couch potato means?”

  1. iantha Says:

    More and more buttons are being added to the remote control, do you find that you have a use for all of them? I recently stumbled across a new (and helpful of course) button on my remote control for a tv I have owned for about 4 years.

    Also, how long do you think the traditional model (of males having power over the remote) will be around for, before we realise that we no longer follow this anymore?

    • niewho Says:

      Thanks for your comment. The most frequently pressed buttons on a tv remote control would probably be the power, channels and volume buttons, as well as the AV mode button for switching to watch VCDs/DVDs. I might attempt to adjust the colour and sound outputs occasionally when I am really bored; aside from that, I do not really get to use the other buttons on the remote, or simply, the buttons don’t seem to function during normal tv usage (probably I need to read the tv manual, hmm?).

      As for the traditional model that you mentioned, I think that it will be around and used until the time that men no longer feel superior to women. Just joking. (Or maybe not.) Strictly speaking, the community will have to feel comfortable in completely abandoning traditional sexual roles for both genders before we accept that men no longer monopolise over the tv remote control.

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