Social Scientist. v 28, no. 322-323 (Mar-April 2000) p. 61.

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Just Switch Off!

Television: Creating the "Modern" Woman

The television set, with its ability to merge the domestic and the global, the nation and the individual, the present, the past and glimpses of the future has become the focal point around which new real-life domestic dramas are being created and acted out in thousands of homes across the country. Intimate and personal habits are changing; meal times are organised around the times of favourite television shows or being carried out of the dining room to be eaten in front of the set. It has been found that people are sleeping less. However, more interesting for scholars analysing the changing patterns of social history is the intangible yet real change that is affecting the lifestyles and values of those for whom television has become such an important part of their lives.

There are two aspects to this change and this paper will try to comment on these and end with suggesting that the two are really part of a larger social process that is happening. The first is centred around the physical act of watching television. In most middle class and lower-middle class households, there is only one television set and in surveys conducted in various places in West Bengal, we found distinct patterns emerging as the families tried to deal with tensions arising out of the conflicting desires of family members regarding what should be watched and when the television should be switched on. The other aspect is related to the kind of programming that is being beamed into the homes surveyed. Perhaps the most important role that television is playing at present is the conflation of television programming with new, globally constructed versions of "modernity" and the changing dimensions of the role of community in contemporary civil society. And women are at the focal point of both these changes.

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