15 Jun

DIY is a broad segment of television programming that purports to demonstrate how to do something, be it renovate a house, decorate a cake, tend a perfect garden, build a TV cabinet or cook a scrumptious meal. These shows sell themselves as educational. Their intent is apparently to freely share some expert advice with its audience.

I contend that most of these shows are designed to entertain, not teach. In fact, I would argue that they have the opposite effect than what they pretend to have: they “uneducate” their audience. How so? Think about it.

The educational value of something can be estimated by looking at the ratio of exposure to application. For example, if I spend 1 hour studying a cooking technique from a book, then 15 hours practicing and applying that technique during the coming months, the ratio is 1/15. It is a bit like a Return On Investment (ROI). Likewise, if I spend 4 years in University studying for a degree and the next 10 years working in a career that makes use of the knowledge gained, the ratio is 4/10. In addition, it provides me with an income during these 10 years, and much experience and skills that will be an advantage to me for the rest of my life.

In contrast, most watchers of DIY shows spend much more time “learning” than putting that knowledge into practice. In fact, research on television viewing during the past 30+ years shows that viewers retain very little practical knowledge of what they watch. As the shows are designed to be entertaining rather than educational (to maintain high ratings and secure audience fidelity), viewers justify watching episode after episode with the comforting thought that they are accumulating knowledge that will one day be of immense help to them.

In fact, what they are really accumulating is familiarity with the show, and especially with its host, who becomes like a close friend, always happy to freely share his/her vast treasure trove of tips and advice–and to do so in a very entertaining way, because who can bear to watch a boring host?

One sad consequence is that watchers start to believe that mere exposure to the show is turning them into experts in their own right, before they ever put hand to shovel or knife or saw. And when they finally start attempting to apply their pseudo-expertise, they are bitterly disappointed by their mediocre results, or put off by the gruesome reality of the sweat, blood and tears conveniently concealed from the televised images.

Since everything looks so easy and fast on television, watchers are hit with painful force by the difficulty of real work, and they retreat back to the familiarity and ease of their TV DIY show.

Let’s face it: a truly educational show would demonstrate general techniques and principles, and would lead its viewers to spend less and less time watching, and more and more time doing. Since that is precisely the opposite of what all commercial TV shows want to achieve, we can safely dismiss all commercial educational television as distracting from real learning.

The best learning occurs in the physical presence of a master or mentor who demonstrates skills and provides instant feedback on the learner’s performance. It requires humility, patience, effort and courage, none of which are required for, nor fostered by, DIY shows.

So make a change today: stop watching DIY shows and


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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Musings


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