I was 10 years old when I first saw this episode of Taxi called “Zen and the Art of Cab Driving,” culminating in Jim’s televisual epiphany. The final image of the group basking in the glow of the wall of screens has stayed with me for decades, burnt into my retina as a vision of what television might be, both creating and fracturing community as they sit, alone together. While in 1981, this image of television’s scope and diversity was only an ideal to be achieved through Zen-like dedication, today it is ubiquitous, condensed onto a single screen and multiplied throughout our homes. As a vision of our media future, it missed the details but captured the spirit of the multi-channel era; as a glimpse into my own personal future as a media scholar, it established a still-relevant framework as to why television matters.
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