Mark Ravenhill argues that endless choice has shortened our attention spans, to the detriment of all art.
Maybe we should blame the invention of the TV remote control: people
often do. At some point around 30 years ago, it became possible to hop
aimlessly between channels. Programme-makers became convinced that they
had to make a pitch for their show in its opening few seconds, and then
keep on pitching just to keep the audience on side. But why has this
requirement to grab, grip, deliver a punch (the language is nearly
always that of physical violence) infected nearly every other medium?
After all, you’ve already chosen to buy that novel, or theatre ticket;
the chances are you’re going to stick at it even if the story moves
slowly, if it rambles or pauses to digress. But more and more, it
seems, we treat every audience as though they carry a phantom remote
control. We are terrified of losing them.