The Town Without Television-Stuart McMillen

Australian comics artist Stuart McMillen has begun publishing The Town Without Television, which profiles a classic psychological study from the 1970s.

The Town Without Television
A classic study into the impact of television on a community. In 1973, researchers studied the last remaining Canadian town without TV reception, and ran ‘before’ and ‘after’ experiments.
http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comic/town-without-television-1-notel/ [110 pages]

The comic follows the work of Professor Tannis MacBeth, of the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology. Researchers in this department were alerted to a town in a valley which had its television reception blocked by nearby mountain ranges. As much as the townsfolk wanted to watch TV, the town’s geographical location simply prevented them being able to tune into any signals.

Tannis MacBeth heard about this town mere months before a broadcast tower was due to be built next to the town. She saw that the tower would permanently eliminate this final television ‘black spot’ from the map of North America. With haste, Professor MacBeth secured funding for a research experiment, and made a Herculean effort to coordinate her colleagues’ work to maximise the potential of this never-to-be repeated research opportunity.

What impact does television have on the societies that it touches? Psychologists and social scientists had wanted to know the answer to this question for decades, but they feared that they had missed their chance to study a town without television. Tannis MacBeth’s study provided a natural experiment that allowed researchers to investigate this question in a ‘pure’ way that no other researchers would have been able to.

Comics artist Stuart McMillen is recapping this experiment chapter-by-chapter on his website, with all content being added to the URL http://TownWithoutTelevision.com/ Part 1 establishes the backstory of the experiment, and covers Tannis MacBeth’s efforts to muster the initial research before broadcasting commenced. Part 2 will cover the study’s findings in the impact of television on the town’s individuals. And Part 3 will cover the impact of television on the town’s community behaviours as a whole. These subsequent chapters will be added later in 2021, and into 2022.

Sadly, Professor Tannis MacBeth died in June 2021, shortly after the publication of Part 1 of The Town Without Television. Her UBC staff webpage notes the esteemed regard in which Tannis and her work were held. It also mentions Stuart McMillen’s comic as an example of the way that her research legacy is still being honored in the present day.

Stuart McMillen’s work has been previously featured on this blog. His comics Rat Park and Deviance in the Dark both cover other groundbreaking experiments from the social sciences.

Stuart McMillen is an independent comics artist, who works full-time as a creator specialising in idiosyncratic social commentary comics. His work is funded by an ongoing crowdfunding campaign hosted on Patreon.

Once again, go and read The Town Without Television via http://TownWithoutTelevision.com/

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The Graphic Social Science Research Network was established in June 2017 to help advance the practice of Graphic Social Science.