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The low acuity for blue: perceptual technics and American color television

Sterne, Jonathan and Mulvin, Dylan ORCID: 0000-0002-8925-2460 (2014) The low acuity for blue: perceptual technics and American color television. Journal of Visual Culture, 13 (2). pp. 118-138. ISSN 1470-4129

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1470412914529110


This article offers a perceptual history of American color television through a study of the making of the National Television Systems Committee’s 1953 color standard. Rather than seeking out an ideal representation of color, the NTSC standard asked what the minimally acceptable level of color transmission might be for home audiences. While exploiting psychophysical research that suggested that normal eyes tended to have a lower acuity for blue, the NTSC also set their aesthetic standards according to rough measures of everyday life. The NTSC thus mobilized a conception of vision essential for modern commercial culture. The authors consider the perceptual engineering of color TV as a path into a neglected but crucial dimension of 20th-century visuality: compression. The history of color TV shows the centrality of compression to the look of many 20th-century visual media – analog and digital – and to the cultures of looking in which they circulated.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 the Author(s)
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2018 15:08
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2024 18:18
Funders: Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada

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