The DD Virus

Comcast Center

Last week, after lunch at a bistro on Rittenhouse Square, I dropped in at the Comcast Center to look at the huge video screen—a digital mural—in the lobby. I had written about the screen two years ago, finding it captivating, and since the content regularly changes, I thought it would be fun to see it again. I watched for a while and found my attention wandering. The material seemed less creative, less witty and sophisticated, more predictable. Apart from an interminable clip of close-ups of baseball players in action, the segments seemed shorter, too. Then it dawned on me. The Comcast wall had succumbed to the DD virus. It had been Dumbed Down.


DD is a pernicious modern malady that, sooner or later, seems to affect everything. The New York Times has certainly caught the bug; Arts & Leisure now means less art and more leisure. The PBS News Hour, once challenging with Robert McNeil, Jim Lehrer, and the redoubtable Charlayne Hunter-Gault, has become flabby and predictable. Masterpiece Theater, home to “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and “Brideshead Revisited” now broadcasts bromides like “Downton Abbey.” As for architecture, can one really imagine that a Louis Kahn—or a Robert Venturi—would be able to break through today?


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