In Brazil, according to the Washington Post and Inter-American Development Bank, telenovelas--the super soaps--are responsible for social engineering: lower fertility rates, higher divorce rates, and other social and family life phenomena. What's the corollary in the United States? Will people become really diligent about vacuuming up their hair and fibers after watching all those CSI episodes? That might not be too far from the truth, now that I think about it, because some studies have shown a change in jury behavior because evidence is always so fully determinative on shows like CSI.
This isn't quite social engineering, but a neat experiment about art and news. The Haaretz newspaper in Israel, which is like the Economist, with a small but very elite readership compared to other newspapers, used National Book Week to create a day where almost all of its news was reported and written by novelists and poets. You've got to love a TV column that begins, "I didn't watch TV today," a weather report written as a sonnet about summer being an unsharpened pencil, and a business report written by a children's book and cookbook author. One of the only beats not surrendered to artists was sports. I will brush up on my Hebrew and report further.