Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lazy Sunday # 91: Trying To Keep Up

I’m sure the television business isn’t all that different from any other line of endeavor these days. Everybody’s just scrambling to keep up. 

This week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revamped its news services in an attempt to reach a wider audience, a younger audience, Hell, any audience.

Our leading private network continued a process of trying to make itself the lead story and center of attention by embedding on camera personalities in the Olympic torch run.

And the once hard-charging Canwest broadcast system, reduced to creditor protection status, was in court scrambling around the remaining pieces of its empire in an effort to hang on to what little hope of recovery it has left.

Meanwhile, independent producers and industry creatives are in a constant state of flux, working countless permutations and combinations that might get a show on anything from conventional television to an iPhone app (and maybe somehow on something in between).

Our world feels like it’s speeding up, pushing us to run faster, work longer, embrace technologies we don’t even know how to operate, let alone understand and try to still pay at least lip service to every email, text, instant message and tweet that comes flying at us.

I have Facebook friends I would never want to have a cup of coffee with and follow folks on Twitter that I not only don’t know, but don’t even know who they are --- for the simple reason that I need to understand a little of what they understand, because their insights into what’s going on might (even slightly) inform my own.

Yesterday, I asked an overwhelmed guy in a tire store for a particular brand of snow tire. He’d never heard of it. I pointed out the sale ad in his company flyer. He showed it to his partner, who wondered when the heck those had come in. Only the kid in the back who changes the tires knew where they were piled.

A couple of months back, I decided my father didn’t need to deal with the creaking desk size PC that allows him time to have a nap between when he turns it on and when it’s finally ready to work. I took him to a computer store to look at laptops priced at a fraction of what his old unit had set him back. As the salesman rattled off all the things one of these babies could do that he and his old machine had never dreamt of, I watched him physically tune out.

“Are you all right?”, I asked.

“This is all science fiction,” he answered, “and I’m not Buck Rogers.”

Well, none of us are Buck Rogers. But we can’t stop the world and get off either.

We are living in exponential times.

I don’t have any solutions to our dilemmas, but I think getting a handle on how fast it’s all moving can at least make us realize we’re not alone, not somehow incapable of understanding and, perhaps most of all, less afraid of change.

Maybe what follows will help.

Maybe not.

But take it on board and then try to enjoy your Sunday.


DMc said...

Interesting that you link to that YouTube Video, Jim. I've used that very one in a couple of discussions lately about how to get info across these days.

Graphics. Interesting and relevant facts and bite size pieces of information. Use of music, push presentationi, visually more appealing...hmm...

...I wonder if anybody else might be trying something similar.

And I wonder if it has its uses? Dare I say it: I wonder if it's something that, say, the news could learn from?

Nah. Probably not.

deborah Nathan said...

In the olden days, they used to try to teach with pics and graphs and pie charts and stuff, but it really didn't help my comprehension of math or chemistry. Nobody could show me a picture of a 10 to the -23rd. It just did not compute. Although just the other day I did hear a fab lecture about Mendeleev and the table of elements and had a eureka! moment.

I think that everyone learns in a different way. And even at different times. Perhaps, one day in the not too distant future, I will have an epiphany of the chemical mole.

But don't get me started about the slide rule (or its equivalent, the calculator)

DMc said...

Mmm, yeah - but if you put it to the science of it -- they've known for years now that audience retention is greatest when they are told something at the same time as having it visually reinforced.

People who remember pre-internet, pre-videogame, already process information in a fundamentally different way than the children who don't remember a time before the internet (who, much to my chagrin, can be as old as 25 these days.)

Ryan said...

I dunno. To me it felt more like someone was trying to sell me something. It's a pitch presentation that tries to overwhelm you with bits of data and doesn't give you the chance to see what it means in context.

I watched this video and can no longer remember the bite-sized facts contained therein. I do remember being annoyed when a series of "facts" were thrown at me that were all about a number that was increasing for each year. They are putting this much effort into the graphics, but putting up a simple bar graph is beyond their abilities?

If I tell you a number was 300 in 1935, 800 in 1972, and 1100 in 2003, can you say off the top of your head whether the rate of increase has sped up or slowed down? But if you plot those numbers on a line graph or bar graph, it's obvious.

And to tie back into the original subject, a lot of this "overwhelmed" feeling stems from a failure to communicate.

With the future devices in Buck Rogers, you don't understand how they work, but you understand what they do, because that's important to the story. What kind of story do you fit your dad's new computer into so he understands what it does?