Sunday, 10 August 2014

Post 3: Transparency, and how televisions can avoid extinction

The act of watching TV is an embodied technological experience. The camera is an extension of our eyes, projecting its vision onto a screen. As this week's readings have pointed out, transparency is important for a technological design and as I pointed out last week, watching television is a way to experience a sort of fantasy. Therefore, in order to have the optimum experience, transparency has to be maximized.

Take film for example. In cinemas, the screen is gigantic and the sound is loud and atmospheric. It's easier to focus on the film because you are shut off from outside distractions. But when watching a movie on a shitty laptop for example (as I'm sure many of us students do), the screen is smaller, the sound quality is poorer, and its easier to be distracted. The same goes for portable devices. Because the interface is more visible, the experience becomes less transparent and thus becomes less immersive,  and (at least in my experience), you're more likely to lose focus. This is probably one reason cinemas still make money despite the rise of internet piracy.

Now consider live sport, an activity normally done with a crowd. Thus the goal is to immerse a large number of people into the programme. This is why the bloke hosting a viewing party for a test match for example, is normally the one with the biggest TV. There is less transparency when viewing on a shitty television or laptop, as the quality will be poorer and the interface (i.e. the borders of the TV or computer) is more visible. The bigger the screen, the easier it is to ignore the interface and focus more on the game. Furthermore, unlike a projector, which would require a level of darkness, televisions can be seen in a well-lit area that better simulates the social environment of a live game. Perhaps this is why people decide to buy bigger TVs rather than projectors, because they can still provide a level of transparency without compromising the viewing experience.

Therefore, though TV is becoming more digitized, TVs themselves can probably avoid extinction due to the viewing experience they provide, and their increasing affordability as opposed to projectors. I don't see them phasing out for a while, maybe when holographic TVs like in sci-fi becomes affordable...

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