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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Surround Sound Effect

"The Surround Sound Effect" is the name that I have given to technology that can interfere with its purpose.

I learned about this when I was pining away for surround sound of my very own. I listened to a bunch of systems and talked to a lot of my friends and researched all over the internet. Some people recommended the highest quality tuner and speakers with lots of number and letters all proclaiming the awesomeness of the system. Other people recommended the home theater in a box (HTB) set-up so that it would be easy to put together and enjoy.

What I discovered is that the truth was somewhere in the middle. I needed a system that was good enough that I wouldn't notice the poor quality (most HTB's don't fit the bill here), but I also needed a system that wasn't so good that I got distracted by trying to eek out the highest quality sound (i.e. constantly having to fiddle with settings when changing media inputs).

The principle is this: technology is supposed to fade into the background to allow us to experience the media. If your TV is too good or too bad that it's getting in the way, then it's not doing its job. If your PowerPoint presentation, projector, screen, etc. is distracting from the sermon, then it has failed at its job.

I really love technology (always and forever), but we need to remember that the purpose of technology is to allow the media to come through better, not to show off how cool the technology is.


Mark said...

Very well said. I remember when Google made their new Chrome browser, which I haven't gotten to use yet ::wipes tear::, they explained their philosophy, and said their goal was for it to be like a window. You look through the window to see what is outside. While doing this, the window should not be getting in your way. Many browsers have so many extra buttons, bars, and add-ons, that they become hindrances to internet use. This can certainly also be true about the use of PowerPoint and other technology for presentation. As long as they are aids, then great, but distractions are counter productive.

James Wood said...

Thanks, Mark.

I think the window metaphor is probably going to catch on sooner than the Surround Sound Effect. That was just my experience with this principle.

Too bad tech guys and design guys don't like to be friends.