Wednesday, November 05, 2008

CNN Tech

Without the constant stimulation of grad school and academic discussions, it has been easy for me to let this blog and its semi strict topic standards be neglected. Now my ideas are more like fleeting bursts that come and go with each article that I read and less like the hashed out opinions that came from discussing these ideas with other students and coworkers. It is my hope that my next job will give me that stimulation again and I will once again be offering my opinion on all sorts of things. In the meantime, I've been more about my personal life at a different location. I don't keep it out of this blog because I think it is less important or worthy of readership; it is just targeted for a different audience.

That said, last night was nothing if not stimulating. There are a lot of things worthy of discussion, and there are plenty of pundits, analysts, and professional bloggers to tell you about them. I want to talk about the technology CNN used in the coverage of this election. There were two extremely different uses of technology that really struck me.

First, the technology that they wanted to strike me. Early in the evening they spoke with a corespondent who was in Chicago by "beaming" her in and creating a hologram of her in the election center. Here is a video of that.

They want me to be struck by how exciting and new this is. A scifi staple is now reality for reporters on location. Instead, I was struck by how inappropriate the technology was for this use. They said it was great to have because they could now hear the reporter with out the crowds, and that was partially confirmed by the fact that the reporter in the crowd was inaudible. What they really needed was just a quite space to shoot from. This was technology to the point of distraction. When you ask everyone using the technology how it feels (to be "beamed" in) than the technology is the story. It was novel and exciting (to the point of cheesy) so it deserved to be the story. On principle though, I am disappointed in this poor use of technology and the pretenses that they were covering the election. I can't fault CNN too much though. It was early in the evening, the polls hadn't closed. Projections couldn't be made and there was nothing for the analysts to discuss. They needed a distraction.

What I did find remarkable was Mr. King and his SmartBoard. I didn't find any video of him, but here is some of the information that he was using it to share. The SmartBoard wasn't what excited me, it was Mr. King's flawless use of it and the incredible planning for the information they had available to him. There were constant updates of the votes coming in which he used to compare states and counties to both the primaries and previous elections. He outlined geographic regions that the candidates were specifically interested in. He zoomed in and out and drew on it, and did all the cool stuff that SmartBoards can do, yet there was never a nod to the technology. It was as natural as pulling out a road map to give directions. It was seamless, and that is why it was perfect. Technology is at its peak when it seems the obvious and only option. It is because he never said anything like "and look at what else I can do with this" that I was so impressed with it. As an educator, I was giddy to see those capabilities being shown off so effortlessly by someone who is not trying to sell me the product.

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