Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for TV

The first commercial AV installation in which I was involved was the installation of a 55" video monitor in a simple presentation system. During the delivery I got my first inkling of how the AV team is perceived; as an afterthought during planning, a nuisance at construction meetings, the scapegoatif things go poorly, and Santa Claus on the day video monitors are delivered. The operator in the freight elevator made a comment about the "big TVs" and asked which one was for his house. We smiled and chuckled. Then we got out of the elevator and the first person we saw made the same joke. And the next. And the next. What's very clear - and not at all surprising - is that people still love TVs. That TV is a radically different thing than it was even a decade ago and that what most people think of as "a TV" is not what I would call it doesn't change this.

You'll notice that I said we were installing "video monitors", rather than "TVs". To me, a TV will always be something with an integrated tuner. Otherwise, it's just a video monitor. (The thing in your living room? It probably has a tuner, but you probably don't use it. The monitor plus set-top box make a TV system, though, and that's good enough). While a large-format monitor is impressive, we've moving further and further from what the TV label we still affix to it stands for: watching TV.

I know sveveral people who have already "cut the cable" and more who contemplate it. Today we can pull content from the online services rather than have them pushed at us via broadcast. While that is exciting in terms of the number of choices offered, I find it sad for two reasons:

First, without broadcast - without TV as we once knew it - there's less exposure to content which we wouln't choose. THis might at first seem like a boon, but it takes away the joy of discovering something surprising. A bunch of years ago, for example, I stumbled on Project Runway and was, I will confess, somewhat hooked (oh no! My secret is out! Please don't judge me...). Were I choosing content to pull rather than selecting what came in via cable, I'd likely never have sought this out.

Second, there's an erosion of shared culture, even if it is low culture. When I was a kid, everyone watched The Cosby Show on Thursday evening. Everyone watched the last episode of M*A*S*H. There were dozens more things that, even if not quite everyone followed, enough did to create a shared experience. Now it's easier to find something more tailored to your tastes, but the tradeoff is one less point in common with your neighbors and co-workers.

So now when someone remarks on the big TV's I'm delivering, my only thought is that, alas, they are merely video monitors.

No comments:

Post a Comment