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Archive for August 23rd, 2007

I never did write about my experience two weeks ago taking about GNU/ Linux in the TV studio. Partly, that’s because I was waiting until my article on the subject appeared on Linux.com. However, I also suspect that I did poorly, being out of practice with public speaking and flustered by the technical difficulties that emerged just before my spot. That’s not easy to admit, yet I have to admit that if I’m going to write about what happened.

Still, it was an interesting experience. The show was Lab with Leo, a tech program that appears in Canada and Australia. It’s shot on a permanent set designed for the purpose in an office building in one of the rougher areas in Vancouver. Strangely, the set isn’t totally sound-proofed, which occasionally causes trouble when people pass by in the hallway.

One thing that fascinates me about the experience is the way that film involves the creation of an artificial reality. Viewers only see certain parts of the set – they don’t see the area reserved for the cameras, or the technical crew in their glass walled offices on one side of the set. And, at one point, while the camera was focusing on the host of the show and a guest, besides the two or three members of the camera crew, another half dozen people were watching silently off-camera, not five meters from what was being filmed.

Everything — the makeup on people’s faces, the star’s bonhomie, the opening sequence in which the star walks down a hallway and stops to talk to a cast member who is seated where a receptionist might, the moving around the various pieces of the set to soften the fact that the show is mostly talking heads – is calculated to create the illusion of something that doesn’t quite exist, at least in the form that viewers might imagine.

I thought the whole process neatly symbolized by the contrast between the pristine set and the cluttered office and prop rooms from which you entered it. The office and prop rooms were what you might see in any office, especially in high-tech. By contrast, the set looks like a workshop, slightly rough around the edges, where the concerned star fields questions from viewers and wanders around from guest to guest and interacting with the cast.

I’m not a Puritan who wants to close the theaters. Still, I’m an academic by training, and a journalist by career choice, and both those professions are based on the assumption of objective truth and tghat the effort to find it is worthwhile. So, while I enjoyed the experience, even while feeling I didn’t hold up my own end as well as I might, I find that whether I only make one appearance or am asked back a matter of less importance than I thought.

Being asked back would be flattering, and I would probably do it. Yet, at the same time (and at the risk of sounding as though I’m indulging in sour grapes), if I’m not asked back, I won’t be unduly bothered, either. As a member of the audience, I’m perfectly happy accepting the illusion that the show – like any other – tries to create. I’m just not sure that, temperamentally, I’m suited to creating such illusions regularly. Illusions, in the end, don’t interest me nearly as much as ferreting out truths.

Besides, if I did do as badly as I think, I can’t complain. I’ve been doing so well lately that a failure to keep me humble may not be so bad an idea. I learned a lot, and got an article from the afternoon that might help others, so what more can I ask?

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