Staying Sharp

Staying Sharp

Once expertise is gained in any arena, it becomes impossible not to be upset by shortcomings in that field. And the more specific your area of interest, the more upsetting these blunders become. If you’re a fan of a particular sort of motorcycle, for example, and you see one glide by with a horrifically ugly fairing, it’s hard not to flinch.

Whether your appreciation is aesthetic, technical, or both, it can be quite distracting. This is the affliction of one of my favorite characters in contemporary fiction, Cayce Pollard in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Cayce is sickened at the sight of bad design. Her understanding of style is so finely tuned that she cannot help but analyze her surroundings through a scrutinizing lens. She reels at ugly company logos, and unnecessary flourishes offend her minimalist leanings. But when she finds something beautiful, she is mesmerized.

Ultimately, we all like to see something done exactly right. It produces a particular kind of happiness. Cayce may be a bit of an extreme example, but every person reading this column has seen the world through her eyes. If you grew up at FOH , you’re obsessed with the live mix at shows. If you’re a pixel head, the warped abuse of aspect ratios sends you over the edge. These tendencies should definitely be cultivated, as they can be quite useful at work. Cayce demonstrates this with her astronomical design consultant fees and status as the ultimate “coolhunter”. If you have an ear for PA disasters or an eye for display mishaps, flaunt it.

During the NFL playoffs shortly before press time, a new hashtag appeared in the Twitterverse. It was #AVFail, which is fairly selfexplanatory. The commentary in this instance was on the use of AV equipment as a prop in television commercials. I confess the subsequent discussion (and denigration of the horrible CGI robot that appears after commercial breaks) entertained me more than the game, and not just because I was glad I’m not the only one who squints to see brand names of equipment in TV shows, movies, and any public venue. It’s just that expertise makes everything more interesting.

We’ll have to see if #AVFail takes off, but based on the number of conversations I have where incidents of unappealing AV are recalled or pointed out, I expect it may rapidly proliferate into a compendium of observations on AV in the field, just like “PA of the Day” on Facebook.

Remember though, it’s not just about snark, it’s about expertise. Anyone can tear something down, but it takes real knowledge to recognize a true accomplishment.

Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years. Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.