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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brave New World? Not Quite.

I'm always interested in technology and gadgets. I lurv gadgets! And even though I'm not writing futuristic romance right now, I'm always watching and reading about new stuff because you never know when something might come in handy for a story.

Over the years, I've seen a lot of articles about how video conferencing is going to replace in-person meetings. That flying on business is/is about to/will become obsolete. Interesting, I thought, but I had no firsthand experience.

Until Tuesday.

For those unaware, I worked for Northwest Airlines which was bought by Delta Air Lines. I'm in Minneapolis, but half of our department (including the manager) is in Atlanta. For a bunch of reasons, I wasn't part of earlier staff meetings, but on Tuesday I was and I learned a few things about video conferencing that I hadn't considered or read about.

The first thing that struck me was how difficult it was to hear. I have really acute hearing and pick up sounds a lot of other people can't hear. This didn't help me in the meeting and others complained they had trouble hearing, too.

I'm not sure where the microphones were to pick up the sound and when I had to speak, I shouted. I'd say that I probably sounded like some technology idiot, but since I couldn't hear a lot of what was said in Atlanta, I assumed they'd have trouble hearing us as well. So yeah, I shouted, as did others. I'm glad I don't sit near that conference room.

The second issue was having to see myself on one of the two monitors. Why? I don't need to see our conference room, I'm in it. There was nowhere to hide from that damn camera either.

My last item is the biggest issue. I had a really hard time paying attention. A really, really hard time.

This could just be a me thing. When I'm home, I can't just sit and watch television. I just can't pay attention for long enough to the screen or the show. That's part of the reason why I love baseball so much--it's very forgiving of my lapses. Even when I'm watching a show that interests me, I'm doing other things. I'll even leave the room to do these things. I've been this way for probably ten years, maybe a little longer. I can lose myself for hours in a book, immerse myself in that world, but I can't focus for half an hour on the TV.

Now I'm in a meeting and half the people attending, including those leading it, are in Atlanta and on the TV screen in our room. My focus kept wandering. We received handouts. I started reading. I don't know how long it took before I realized that I'd completely forgotten we were, you know, having a meeting. :-)

That got me thinking about technology predictions and using tech in stories set in the future. Instead of focusing only on the possibilities--both positive and negative--I have to remember that (for example) meeting via video conference is not the same thing as meeting in person. Maybe some day, but not now. This goes for any technology. Some of it will not be as effective for everyone as it is for some.

I'm still mulling this over and how it would convey in a story, but it's definitely something interesting to consider. And all from a staff meeting. :-)