Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Questioning the Screen Nation

I visited two different aquariums this summer and found modern technology used ineffectively at both, thus proving that you should probably not do something just because you can.


You need a better reason that that.

At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the dolphin show has been taken over by two giant screens of rather poor quality. About half the show consists of watching a documentary the audience could just as easily (and much more comfortably) watch at home on Animal Planet.

Similarly, at the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky, the new Penguin Palooza exhibit consists largely of a television screen (not even very big, actually) and a dreadfully cheerful man wearing a Macaroni penguin headband and ear mic. The banal banter between the live, dreadfully cheerful man and the animated penguins on the ten-minute video might entertain a four-year-old, but my family pretty much agreed it was just annoying, not to mention barely informative.

On a mildly relevant tangent, the new part of the penguin exhibit shared a cacophony of recorded penguin sounds that were too loud and annoying to do much more than make me feel really sorry for penguin researchers in the field, who must wear earplugs to prevent their becoming insane and accepting jobs as dreadfully cheerful people wearing Macaroni penguin headbands and ear mics while exchanging banal banter with animated penguins on a screen.

Maybe we Raihalas are missing the point.

Which leads me to offer up the following observation for all zoo and aquarium planners. While recorded videos can provide relevant information and enhance the educational experience of certain exhibits, their use in animal performances is distracting, unless they are giving the audience a better view of what is happening in a tank or habitat. When people are watching a recorded program on a screen, they are not watching the living, breathing animals you have so thoughtfully placed in captivity for the people's edification and education.

When people are no longer looking at the animals, why do the animals need to be held in captivity?

Just a thought.

Since you, my wonderful readers, have so kindly endured my rant, I invite you to share your own. Where have you noticed screens in places they should not be?  Have you seen them used appropriately or helpfully someplace?


  1. when they put those little TV screens playing commercials in the check out line at my grocery store, i had to change stores.

    are you kidding me?
    who needs to watch commercials in the checkout line at the grocery store?

    how completely annoying and maddening!

    thank you for listening.

    marty ferraro

  2. Every time I walk by one of those TV's that play commercials over and over (and over) in the middle of Wally World I almost lose my mind. Seriously? I need to watch commercials *now*?
    To be honest, I'm a bit of a TV snob. We don't have the latest, biggest or the one with the "best" picture. I'm sure that sometime in the next few years my son will feel horribly deprived that we only have ONE TV. I won't have them in the bedrooms (ours or his) and I refuse to pay big bucks in order to have a gaming system.
    Heh. By the time he actually cares about it he'll think I'm practically Amish! ;D

  3. When our Church went to video screens to put words to prayers, sermon points, and hymn verses, it was just too much!

    I am sure it helps some, but I just felt it was out of place, not to mention the intrusion on the beautiful architecture of the church.

  4. I agree with Betsy. The church I attend just added a second service with video, which I have not tried yet and probably won't because the tryout was so distracting from the worship experience. I really like some of the contemporary music, but the video is too much.

  5. I won't use the self check out at the market. Not because I can't figure it out (I can) or because it takes longer than waiting in line for a checker (it sometimes does), but because we need jobs for humans. Checkers may not make a ton of money, but for some the job may mean the difference between making a mortgage payment or being on unemployment. Just because we can replace humans with machines, doesn't mean we always should.

    Does this count? It's still a screen.

    Sarah (kegbo)


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!