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The Instrument: Telescreen in the Briefing Room

At the conclusion of the White House briefing room renovation, audiences may see high-tech additions such as video backdrops. How will this impact members of the media, and moreover, how will White House staff make adjustments to their lecture styles?

With the planned White House briefing room construction, the media will sit at bay, waiting to see how the new press gaggles will shape up with the possibility of pixels gazing at them from a wall. Perhaps members of the press, who suffer from attention deficit disorder, will have even more to throw their gaze back and forth at, and sit comfortably without asking any questions of our current administration. On the other hand, those of us that prefer a one-to-one communication channel must suffer through animated backgrounds draped in flags or flow charts, all while trying to pay attention to what Press Secretary Tony Snow or President Bush says. The new briefing room promises to address safety issues and poor construction, and could also attract audiences from far and wide with its Pimp My Ride aesthetic. Like the MTV reality series that plasters flat screen televisions and laptops all over automobiles, the briefing room may very well have its own Orwellian backdrop. Whether it’s 1984 or 2006, Fox News host Tony Snow (recently hired as Press Secretary) endorses the move. “It’s simply a necessary response to a news environment where you have players in all quarters 24 hours a day,” Mr. Snow says, “If you’re in government… your key challenge [is] to make sure you get your message out” (from the Wall Street Journal online). The high-tech briefing room would ensure that messages get out, with or without Mr. Snow’s entertaining rebuttals to reporters.

During the briefing room construction, reporters—fearing abandonment—must now wait for the remodeling to conclude, all while wondering how these supposed innovations will impact their job. Will they ever be invited back? Perhaps they’ll have to wait until the next President gets sworn in, but that should be the least of their worries. Creating a media rich environment for press briefings could kill the theatrics and interaction that should fall upon the shoulders of Press Secretaries and other White House Staff members. Although, it sounds like they want to tone down the interaction to a minimum, and create a spectacle in the spirit of Steve Jobs, who has become the end all be all king of big screen lecturers:

Big Images + Lecturer with Remote =
Jaw-Dropping Presentation with Captive [silent] Audience.

In addition to the above Big Image convention, let’s hope Mr. Snow, consultants working on the media-rich briefing room, and its future lecturers will consider the following:

1. Rehearse just because you have a screen at your disposal doesn’t mean you’re excused from knowing your content

2. Don’t Repeat What’s On The Screen turning around to read from your slides will reduce your vocal projection—and it’s boring

3. Lose The Remote we know that you’re in control, so leave the clicker on the sofa and get to the point with a rehearsed lecture that has timed slides

4. Set Display Type Large Enough For Audiences To Read whether in the press room or viewing on television

5. Use High Resolution Images nothing looks cheaper than 72dpi images exploded to pizza-box-sized pixels

6. Incorporate Visuals That Add To Your Lecture show us more than a picture of Bin Laden when your talking about him—if that’s possible

7. Your Visuals Should Coincide With Your Speech because we want to keep up with you, not compare you to the last poorly-dubbed foreign film we saw

8. Use Transitions Between Slides because jumping around tangentially confuses us when we listen while watching

9. Use A Black Slide when you don’t need a visual, don’t show us what you will talk about in a minute or two, use a blank slate

10. Please Stay Clear Of PowerPoint Templates too familiar and ugly

11. Minimize The Stars And Stripes too familiar, we get enough of the patriotism, so save the flags and eagles for the Oval Office (and please, no crying eagles)

12. Avoid Concluding Slides there’s no need for cutesy “the end” nor “to be continued” slides, just use a blank

Should the video technology get installed, and press briefings mature into something beyond a Fox News broadcast, household audiences may long to tune in for the pixel-stimulating drama:

The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Part One Page 5

The likelihood that we will witness Big Brotheresque projections seems as damning as it far-reaching. Instead, the briefing room’s hypothesized big-screen technology could offer endless opportunities for expression, and more importantly conveying complex information in simple terms. The White House can chart the course of forthcoming briefings. Will they be pedestrian or captivating? Or lose us completely?

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Aug.01.2006 BY Jason A. Tselentis
Ben’s comment is:

That's pretty funny Jason, especially because I know that's pretty much what to expect. Remember their website?

The White House

On Aug.02.2006 at 12:17 AM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

Simply amazing. I can't imagine anything more frustrating than a three-layerd graphics/human/graphics wall of rhetoric when being addressed by my own government. Not to mention the inevitable continuation of the Bush type legacy.

On Aug.02.2006 at 08:20 AM
Jordan’s comment is:

Amusing post Jason, but I think the misuse of media rich environments extends beyond what our government will use this new room for. I know that such misuse is only magnified by the president’s position, but I'd like to see your 12 points become the mantra of all who set out to create "media-rich" environments.

For instance, many schools and colleges have now embraced these kinds of environments in the classroom, but the multitude of power point lectures, digital slide shows, and streaming video messages are often created without asking the questions, why and how should I produce these technological message carriers?

I struggle with my role and profession in a world of flashing graphics, wavy American flags, pixilated images, mistreated type, and often wonder how and if I should provide feedback to the people who are unknowingly creating these horrors.

On Aug.02.2006 at 10:26 AM
Ginny’s comment is:

So this means that besides the spinning logos, scrolling headlines, rotating titles, and disappearing/reappearing LIVE graphic that already give me a headache on the 24-hour news channels, there will be yet another constantly changing graphic to deal with during a press conference?


On Aug.02.2006 at 11:23 AM
designisgivingmeastomachache’s comment is:

Does everyone remember Max Headroom?

On Aug.02.2006 at 11:32 AM
Armin’s comment is:

A graphics backdrop is the only thing that will keep these press conferences competitive – at least on entertainment value – with The Daily Show.

On Aug.02.2006 at 12:12 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Just Announced: Press Secretary Scott McClellan has recently stepped down. Max Headroom slated to be his replacement.

On Aug.02.2006 at 12:43 PM
jason’s comment is:

true, armin. the maxheadroom analogy is on the mark. Mr. Snow is surely aware of the entertainment value, but can this aid the already flat lecture style of Pres. Bush?

On Aug.02.2006 at 12:43 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

'doh...posted before reading designisgivingmeastomachache’s comment.

On Aug.02.2006 at 12:44 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

I’m not much of a sci-fi guy but I believe that wall-sized screens are more Bradburian than Orwellian.

On Aug.02.2006 at 01:09 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

A fun analogy, Gunnar. I'm reminded of a story from the Illustrated Man, about the big screen lion that eats the parent.

But we won't see anything remotely near that Simulacrum soon, thank goodness. All of this makes me wonder what we're in for. Will it be over the top or understated? How large will the screen be, and how will it be used? The Department of Defense has their own version of this rich media room, so will they model it after that?

On Aug.02.2006 at 04:10 PM
ed’s comment is:

rearranging the deck chairs on the hendenberg if you ask me...

On Aug.02.2006 at 07:07 PM
Ravenone’s comment is:

Maxheadroom. hehee.
In all serriousness, I'm wary of this new room they're building... instead of increasing the clarity and effectiveness of communication, won't they just be needlessly cluttering it?
Will the Powers that Be be able to use the technology? (the internet is just a serries of tubes... I got it in my email). Will this clutter be used against the common folk, to confuse and herd the masses? How BAD will the design be, and how quickly will it cause migraines?
-so many questions.

On Aug.03.2006 at 02:00 AM
szkat’s comment is:

i wonder if the day will come when the President addresses the nation by listserv-ing all of us to announce we can just download the PPT from ftp.whitehouse.gov.

State of the Union Address
becomes Slides of the Union Address.

On Aug.03.2006 at 10:38 AM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

Already, you can read the transcripted press gaggles online.


Maybe you're right about future information dissemination.

On Aug.03.2006 at 11:10 AM
szkat’s comment is:

or maybe we'll be able to read the mood of the president during an address.
wouldn't that be fun?

On Aug.03.2006 at 02:57 PM
szkat’s comment is:

ps. thanks for the link, Jason. it's enlightening.

On Aug.03.2006 at 02:59 PM
Ravenone’s comment is:

szkat- iPresident?
Tselentis- Nice link.

On Aug.04.2006 at 01:00 AM
tselentis’s comment is:

oddly, nobody's wondered about software: keynote or powerpoint?

On Aug.05.2006 at 09:46 AM
Ravenone’s comment is:

I've got a copy of Macromedia ACTION we could give'em if Powerpoint proves too tough :D

On Aug.06.2006 at 12:53 AM
Tselentis’s comment is:

I've never heard of that program, but in all seriousness, they'll need more than Adobe's help when it comes to getting their visuals in order.

My goodness, President Bush, do you really want bad type as part of your legacy too?

On Aug.11.2006 at 08:28 PM