Monday, April 27, 2015

Core Response 5: What Convergence Means When You Co-habitate With A Nerd

This week's readings on Convergence were particularly interesting to me, when you consider that I read them through my own particular A/V filter. And while I was already an adult and can therefore remember the late 90s and early 2000s well, I never would have thought that I'd be watching "TV" the way I currently do.
I think I've mentioned before that my partner Mat has a PhD from MIT's Media Lab. His dissertation and focus of research was all about immersive environments and storytelling, so this is his domain, and as such, we have an incredibly complicated home theater system. Like, when we have house-sitters, not only do I have to leave them a full page of typed instructions on how to watch TV, but it's always accompanied with at least one phone call for tech support.
We have two "TV's" -- I use that term loosely.
One is an actual Television that is hooked up to expensive Time Warner or DirecTV or whatever cable provider we currently have. But, it's also connected to a server that runs Windows and XBMC, or actually, I think he replaced XBMC with a newer program called Kodi. These are open source home theater software programs (transformation). While we can watch live television, we almost never do except for sporting events and moments of sheer desperation. Mostly, we log in to torrentleech or torrentbytes or any one of a number of file sharing sites specifically for television and film, and download the shows and movies we are interested in seeing, from all over the world. I watch Downton Abbey on British time. These sites are invite only, and track your "ratio" of downloading and sharing back and if you aren't careful, you can get kicked out.
This same server is networked to our "Bed-In" as I like to call it. On the wall in front of our bed is a full projector screen that rises and falls with the push of a button. Mounted on the ceiling over our bed is a projector (Mat is from the east coast and doesn't understand earthquakes so well), that is connected to a raspberry pi or some tiny computer running the same program that extracts and plays these files, so all the media we download in the living room is also available to watch in the bedroom. In fact, you can use both, simultaneously, you just can't watch the same program or "file." Once the files are on the server, we can further upload them to the cloud, and watch the same files on our laptops when we travel (volitional mobility?)
When I scroll through the list of of torrents, the menu of shows I get to pick from, I usually have another window open to google names I don't recognize. My scan-and-search, if you will. This is how I have found some of my favorite shows like Black Mirror and Plebs. Shows I might never have found otherwise. Shows I get to watch, commercial free, ahead of my time zone's schedule. We can even choose the level of picture quality we want (non HD, 720p, 1020p). I guess we're creating our own flow.
We justify our behavior by simultaneously paying a small fortune for cable we don't actually use. We do, however get a lot from our business class ethernet.
Are we the future of convergence? I doubt it. We use a keyboard instead of a remote. At least 3-7 tutorials are required before you have a working knowledge of the system. A system that crashes every so often. But will someone create a sleek, user-friendly, intuitive version of this kind of system? Maybe... in the meantime, please don't report us to the authorities.

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