[un]conscious-stream[ing]

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Message & Media (part 11) – Display Screens & Projection

We spent a little time within the workshop going through the details of projection screen technology, something which is very common now within our churches and many other contemporary church settings.

Every medium embeds other media. The internet embeds Video, text, audio, pictures and so does slide-show software like PowerPoint or Keynote. You can embed any media you like within it.

There are some key, important things to consider when using projection screen technology, things that we might not be immediately aware of.

1. Visual processing matures faster than auditory processing (i), which leads to Vision dominating the other human senses (ii)

2. A projected image is made as light is shone through an LCD display OR as light is bounced of an array of tiny little mirrors. This image is made up of pixels or points of light, and in between the pixels there are gaps.
Your brain needs to make up the bits in between the pixels so it takes mental processing power to look at a screen.
At the same time, where the optic nerve connects to your eye, there is a gap in the recieving hardware of the eye, which leads to the famous “blind spot”. To compensate for this your brain keeps your eyes in constant motion and “fills in” the blind spot, so it’s not noticeable. (iii)

3. With the above points in mind, it becomes almost obvious that to process both audio and video at the same time, you have to work harder (iv).

If we understand the power of PST to dominate us, we can turn that inherent power to our own ends, it provides the ability to FOCUS.
The screen is a magnet of the eyes.
If you really want people to pay attention, use a screen, it really does focus people, It’s rare that there is something on a screen and someone isn’t looking at it; Just watch people as they pass the window of Comet or Dixons.

However, with that incredible ability to be an eye-magnet, PST can make worshippers less aware of the persons around them; they can engage in less eye contact and other forms of human interaction for fear of missing something on the screen.

Ill-concieved use of PST in worship unwittingly sets up a competition between what’s projected on the screen and the human voice doing the preaching, praying or singing. And it’s a contest that PST always wins because, as Richard Lischer has observed, when the brain is asked to listen and watch at the same time, it always quits listening.

A classic example of the conflict that can arise is if you project pictures of an event or project behind what people are sharing verbally. It can create the kind of conflict talked of above, where the audio and visual information can end up being paradoxical and confuse people in the congregation. Either people enjoy the pretty pictures and switch off listening or they only take in a fraction of the information you want them to.

Don’t forget, the Screen Always Wins.

The screen is the ultimate relic of the electronic age, and the legacy of the electronic age is tribalism – corporate mass experience.
Generally, PST creates a corporate experience not more individual experience which, when singing together as a congregation can be a really good thing. The Hymn book is ultimate relic of the print age and the print age is all about individualism. There is the danger that using PST heavily can produce passive consumers in church, but there is definitely the positive possibility that it obsolesces the hymn book (alters the use not completely prevents it), and therefore free up the limbs of worshippers enabling them to express themselves physically during sung worship – through dance / clapping / raising hands etc.

There are occasions or circumstances when computer-generated visual aids can be used meaningfully in worship & other church settings:

The display screen, coupled with a live video camera can gives ability to enlarge and focus on certain parts that would otherwise be lost. The Church Shane Hipps was part of had a potter come in and make a pot on their wheel using the video feed to zoom right in on what the hands of the potter were doing. This gave the whole congregation a close-up view of the skill and dexterity of the potter and provided a powerful analogy for the work of God moulding us.

Another way to use PST appropriately is to project an image that can convey something that cannot be displayed or delivered in words.

In all these situations, it is vital to ‘give the screen the floor’! Let the screen win instead of competing with it. And whatever you do, make sure you do it well, don’t do a half-baked job or have a ‘that’ll do’ attitude, if necessary, ask someone who is an expert in computers or in the use of slide projection software.

Other points that we covered included the concept of always using PST it to enhance what you want to say by showing what you want to illustrate and engaging with it along side the audience. Don’t use it just because you can, it has the ability to detract from what you want to say. Try not to use it just for aesthetic, that rarely adds anything to the message.

Try not to confuse people by doing too much or having non-relevant things projected on the screen. Excessively exciting animations or slide transitions may be clever but they are often just really distracting from what you want to share.

Use it to enhance the corporate experience by leveraging the focus it gives.

Lastly a point on slides within a projection sequence: Bullet points trivialise content! They’re often used in business settings and all people want is a hand out of all the bullet points so they can get the vital information. The trouble is, the poetry and beauty of spoken word and the resonance and spirituality of the preacher is lost when we bullet-point. There’s nothing quite so good at chipping away eloquence, rhythm and genuine engagement from a speaker than throwing up all the main points in bullet form. Bullet points don’t capture the beauty and mystery of the Gospel.

Lets take an example from the Second World War. On June 4, 1940 Churchill made the second of three major speeches, this one possibly being the most famous. Here’s a written excerpt and the audio underneath it.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

We shall fight on the beaches audio

Now have a look at the following video of the same talk as if Churchill had delivered it with bullet points. It’s almost comical, it certainly trivialises his points and removes all gravity and seriousness.

Yes, by all means use Projection Screen Technology, but understand it’s inherant power first and if you still choose to use it, use it well.

(i) Clin Neurophysiol. 2010 Jan 15. [Epub ahead of print] – Auditory and visual novelty processing in normally-developing Kenyan children. – Kihara M, Hogan AM, Newton CR, Garrashi HH, Neville BR, de Haan M.
(ii)

  1. Howard IP, Templeton WB (1966) Human spatial orientation. (Wiley).
  2. McGurk H, MacDonald J (1976) Hearing lips and seeing voices. Nature 264: 746–748.
    Rock I, Victor J (1964) Vision and touch: An experimentally created conflict between the two senses. Science 143: 594–596.
  3. Shams L, Kamitani Y, Shimojo S (2000) What you see is what you hear: sound induced visual Xashing. Nature 408, 788:
  4. Shams L, Kamitani Y, Shimojo S (2002) Visual illusion induced by sound. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res 14: 147–152.

(iii) Randall Hand “How many pixels do we need anyway?” May 26th, 2009 Vizworld
(iv) Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Sep 7;273(1598):2159-68. – Resolving multisensory conflict: a strategy for balancing the costs and benefits of audio-visual integration. – Roach NW, Heron J, McGraw PV.

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