On the difficulty of deliberate ignorance

23 Aug 2016

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If you watch Match of the Day you’ve almost certainly done that thing where you avoid hearing the results so that you can watch the footy as if it were live. What with all the newfangled twitterbook, facewhat, interweb and apps, it’s got more and more difficult to achieve.

Sarah and I were particularly challenged trying to keep up with this year’s action in the olympic velodrome. The world of tech fired an early warning shot at us for the men’s sprint final. Domestic constraints meant we couldn’t watch live, so we were doing good old “chasing playback”, and were a few minutes behind real time. Not wanting the surprise to be spoiled, we’d put our phones down, out of arms’ reach, and were just getting ready to watch Jason Kenny vs. Callum Skinner in the second sprint. It’s a best-of-three event; Kenny having won the first “rubber” meant Skinner had to equalise to have any chance of gold. Just as we watched them getting ready for sprint two, one of our phones “chimed” the chimes of the BBC sport app notification. Neither of us needed to read the notification - the phone was in another room - but the timing of the announcement could only mean one thing. The contest was over - by simple deduction we could immediately work out what we were about to watch.

The next evening we tried harder. Confounded by some schedule/channel changes, we again found ourselves “winging it”: charting a route through the iPlayer, the “red button”, chasing-playback-with-careful-use-of-fast forward, covering our ears and shouting so that we couldn’t hear commentary at certain moments. The differences between “red button coverage” and “normal” TV are important: the former lacks high definition pictures, and has no studio punditry: it ends up containing long patches of footage between races with no voiceover or commentary at all. So we strove and strategised to catch as much of the cycling as we could on “normal”. At one point we realised that we needed to exit the stream we were watching, but that when we did so we would be confronted with a flash of live TV. We found ourselves inventing a new language to plan our moves - tuning to a “safe channel” on the digital receiver before switching sources. Before we came up with that (admittedly simple) idea I had found myself holding up a blanket to cover the top three quarters of our TV, enabling navigation of the schedules and initiation of recording on the visible section below. (see image for this post which I call “screening a screen”)

After all that, we ended up “catching up with time” for the end of the omnium points race. It was slightly eerie to realise that there’s no way (disregarding flux capacitors) to accidentally discover the future.

Tags: sport, rant, personal, tv