Monday, June 12, 2017

Ferrying Your Brain to Mental Hades

Those of you who have at least a nodding acquaintance with Greek mythology will probably recognize Charon as the ferryman who carried the souls of the newly dead to Hades across the River Styx ...

Probably not the Uber or Lyft driver you'd hope to pick you up, but it worked for the Greeks.

Which brings me, in my wordy and oddly-connected way, to the topic of today's post.

I recently ran across a new (at least to me) term similar to Charon - chyron. A chyron, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is "an electronically generated caption superimposed on a television or cinema screen." The word is derived from the developer of the technology - the Chyron Corporation (now called ChyronHego). 

If you watch CNN or Faux News, or MSNBC or pretty much any television news show, you are familiar with chyrons, even if you didn't know what they were called. They're the big, showy blobs of shrieking verbiage marching across the bottom third of your screen, distracting you from what is going on on the other two-thirds. They tell you what you're supposed to be learning from whatever talking head is on the screen, along with spinning logos, all the other news of the day, the weather, the time, the latest bad news from Wall Street, the sports scores, and whatever else the network thinks you might want to know in addition to what you were trying to watch. The use of chyrons isn't limited to news channels, either, although they are the worst abusers - almost every network runs distracting animated ads for its other shows across the bottom of the screen during the shows you are trying to watch. Here are two examples of chyrons run wild, one from CNN ...

and one from Faux News ...

And when you combine chyrons with the flowing graphics running behind the speakers on the rest of the screen, it can make your head hurt from information overload.

Edward Tufte, an expert on the effective presentation of data and information*, describes such peripheral information, when added to a PowerPoint slide, as chartjunk ... distracting stuff that doesn't add to the value of your presentation and merely takes up space - things like company logos, slogans, ads, and so on. I'm not sure, but I think Tufte would describe chyrons as mediajunk - the chartjunk of the broadcast media. 

I think chyrons are a distracting, useless waste of screen space, and they drive me crazy**. They are the evil ferryman taking my brain to the underworld.

That's all. I just wanted to rant.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* My daughter and I took his one-day course on Presenting Data and Information a few years ago, and it was worth every cent.

** Okay, it's a short putt, not a drive. Just work with me on this, okay?

1 comment:

allenwoodhaven said...

I didn't know this term. I've heard it called "the crawl". Whatever it's name, it's distracting and very unnecessary.
A lot of nuance is lost since actually listening and understanding isn't encouraged.