An Interface Problem

Had an interesting challenge pop up the other day. Some background:

I’ve been appointed (strictly by default mind you) as the audio/visual “expert” at my home parish. So I help out with decisions on sound systems and video equipment. We video tape the 10 AM service and then have it broadcast on the local cable access channel. We’re hoping that it works for our shut-ins or folks who can’t get to church, and as a form of new age evangelism. It’s become a big part of my ministry within the congregation over the last five years or so. Recently we decided to go a step farther and download the sermons as podcasts. (Interested? Check them out HERE plus check out our TV ad, with yours truly doing the voice over). To do this we called on the skills of a friend, the Rev. Merrill Woolnough. Merrill is a Lutheran pastor currently between gigs who is rather technologically savvy. She’s serving now as our “volunteer Associate for Internet Ministries”. I enjoy working with Merrill she’s intelligent, gentle and I feel the Spirit working within her. And I like Elwood too.

Elwood is her service dog. Merrill is blind. And that’s where the interface problem arose.

To record the sermons digitally we use a small recording device called an “iriver”. It’s not terribly complicated and has recorded some classes we’ve presented quite nicely. But the sermon project was just crashing and burning. Between the two of us we couldn’t figure out why. Last Sunday I began fiddling with the dingus out of frustration and figured it out.

Imagine Merrill and me at that first meeting with the dingus. She’s used it before and is explaining the functions to me. I’m looking at a screen that is literally an inch by a half inch. I get to the right screen and scroll down looking for “Line In Record”. I find it, we discuss the two controls. Merrill is a little hazy on what the other one does so we ignore it and move on.

Scan ahead to Sunday. This time I keep scrolling down. Wait, what’s happening here? The screen in fact doesn’t scroll, it pages. That means I don’t see the “Line In Record” feature scroll up on the screen, I see an entirely new page of options. And an entirely new “Line In Record” option. The one we’d been using was the record “mode” (don’t ask), the second one was record “volume”. That’s what we’d been trying to adjust all along and failing. When I told Merrill we both instantly saw where we’d goofed and had a good laugh.

Merrill was relying on words to communicate with a sighted person. The sighted person (yours truly) was relying on what he saw. We were both sure that we’d bridged the gap between us. And we’d been wrong.

How often does that happen? We come into a relationship with our own blinders, physical, mental or spiritual. We think that everyone understands what we’re saying, what we believe, how we think. And we get frustrated when others don’t see it that way. Too often these days people seem to be content to get frustrated and walk away without making the effort to see beyond what they “see”. It strikes me that we’re perhaps too desperate to hold on to our particular world view at all costs rather than risk discovering something by trying to look beyond it.

My world view and Merrill’s haven’t changed. But I’ve come away with a deeper understanding of having to stretch myself a little further to insure that she and I truly communicate. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

Meanwhile it’s back to square one with the podcasts. Hope to have that fixed finally.



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