Technological convergence


Technological convergence

Technological convergence is the tendency for different technological systems to evolve towards performing similar tasks. Convergence can refer to previously separate technologies such as voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications), and video that now share resources and interact with each other synergistically.

The rise of digital communication in the late 20th century has made it possible for media organizations (or individuals) to deliver text, audio, and video material over the same wired, wireless, or fiber-optic connections. At the same time, it inspired some media organizations to explore multimedia delivery of information. This digital convergence of news media, in particular, was called "Mediamorphosis" by researcher Roger Fidler[2], in his 1997 book by that name. Today, we are surrounded by a multi-level convergent media world where all modes of communication and information are continually reforming to adapt to the enduring demands of technologies, "changing the way we create, consume, learn and interact with each other".[1]

Convergence in this instance is defined as the interlinking of computing and other information technologies, media content, and communication networks that has arisen as the result of the evolution and popularization of the Internet as well as the activities, products and services that have emerged in the digital media space. Many experts view this as simply being the tip of the iceberg, as all facets of institutional activity and social life such as business, government, art, journalism, health, and education are increasingly being carried out in these digital media spaces across a growing network of information and communication technology devices.

Also included in this topic is the basis of computer networks, wherein many different operating systems are able to communicate via different protocols. This could be a prelude to artificial intelligence networks on the Internet eventually leading to a powerful superintelligence[2] via a technological singularity.

Contents

Appliances

Some expect that we will eventually access all media content through one device, or "black box". As such, media business practice has been to identify the next "black box" to invest in and provide media for. This has caused a number of problems.

Firstly, as "black boxes" are invented and abandoned, the individual is left with numerous devices that can perform the same task, rather than one dedicated for each task. For example, one may own both a computer and a video games console, subsequently owning two DVD players. This is contrary to the streamlined goal of the "black box" theory, and instead creates clutter.[3]

Secondly, technological convergence tends to be experimental in nature. This has led to consumers owning technologies with additional functions that are harder, if not impractical, to use rather than one specific device. For example, Intel has created a surfboard with an in-built laptop.[4] Additionally, LG has created a microwave with a television screen.[5] Many people would only watch the TV for the duration of the meal's cooking time, or whilst in the kitchen, but would not use the microwave as the household TV. These examples show that in many cases technological convergence is unnecessary or unneeded.

Furthermore, although consumers primarily use a specialized media device for their needs, other "black box" devices that perform the same task can be used to suit their current situation. As a 2002 Cheskin Research report explained:

...Your email needs and expectations are different whether you're at home, work, school, commuting, the airport, etc., and these different devices are designed to suit your needs for accessing content depending on where you are- your situated context.

Despite the creation of "black boxes", intended to perform all of one's tasks, the trend is to use devices that can suit the consumer's physical position.[6]

Due to the variable utility of portable technology, convergence occurs in high end mobile devices. They incorporate multimedia services, GPS, Internet access, and mobile telephony into a single device, heralding the rise of what has been termed the "smart phone," a device designed to remove the need to carry multiple devices.

Convergence of media occurs when multiple products come together to form one product with the advantages of all of them, also known as the black box. This idea of one technology, concocted by Henry Jenkins, has become known more as a fallacy because of the inability to actually put all technical pieces into one. For example, while people can have e-mail and Internet on their phone, they still want full computers with Internet and e-mail in addition.

For example, the Wii is not only a games console, but also a web browser and social networking tool. Mobile phones are another good example, in that they increasingly incorporate digital cameras, mp3 players, camcorders, voice recorders, and other devices. This type of convergence is popular.[citation needed] For the consumer, it means more features in less space; for media conglomerates it means remaining competitive.

However, convergence has a downside. Particularly in initial forms, converged devices are frequently less functional and reliable than their component parts (e.g., a DVD may perform better on a traditional DVD player than on a games console). As the number of functions in a single device escalates, the ability of that device to serve its original function decreases.[7] For example, the iPhone (which by its name implies that its primary function is that of a mobile phone) can perform many different tasks, but does not feature a traditional numerical pad to make phone calls. Instead, the phone features a touchpad, which some users find more troublesome.[8] As Rheingold asserts, technological convergence holds immense potential for the "improvement of life and liberty in some ways and (could) degrade it in others" [9] He believes the same technology has the potential to be "used as both a weapon of social control and a means of resistance"[9]

Since technology has evolved in the past ten years or so, companies are beginning to converge technologies to create demand for new products. This would include phone companies integrating 3G on their phones. In the mid 20th century, television converged the technologies of movies and radio, and television is now being converged with the mobile phone industry and the Internet. Phone calls are also being made with the use of personal computers.

Converging technologies combine multiple technologies into one. Newer mobile phones feature cameras, and can hold images, videos, music, and other media. Manufacturers now integrate more advanced features, such as video recording, GPS receivers, data storage, and security mechanisms into the traditional cellphone.

Internet

The Internet is a globalized network and was officially launched in 1969. Since then, its role has changed rapidly from its original use as a communication tool to provide easier and faster access to information for universities and various other educational institutions. In today's world, it is an important tool used to reach various audiences around the world. Its users have striven to create more uses for the Internet than the mere sharing of academic information. The television, radio and newspapers are the world's main mediums for accessing news and entertainment. Now, all three mediums have converged into one, and people all over the world now can read news on the Internet. They can also watch videos, television shows, listen to music, and download and upload pictures, music and videos. One doesn't have to wait until the next day to hear the latest in news, fashion, and music. The Internet is so easy to access that should anything happen, it would be displayed to the whole world within minutes.[10]

Media

Convergence generally means the intersection of old and new media. Jenkins states that convergence is,

"the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences." [11]

Media convergence is not just a technological shift or a technological process, it also includes shifts within the industrial, cultural, and social paradigms that encourage the consumer to seek out new information. Convergence, simply put, is how individual consumers interact with others on a social level and use various media platforms to create new experiences, new forms of media and content that connect us socially, and not just to other consumers, but to the corporate producers of media in ways that have not been as readily accessible in the past.

Advances in technology bring the ability for technological convergence that Rheingold believes can alter the "social-side effects," in that "the virtual, social and physical world are colliding, merging and coordinating."[9]

It was predicted in the 1990s that a digital revolution would take place, and that old media would be pushed to one side by new media. Broadcasting is increasingly being replaced by the Internet, enabling consumers all over the world the freedom to access their preferred media content more easily and at a more available rate than ever before.

However, when the dot com bubble of the 1990s suddenly popped, that poured cold water over the talk of such a digital revolution. In today's society, the idea of media convergence has once again emerged as a key point of reference as newer as well as established media companies attempt to visualize the future of the entertainment industry. If this revolutionary digital paradigm shift presumed that old media would be increasingly replaced by new media, the convergence paradigm that is currently emerging suggests that new and old media would interact in more complex ways than previously predicted. The paradigm shift that followed the digital revolution assumed that new media was going to change everything. When the dot com market crashed, there was a tendency to imagine that nothing had changed. The real truth lay somewhere in between as there were so many aspects of the current media environment to take into consideration. Many industry leaders are increasingly reverting to media convergence as a way of making sense in an era of disorientating change. In that respect, media convergence in theory is essentially an old concept taking on a new meaning.

Media convergence, in reality, is more than just a shift in technology. It alters relationships between industries, technologies, audiences, genres and markets. Media convergence changes the rationality media industries operate in, and the way that media consumers process news and entertainment. Media convergence is essentially a process and not an outcome, so no single black box controls the flow of media. With proliferation of different media channels and increasing portability of new telecommunications and computing technologies, we have entered into an era where media constantly surrounds us.

Media convergence requires that media companies rethink existing assumptions about media from the consumer's point of view, as these affect marketing and programming decisions. Media producers must respond to newly empowered consumers.

Conversely, it would seem that hardware is instead diverging whilst media content is converging. Media has developed into brands that can offer content in a number of forms. Two examples of this are Star Wars and The Matrix. Both are films, but are also books, video games, cartoons, and action figures. Branding encourages expansion of one concept, rather than the creation of new ideas.[12] In contrast, hardware has diversified to accommodate media convergence. Hardware must be specific to each function.

Fan culture

Media scholar Henry Jenkins has described the media convergence with participatory culture as:

...a "catalyst" for amateur digital film-making and what this case study suggests about the future directions popular culture may take. Star Wars fan films represent the intersection of two significant cultural trends—the corporate movement towards media convergence and the unleashing of significant new tools, which enable the grassroots archiving, annotation, appropriation, and recirculation of media content. These fan films build on long-standing practices of the fan community but they also reflect the influence of this changed technological environment that has dramatically lowered the costs of film production and distribution.[13]

Messaging

Combination services include those that integrate SMS with voice, such as voice SMS. Providers include Bubble Motion, Jott, Kirusa, and SpinVox. Several operators have launched services that combine SMS with mobile instant messaging (MIM) and presence.

Text-to-landline services also exist, where subscribers can send text messages to any landline phone and are charged at standard rates. This service has been popular in America, where fixed and mobile numbers are similar.

Inbound SMS has been converging to enable reception of different formats (SMS, voice, MMS, etc.). UK companies, including consumer goods companies and media giants, should soon[when?] be able to let consumers contact them via voice, SMS, MMS, IVR, or video using one five-digit number or long number. In April 2008, O2 UK launched voice-enabled shortcodes, adding voice functionality to the five-digit codes already used for SMS.

This type of convergence is particularly helpful for media companies, broadcasters, enterprises, call centres and help desks who need to develop a consistent contact strategy with the consumer. Because SMS is very popular today, it became relevant to include text messaging as a contact possibility for consumers. To avoid having multiple numbers (one for voice calls, another one for SMS), a simple way is to merge the reception of both formats under one number. This means that a consumer can text or call one number and be sure that the message will be received.

Mobile

"Mobile service provisions" refers not only to the ability to purchase mobile phone services, but the ability to wirelessly access everything: voice, Internet, audio, and video. Advancements in WiMAX and other leading edge technologies provide the ability to transfer information over a wireless link at a variety of speeds, distances, and non-line-of-sight conditions.

Multi-play

Multi-play is a marketing term describing the provision of different telecommunication services, such as Broadband Internet access, television, telephone, and mobile phone service, by organisations that traditionally only offered one or two of these services. Multi-play is a catch-all phrase; usually, the terms triple play (voice, video and data) or quadruple play (voice, video, data and wireless) are used to describe a more specific meaning.

A dual play service is a marketing term for the provisioning of the two services: it can be high-speed Internet (ADSL) and telephone service over a single broadband connection in the case of phone companies, or high-speed Internet (cable modem) and TV service over a single broadband connection in the case of cable TV companies.

The convergence can also concern the underlying communication infrastructure. An example of this is a triple play service, where communication services are packaged allowing consumers to purchase TV, Internet, and telephony in one subscription.

A quadruple play service combines the triple play service of broadband Internet access, television, and telephone with wireless service provisions.[14] This service set is also sometimes humorously referred to as "The Fantastic Four" or "Grand Slam".[15]

The broadband cable market is transforming as pay-TV providers move aggressively into what was once considered the telco space. Meanwhile, customer expectations have risen as consumer and business customers alike seek rich content, multi-use devices, networked products and converged services including on-demand video, digital TV, high speed Internet, VoIP, and wireless applications. It's uncharted territory for most broadband companies.

A fundamental aspect of the quadruple play is not only the long awaited broadband convergence but also the players involved. Many of them, from the largest global service providers to whom we connect today via wires and cables to the smallest of startup service providers are interested. Opportunities are attractive: the big three telecom services – telephony, cable television, and wireless—could combine their industries.

In the UK, the recent merger of NTL:Telewest and Virgin Mobile resulted in a company offering a quadruple play of cable television, broadband Internet, home telephone, and mobile telephone services.

Home network

Early in the 21st century, home LAN convergence so rapidly integrated home routers, wireless access points, and DSL modems that users were hard put to identify the resulting box they used to connect their computers to their Internet service. A general term for such a combined device is a residential gateway.

See also

References

  1. ^ (Jenkins, Henry (2006) Convergence Culture, New York University Press, New York.)
  2. ^ Nick Bostrom, 2002 Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence
  3. ^ Jenkins 2006, 15
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "The Microwave television". Gizmag. http://www.gizmag.com/go/7947/. Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  6. ^ Cheskin Research. "Designing Digital Experiences for Youth", Market Insights Series, Fall 2002 pp. 8–9
  7. ^ Jenkins, H. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide New York: New York University Press.
  8. ^ http://www.usercentric.com/about/news_item.php?m_id=4&s_id=4&id=15
  9. ^ a b c Rheingold, Howard (2000) Smart Mobs: the next social revolution, Perseus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp 157–82
  10. ^ Cunningham and Graeme Turner (eds) The Media and Communications in Australia (second edition), Allen & Unwin, Sydney, pp. 259–78. – Flew, Terry (2005) New Media: an Introduction (second edition)
  11. ^ jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, pg 2
  12. ^ Jenkins 2006, p101-112
  13. ^ http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html
  14. ^ Integrated Design for VoIP-Enabled Quadruple Play Devices
  15. ^ Cable consortium mobilizes quad-play with Sprint

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