Friday, February 04, 2005

Digital Convergence

Jon Udell of Infoworld has some interesting and innovative thoughts in his recent column on timeshifting and telepresence
At the end of the day, it struck me that time-shifted content and space-folding telepresence are becoming complementary. For example, it wasn't strictly necessary for me to drive to that meeting. I could have made a phone call. Because it was a first meeting that may turn into a professional relationship, however, face-to-face was preferable. In the past that reasoning would have entailed a trade-off. Now, though, when I'm not folding space I can shift time. Given that I needed to listen to those recordings anyway, listening to them in the car -- away from interruptions and distractions -- was the most productive way to do it.
Shifting time, folding space, juggling atoms and bits -- is this how we want to live and work? Yes!

These ideas were inspired in part by Martin Geddes of, where he asks important questions of the nature that "We’ve no idea how the world of bit-shifting interacts with the world of atom-arranging. How do telecom and transport substitute or complement one another? Using economic analysis, he concludes,
The separation of the “tele” from the “com” suggests we should be looking separately at the layers of the architecture. That means considering the information services separately from the bit haulage. What’s the price cross-elasticity of going to NASCAR races with car-racing TV shows and video games? And will that have the same effect on connectivity demand? I suspect the answer is we know even less at this level of detail than we do at the aggregate level.

In the future, IPv10, perhaps, everyone will be an IP address. Number and place were seen as interchangeable a long time ago, in every mathematical abstraction.

I recently took another step forward in digital convergence within the home. Ever since I was first haunted by the ghost in the machine many years ago, I have long held a fascination for technology. This has in recent times translated into an appreciation for social implications of technology.

My home setup until recently featured an integrated model with my XBox(which also doubles as my DVD player) hooking up with my home theater system, DVR and television. This afforded me the convenience of combining gaming, film and timeshifted television. My other source of media was my computer. hitherto an independent device, straining at the seams with information and media.

I recently installed a digital media hub - the Hauppage Media MVP 1000. The MVP stands for Music, Video, Pictures, but could very well be "Most Valuable Player". The Media MVP is a router-sized device that hooks into the home network on one end, and the home theater on the other. Since my home theater also switches video signal inputs for my television, this means I can, on demand, play movies, music or view pictures on my television that are stored elsewhere on my network.

Even better, the Media MVP is a Linux-based device that uses a service running on my Windows-based PC. The service is constantly updated - new features include DivX support, Internet Radio, and many more. A thriving community exists online, including software skins, et al. All this for a sub-$100 price.

This kind of digital convergence within the home is liberating intellectually, while stultifying in some ways. Sedentary in one sense, it amplifies the utilization of devices, creating a sort of cyber-sphere permeating the home. Couple this concept with pervasive Internet access, and we move further towards a hyperreal society, at least for those of us on the right side of the digital divide.

The digital divide, however, can potentially be bridged by such low cost technologies. In India, for example, the government has set up vast education television-based networks to educate rural masses. The generic, canned television programming can be replaced with dynamic, web-routed content, delivering the world to the village at a low cost.

Devices like the Simputer, a cheap Linux-based handheld, (retail product: The Amida Simputer)are changing the lives of farmers, enabling them to have access to retail price information, demand fluctuations and stocking levels. This enables them, albeit not sufficiently yet, to compete against the agribusiness conglomerates.

1 comment:

dave said...

I find convergence means working anywhere. My iPhone let me do just that... voice, mail, voicemail, web, etc.

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