Post-launch_feast_in_Baikonur

New Media Chromodynamics – Human Nature Augmented by Technology

Previous webpage: The Prism and New Media Chromodynamics

The ‘Greens’ — A New Gravity

When people’s choices and access to news, to entertainment, and to other information switches from relative scarcity to surplus, each person naturally gravitates to whatever mix of news, entertainment, and other informational items, from whatever mix of providers and methods of access, that best fits that individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.

During the past seven years, the Syracuse University postgraduate New Media Business course I teach has been scheduled immediately before lunch, so I’ve found that the most compelling pedagogical examples, metaphors, and analogies I can use before hungry students involve food. Imagine that all your life you’ve been fed the same institutional or standardized meal as everyone else. It might consist of an entrée, a vegetable, and a beverage. Which entrée, vegetable, and beverage was selected by a kitchen staff for everyone, not by or for you. However, you now have an alternative—a gargantuan buffet of entrées, vegetables, fruits, salads, breads, deserts, beverages, etc., from which you can select whatever you want, even if that means serving yourself. What would you likely do: continue to consume the institutional meal or use the buffet to select whichever items match your own individual needs, interests, and tastes? If you are like the vast majority of people, who in aggregate have been known as the mass or masses, you’ll forego that institutional meal and use the buffet, finding a better match of items to your own unique needs, interests, and tastes than the institutional meal can provide. Choice is human nature.

Still hungry before lunch? Imagine that you and other people are walking into a grocery store.  As you and they enter, the store clerks stop all of you from browsing the grocery shelves and instead hand each of you a bag. Each bag contains the same items, grocery items that the store’s staff thinks are nutritional and might satisfy the greatest number of customer. However, across the street is another grocery store that will let you browse its shelves, where you yourself can pick and choose whichever items actually do satisfy your individual needs, interests, and tastes, although shopping at this other grocery store might take longer because you’ll initially need to find the location of each item you seek (though you’ll be able to remember where for future visits). Given the choice of these two grocery stores—one that doesn’t let you select the items you receive versus one which does—which would you regularly use? If you’re like almost all people, you’ll choose to use the second grocery store; it lets you select items that much better match your own needs, interests, and tastes. Almost all people prefer to make their own selections rather than simply to use what’s institutional, standardized, or generic. It’s what makes us individuals or, as psychologists say, what individuates us. It is human nature.

Let’s now talk about reality; we’ll go to lunch about the effects of individuation on media contents. In the not-too-distant past, you had no Internet access. (How back in time depends upon your country. For examples, the United States circa 1990, Australia circa 1995, Brazil circa 1997, etc.). Your only sources of daily-changing news, entertainment, and other information were the daily newspaper (or, perhaps, you lived in a city where more than one newspaper was available); between one to some 20 AM, FM, or MW radio stations receivable where you lived; and one, two, three, or, perhaps, four television stations receivable there. To make this simpler, I’ll focus on the newspaper (the effects however are the same for broadcasters). It was your only text source of international, national, regional, and local information about disasters, wars, fires, accidents, weather, politics, sports, business and finance, feature stories, comic strips, horoscopes, crossword puzzles, and what products and services were on sale.

However, it wasn’t produced specifically for you. When the staff of a newspaper decides which stories to select for publication in the daily edition, they choose stories that they think might either edify or satisfy the largest number of people in the locale where that newspaper is distributed. From among a dozen or dozens of stories from the newspaper’s own reporters plus hundreds of stories from the newswire services and news syndicates to which that newspaper subscribes, its staff selected a few dozen stories for publication. Their selection wasn’t based upon your own individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes, but upon a general demographics of the community. They’ve served you a standardized or institutional meal, a bag containing the items they hope might edify or otherwise satisfy you. But if you’re like most people who read a newspaper, you’ll probably only find between 10 to 40 percent of the items they’ve selected match your needs, interests, and tastes. Not a good match, but it’s the only choice you had back then.

However, you nowadays have an alternative: you have access to the Internet. You moreover have access via broadband, probably even wirelessly. It gives you ‘always-on’ access to the world’s largest buffet of news, entertainment, and other information. It furthermore gives you access to many, if not most, of the information inventory that the staff of the average newspaper used when selecting the majority of stories published in the daily edition; you might not have direct access to their reporters, but you’ve direct access the world’s newswires, news and feature syndicates, and, indeed, to all the world’s other newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, bloggers, corporate and military and academic and charitable organizations’ websites, plus social networks. In other words, you finally have access to the informational ‘shelves’. You soon discover that by browsing this informational supermarket or gargantuan buffet, you can find your owns selection of news, entertainment, and other information items that best match your own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.

If you are like the majority of people in developed countries, who now have broadband (‘always-on’) access to the Internet at home, at work, and on the go, then you’ll likely reduce your usage of the general-interest (i.e., standardized or institutionalized) media that you’d previously used for news, entertainment, and other information—newspapers, news magazines, and general-interest broadcast stations—and instead visit many dozens of different websites, gathering a selection of stories and other items that much better match your own individual needs, interests, and tastes. This is human nature augmented by technology.

Moreover, thanks to Social Media applications, you’ll also be aided by your friends and acquaintances online, people whose needs, interests, and tastes are similar to your own. They too will be hunting the ‘shelves’ and gathering items which might interest you, items you yourself might not have found stories.

These changes in how people gravitate towards and around online content has the most is reshaping the media environment as resolutely as if changes in physical gravity was. The ramifications for media companies, their business models, products, and practices, as well as the ramifications for academic theories and doctrines of media, are profound and permanent.

The media environment is evolving from Mass Media to Individuated Media. Most companies and industries whose business is to sell to consumers packages (i.e., ‘editions’ or ‘program schedules’ or ‘albums’) of news, entertainment, or other information, which has been the traditional production and business model of Mass Media, are experiencing devastatingly infrequent and shallower usages of their products, not matter if those products are in print, broadcast over-the-air or by cable or satellite, in the forms of compact discs (CDs) or digital versatile discs (DVDs), or online. Moreover, many, if not most, of the new technologies that foster this also disintermediate those media companies’ and media industries’ traditional role of mediating access between consumers and advertisers. Advertisers no longer necessarily must use those companies and industries to reach consumers, because the advertisers now have their own presences online, and consumers and advertisers can now electronically reach each other directly.

Instead, people nowadays use the entire Internet (as well as often plus their cable or satellite television systems via usage of digital video recorders) to hunt and gather their own individual daily package of news, entertainment, and information (their daily ‘edition’, their daily ‘program schedule’, their daily music ‘album’, etc.) Each person might visit any number between a handful to dozens of websites daily, and not necessarily always the same websites each day. The person will those websites on their own impetus or in response to hyperlinks they’ve seen elsewhere, such as on other websites, signage, or posted by their friends on Social Media networks. The average person might jump via hyperlink directly to a story on one website, then jump directly to another website, never actually seeing those websites’ home pages or other pages. Shallow usage of those websites results; the users doesn’t see many webpage on a website, instead making isolated usage of a webpage (i.e., a story, an audio or video clip, an item, a song) rather than even seeing, nonetheless using, the entire package of contents (i.e., the edition or program schedule or album) on that website.

Moreover, his isolated usage of a webpage on any of these websites might be infrequent. For example, among the nearly 40 million registered users of The New York Times’ website, the average user visits that premiere daily newspaper’s site only four to five times per month—equivalent to about once per week, and sees fewer than 28 stories in all those visits, rather than the hundreds which that newspaper published online during that time. The New York Times thus effectively becomes a weekly, rather daily, newspaper to the average user of its website. And less prestigious newspapers receive even less frequent and shallower usage online.

The majority of consumers in Western developed countries no longer consume those quotidian packages of news, entertainment, and other information (i.e., the edition, the album, the program schedule, etc.) and thus are no longer willing to pay to do so.  They now select items of content on an individuated basis from throughout the Internet rather than continue to consume the standardized packages that Mass Media produces of news, entertainment, and other information. For instance, The New York Times daily are no longer editions but a collection of items and elements of consumers’ ‘daily edition’ called the Internet. For these reasons among others, The New York Times, despite more than four years of multi-million dollar marketing, has been unable to convert more than 910,000 of its website’s nearly 40 million registered subscribers into paying at least $15 per month to read more than ten of its stories per month: a conversion rate that at 2.3% is little better than what the unsolicited direct mail (‘junk mail’) industry gets.

As Informational Era individuated consumption is superseding Industrial Era mass packaging consumption, Mass Media industries and Mass Media companies are declining and the companies and industries that savvy enough to recognize and adapt to this are rapidly arising.

Next webpage: Part 2 – Four Dimensions of Individuation

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

primary-colors

The Prism & New Media Chromodynamics

Previous webpage: The Spectrum of Change

The ideal prism with which to refract the entire spectrum of change underway in the media environment, now that people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information has changed from relative scarcity to surplus, is inescapably the Principle of Supply & Demand.

Nearly 40 years’ experience has taught me that too many people who work in the media industries roll their eyes whenever the dismal science of economics is invoked about their labors or products (this is particularly true of journalists). They might wish that they were exempt from economics. However, it affects the production and sales of news, entertainment, and information as much as the production and sales of gold bullion, pork bellies, or paper clips. Each product or service from every media company, no matter how august or humble, how large or small, is governed by economics. Thus, it is ludicrous to believe that the enormous shift from scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and information has not radically transformed the media environment.

Moreover, too many people in the media industries mistakenly think that economics, and specifically the Principle of Supply & Demand, concern only pricing. They seem blind, or at best willfully ignorant, to economics’ larger effects, even while those effects are reshaping and revolutionizing their own industries. For instance, anyone who has ever used a souk, bazaar, or ‘flea market’ knows that whenever the supply of something changes from scarcity to surplus, more than just its price changes. Other significant aspects—such as the behaviors and balance of power of buyers and sellers, the timing and packaging or formatting of what is transacted, and even the definitions of the products or services transacted—change. An entire spectrum of changes can occur, not only the single ‘hue’ of pricing. As people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and information has changed from relative scarcity to surplus, the entire spectrum of change is dynamically recoloring and transforming the media environment.

The dynamics and panoply of this spectrum are so broad that, in the postgraduate business class I teach at Syracuse University, I use an analogy which I term New Media Chromodynamics to explain and examine it all. I borrow the term chromodynamics from physicists who during the 1950s, while attempting to describe the complex characteristics, dynamics, and interactions of subatomic particles such as quarks and gluons, used a loose analogy to colors to describe those things’ aspects and interactions, even though those particles’ dynamics aren’t exactly related to the everyday phenomenon of colors that humans see. New Media Chromodynamics uses the Principle of Supply & Demand as a conceptual prism with which to refract and examine the spectrum of changes in the new media environment. It describes the various aspects of each change as a ‘color’ plus groups all the ‘colors’ into three primary categories according to how each ‘color’ affects people’s behaviors, transactions, and even the definitions of media content.

As with the visible spectrum of light refracted through a prism, the analogous spectrum of change in the new media environment is a continuum with no exactly delineable division separating each specific color. In some regions of the media environment, one color might appear to be stronger than the others. Yet no matter how luminous any one color might appear, no single color shines alone. The media environment is illuminated by all the colors of change, just in various combinations and luminosities place-to-place. Nevertheless, we can most easily understand the spectrum of change underway in the media environment if we group its various colors into primary categories, much the way physicists and photographer do with the spectrum of visible light. The colors in the visible spectrum of light are generally places in three categories: the reds, the greens, and the blues. Likewise, I those three categories as a mnemonic device in New Media Chromodynamics, because the ‘colors’ in the spectrum of media change fit rather well into three categories:

As when talking about visible light, I sometimes informally refer to these three categories of media change as the reds, the greens, and the blues. However, I initially teach to my students the technical names for the three categories, names which are more descriptive:

The Reds. This category comprises all the aspects of change that color how producers and consumers of content transact news, entertainment, and information now that people’s access and choices has shifted from relative scarcity to surplus. In other words, these aspects technically fall into the transactional category of colors of media change.  These colors affect anything to do with transactions of information, even if no are monies exchanged. The reason why I equate these aspects of media change to the red category of visible light is simply because any media company that fails to recognize and adapt to these changes will soon see its financial ledgers and CEO’s pallor turn red!

The Blues. This category consists of all the aspects of media change that color the definitions and the compositions of content. In other words, how the definitions and substance of news, entertainment, and other information change now that people’s choices and access to those contents have shifted from relative scarcity to surplus. This category includes all aspects of how news, entertainment, and other information are conceived, defined, produced, and packaged. The technical name I’d given this is the definitional category, but in class I tend to call it the blues simply because many media executives, media scholars, and journalists feel ‘blue’ for the ‘old days’ when the definitions and production of content weren’t changing.

The Greens. This category contains all aspects of change that color how people gravitate and behave towards contents now that their choices and access to news, entertainment, and other information have shifted from relative scarcity to surplus. Note that I italicize the verb gravitate rather the verb behave. This is because this category concerns more than just consumer behavior. Superficial or even moderate changes in an environment can certainly change its inhabitants’ behaviors, but profound changes do much than that. Profound changes doom some inhabitants and can metamorphose others, even fundamentally altering how the environment itself functions. The epochal changes underway in the media environment are not only changing how people behave with contents but the very nature of how they gravitate towards or around contents. Because this category of New Media Chromodynamic affects both animate behaviors and inanimate dynamics, the technical term I give it is the gravitational category. Why in my university class do I also call it the Green category? Because it is potentially the most fertile and lucrative for the media industries to understand. Among the three categories, it is the least studied and least understood among academicians or executives, despite it having had the most intense continuing effects on the media environment (more so than the two other categories of change. Although publishers and broadcast executives are assiduously concerned about how contents are transacted and remunerated, and journalists and editors are tirelessly concerned about how contents are defined and produced, few in the media industries seem focused on the fact that what and how people gravitate towards contents are the greatest factors affecting how those contents are transacted, remunerated, defined, and produced.

So, allow me to detail the characteristic colors comprising each of these three categories and how each is reshaping the media environment. Most of the examples I’ll use will be from the United States of America, partly because that post-industrial nation is the market about which I am most familiar and partly because is the world’s epicenter of these epochal changes (for reasons I’ll explain). Moreover, most of the examples that I’ll use will be from the newspaper industry, partly because that sector was the first to confront the changes underway and partly because that is the sector of the media industries that I know best. Nonetheless, all the aspects of change I’ll describe affect all media industries and in other countries (though some countries sooner than others, for reasons I’ll also explain).

I’d mentioned that the Greens were the most important color category of change, the key category that not only affects the other two but everything in the new media environment. It is the category I’ll explain first, despite it being the most esoteric. I know from experiences that media executives, unlike media academicians, hate esoterica. As someone from a family of newspaper publishers and having spent 30 years in that industries (and as an owner of a daily newspaper), I understand that. If you are a publisher or a broadcast executive, you might be tempted to jump ahead to the explanation of the ‘Reds’, about how the epochal changes underway effect media transactions and remunerations. Don’t! Likewise, if you’re an editor or a journalist or a producer of entertainment, you might be tempted to jump ahead to the ‘Blues’, the explanation of how the epochal changes underway effect the definition, creation and production of contents. Don’t!

Resist temptations to skip too far ahead, because if you don’t understand how the switch from relative scarcity to surplus has affected how contents and people now gravitate around one another, affecting definitions and transactions, you won’t understand the epochal changes underway, you’ll quickly get nowhere adapting to the new media environment, and you find nothing green there.

Next webpage: The Core Limitation of Mass Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

Spectrum of Change

The Spectrum of Change

Previous webpage: Maelstrom as the Flow Changes

 “I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
— Nikolai Tesla about Thomas Edison’s exhaustive experimentations.

Access and choices of news, entertainment, and information for the majority of the world’s population has shifted from relative scarcity to surplus, even overload. More than two billion people can now—via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone—access more news, entertainment, and other information, than had ever before in human history been printed or broadcast. The ranks of these of people will increase to nearly six billion by the end of this decade because all mobile phones now being manufactured are smartphone models capable of accessing this newfound cornucopia of content.

This epochal shift in readily accessible supply of news, entertainment, and information began four decades ago: no more than a wink in human history yet more than a generation ago in the lives of humans today. The shift occurred so quickly that young adults have not known anything but surplus, yet so slowly that older adults are only beginning to perceive the profound changes it has wrought. This cognitive gap, more difficult to bridge than a mere generation gap, today rends the media industries. The older adults who lead these industries or teach media too often use outdated theories, doctrines, and practices rooted in the waning era of scarcity; yet the younger adults who staff and the students who’ll soon join those industries haven’t yet enough lifetime experience and wisdom to fully formulate new theories, doctrines, and practices that comprehensively explain exactly how these industries must adapt to the dawning era of surplus.

Four decades into the epochal shift, the majority of executives and scholars still don’t understand how this change from scarcity to surplus is radically altering the media environment. Although some of them do perceive scarcity’s dusk, most seem myopic to the remarkable transformations in media theories, doctrines, business models, practices, and products that dawn from surplus. In particular, most fail to understand why the Industrial Era collection of doctrines, business models, practices, and products, colloquially known as Mass Media, which were conceived during and for the era of scarcity, are increasingly waning in the era of surplus. These executives and academicians, failing to perceive and adapt, thus ‘lead’ their industries into obsolescence. Although their public relations departments accentuate hope and buff veneers of corporate competence, their media corporation’s traditional products’ declining revenues when adjusted for inflation, their products’ declining circulations or listenerships or viewerships when adjusted for population growth, and their corporations’ fading market capitalizations and equity prices when adjusted to a dog’s age, attest their failure. Indeed, many major U.S. media corporations, in tacit admission of failure to adapt, have been jettisoning off their eldest and formerly most robust media sector products, the sector that first directly encountered the switch: newspapers.

What you’ve begun reading is a primer about this epochal switch, its many aspects, and the effects it will cause. This webpage and many intentionally linked preceding and following webpages comprise a primer based upon the first third of the New Media Business postgraduate course I’ve taught since 2007 at Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It’s a primer is for anyone who needs help perceiving the full spectrum of media change underway:

  • I’ll outline the basic spectrum of change underway in the media environment (including some aspects or ‘colors’ not easily or normally visible).
  • I’ll delineate that spectrum into ‘color’ categories based upon whether aspects of that ‘color’ primarily affect consumer behavior, production and definition of content, or transaction and distribution of content.
  • I’ll describe why the epochal switch from scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information, has made very many, if not most, of the Industrial Era theories, business models, practices, and products, all colloquially known as Mass Media communications, which have dominated media for centuries, increasingly unsuccessful, archaic, or obsolete.
  • Likewise, I’ll specifically explain why a major effect of the changes underway is that general-interest Mass Media vehicles—such as newspapers, news magazines, and news broadcasts—are failing not only in their legacy forms but also when put online; and conversely why topical or ‘niche’ media in almost all forms are flourishing.
  • Finally, I’ll explain why traditionalists in the media industries need to abandon their nigh alchemical search for a business model that will let their traditional Mass Media doctrines, practices, and products thrive fundamentally unchanged in this new environment. If traditional media companies want to survive, they must embark upon a radical overhaul of their doctrines, practices, business models, products, and industrial infrastructures. Their embarkation is already overdue.

Let us start by slaying a pernicious misperception. What traditional media executives, academicians, and students need to know is the greatest change underway in the media environment is not that people are switching their consumption habits from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’, such as switching from accessing content via printed periodicals or terrestrial or cable broadcasts to instead accessing media content via the Internet or mobile telephony. ]Nor is the greatest change the more recent but parallel misperception that consumption is changing from ‘desktop’ to ‘mobile’.] Far too many media executives and media academicians labor under the misperception that a ‘analog-to-digital’ change (i.e., that media ‘convergence’ or that consumers are becoming ‘wired’ or ‘hooked-up’ or going ‘digital first’) is the greatest, most important, or even major change underway.

That misperception is a seductive oversimplification which blinders media executives and media academicians from seeing the panoramic spectrum of changes transforming the entire media environment. Indeed, it is the worst miscalculation a media executive or media academician can make today. It leads them to think that the Internet and ‘mobile’ are merely digital distribution mechanism for their traditional products (i.e., ‘How can we put our newspaper online?’ ‘How can we use Pinterest as part of our broadcast?’ ‘How can we promote our magazine on Twitter?’), aims that miss the truly major opportunities and changes underway. While it is true that billions of people are switching their media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’, that is but a single hue in a far more colorful, powerful, and complex spectrum of change underway.

Next webpage: The Prism & New Media Chromodynamics

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

tidal-bore

Maelstrom as the Media Flow Changes

Previous webpage: Social Media and other Inchoate Individuation Platforms

A spectacularly obvious but remarkably little noticed aspect of the epochal change underway in the media environment is a reversal of the locus where contents are consumed.

By locus or loci, I don’t mean what prosaic place, such as an in an armchair or on a computer screen or at work or home. What I mean is whether the consumer must go to an edition or channel or other package of contents that a producer of contents has assembled or whether instead all the producers must offer their elements of contents to a place where the consumer himself selects and assembles the package of contents he consumes. The latter has begun to supersede the former, and the shock and turbulence of that change is one of several major forces that are sinking the traditional media industries. Those industries failed to predict this change, despite it being a quite predictable effect of people’s access and choices of contents switching from relative scarcity to surplus.

Here is a hallmark example of the reversal of loci, a change indeed in the flow of media. On the day I write this, approximately 936 million people will visit Facebook.com, and each will open his own ‘home’ page there, where he will see a stream of items posted there by friends who also use Facebook. Many, if not most, of those items will consist of hyperlinks to stories or photographs or videos or audio tracks that his friends either created themselves; or else found on the websites of either traditional content companies or third-parties; or else were placed there as a result of the user ‘Like’ing the Facebook ‘home’ page created by a company, organization, restaurant, team, school, government, political candidate, or other entity or person. All of these items on Facebook will consist of a hyperlinked headline, perhaps accompanied by a small graphic or photograph and perhaps prefixed by a comment from the friend who posted it there. If the use of Facebook ‘clicks’ the headline, the full version of that story or photograph or video or audio will appear in a hypertext browser window that pops into view. In other words, he will be on a specific webpage on the website of the company or person who published that story or photograph or video or audio. Once having consumed that story or photograph or video or audio, the user will very likely then close that browser window and continue reading the stream of items on his Facebook ‘home’ page. Most users of Facebook keep their ‘home’ page open for hours or else revisit it multiple times per day. (The only websites that get more frequent usage and traffic are those of search engines.) Moreover, the ‘home’ page stream of items that each of those nearly one billion people (i.e., the average number of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users who visit it daily) see will be entirely different than the ‘home’ page stream that every other users sees not only at that moment but ever.

You will note three things about this example:

First, this ‘home’ webpage becomes the user’s omnibus loci, his own turf in the media environment. Except perhaps from a search engine, it’s where he goes online daily and likely multiple times per day and for long durations. It’s his online place to communicate with his network of friends, see what they are doing and thinking, and share news, entertainment, and other information. It’s their most convenient gathering place online.

Second, this ‘home’ webpage is almost fully individuated. Rather than seeing the same stream of items that every one of the other 936 million daily users of Facebook see, the item stream that each individual sees is uniquely based upon his own selection of friends and ‘Like’d items. This aspect makes this omnibus webpage more attractive to this individual than any Mass Media webpage can ever be; its mix of items far better matches his needs, interests, and tastes. No Mass Media website provides him with so customized, even individuated, a mix of contents from all possible sources. Even the banner ads on this ‘home’ page are based upon his ‘Like’s and own past postings. (What prevents this ‘home’ page from being fully individuated is that the individual cannot alter the basic framework of the page nor explicitly modify the computerized algorithm governing it and its item stream: the degree to which users of a medium can influence the form or content of the computer-mediated environment.) This ‘home’ webpage becomes that individual’s own daily ‘edition’ or ‘channel’ to the Internet.

Third, this ‘home’ webpage thus largely eliminates its user’s needs to visit many, if not most, traditional media companies’ or other organizations’ websites and to search for stories there that might interest him. He may still directly visit some or many of those websites. However, he can instead now largely, and perhaps increasingly, rely upon his network of like-minded friends to visit those websites and bring interesting stories to his attention. The direct result is that he visits such other websites much less.

The overall result is that Facebook, Renren (283 million users), VK (formerly known as VKontake, 280 million users), Twitter (236 million users), and other high customized or virtually individuated website have very quickly proven to be the most popular media companies in the world. (It is important for media companies to realize that all these individuate Social Media services, although commercially viable, are still embryonic forms of Social Media and Individuated Media. Such services aren’t going to disappear this century but evolve into much more potent and efficient forms for both media consumers and media producers, primarily the former. And while it is true that the Social Media company itself might be said to control what media its users consumer, which some might construe to mean an intermediary company still controls the consumers, that proprietary role will cease to become tenable later this century as ongoing efforts to develop a viable Open Social Media protocol on the Internet come to fruition — an inevitability.)

This also is why such Individuated Media have begun superseding Mass Media as the predominant means why which people obtain and consumer news, entertainment, and other information. Traditional media executives or other who believe that the major change underway in the media environment is merely that people switching media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ (or the more recent but parallel misconception that the greatest change is ‘desktop’ to ‘mobile’) have proverbially failed to see the forest because of all its trees. Consumers’ switch in consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ is superficial; the switch from Mass Media to Individuated Media is profound.

I ask my postgraduate students of New Media Business to examine two components of this profound switch: packaging and motility.

Who decides which item of media contents the consumer receives?

In Mass Media, the answer is the editor or producer or publisher or broadcaster. He selects items from his available inventory of contents and decides what stories, photos, audio recordings or songs, or videos comprise the edition, program, album, or performance. In other words, he decides what’s in the package. That specific selection is then delivered to everyone who subscribes or purchases or otherwise obtains that edition, program, album, or performance. This is the way that Mass Media has been even before the Industrial Revolution phenomenally extended Mass Media’s reach.  The producer, publisher, or broadcaster (or else their deputies) decides the selection of items, rather than the consumer himself. The one who vends decides for the many who consume. Some pundits call this ‘one-to-many’ media. It’s the Mass Media with which we and our ancestors grew up, before the rise of computerization created any viable alternative to it.

By contrast, Individuated Media allows each consumer to decide for himself what items are in the package of contents that he sees.  Software, either in his computerized device or else on an Internet service he visits, allows him access to an immensely wide inventory of content items from which he—rather than an editor or producer or broadcaster—can select what he wants. This inventory generally is not any one publisher’s or broadcaster’s or producer’s items, but items from many, most often a great many, and potentially all producers, publishers, and broadcasters, spanning all brands.  Plus, within the subcategory of Individuated Media known as Social Media, the consumer will also see items contributed by his friends and acquaintances, most of who will share many of the same needs, interests, and tastes as he. No daily edition or program or album or performance any Mass Medium company or alliance of Mass Media companies will be able to provide him with a selection of contents more focused on his needs, interests, and tastes. That inherent selection (‘packaging’) characteristic gives Individuated Media an overwhelming advantage over Mass Media.

Motility refers to who moves the most over the course of the transaction: the consumer of media or the producer of media. Although media producers obviously produce media contents and today distribute those contents to consumers, the facts are that throughout most of history consumers have needed to go to somewhere to obtain those contents, a need which has given the producers tremendous power of what, when, and how those contents have been consumed. The media producers’ power had once been absolute, but that absolute power began to slip out of their hands when technologies began reducing the motility required of consumers to obtain the contents.  This slippage in media producers’ power over consumers began slowly some 550 years ago, began to accelerate during the 20th Century, and reached a tipping point approximately ten years ago.

Briefly examine the history of media. Prior to the Industrial Age, it was oratory, poetry, music, and drama. Anyone who wanted to experience such had to go when to where it was produced and performed. Access and choices of media contents were scarce, a scarcity that gave its producers great power what, how, and when media contents were available and transacted. In the unlikely event that the consumer was literate and wanted to read a text, he’d have to make a pilgrimage to one of the world’s few libraries where he could read a cuneiform tablet or papyrus scroll or ask a scribe to make a copy for him. Even when books were invented 1,600 (China) to 1,200 (Europe) years ago, books were scarce and had to be copied by hand. Unless an emperor, king, cardinal, or bishop, the consumers had to go to where the media contents were, not vice versa.

However, producers began to lose their nearly absolute control of media when some 550 years ago the moveable-type printing press was invented. That technology could quickly easily produce multiple copies of texts (including musical notations). Choices of textual content stopped being very. Moreover, consumers soon didn’t have to go directly to the printer to purchase a copy, but could begin obtaining texts from booksellers and other intermediaries; plus, libraries became more numerous. As printing technologies advanced, printing different editions daily became possible, leading to development of newspapers and magazines. As those became more numerous and economical to publish, editions could be delivered directly to offices or homes, virtually eliminating the need for their consumers to go anywhere to consume those, thus greatly reducing the motility involved in the transaction.

The invention of audio recording technologies around 140 years ago added the sounds of music, drama, oratory, or instruction to the types of media contents. Consumers no longer had to go to theaters, music halls, or public places to consume audio contents; they could at home consume recordings of such contents. The end of 19th Century saw the invention of cinema, which added moving visual contents (visual recordings of theater, news, and travel from around the globe) which consumers could consume without going any further than their local cinema theater.  The 20th Century brought first the invention of audio broadcasting, which gave consumers the ability to experience live (and later pre-recorded) audio contents without even needing to leave their homes or offices, and then the invention of television technologies, which added visual contents to the convenience of that reduced motility.

All these media technologies of the Industrial Era greatly increased media consumers’ access and choices of contents, shifting the balance of control somewhat towards them and less in the hands of media producers; although the latter group certainly still controlled when media contents became available, how those were packaged, for what prices, etc.  That was also true during the first ten after the Internet was opened to consumer usage (the Web 1 era): consumers still had to go to media producers’ website to obtain the contents there. Using those websites required motility by the consumers.

Yet media producers control over those all those factors wouldn’t last. By the beginning of the new millennium, the ever accelerating pace of technologies brought the balance of power between media producers and media consumers to cross a tipping point.

Thanks to Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws, the majority of consumers in post-industrial countries gained broadband access and began using it ‘always-on’ characteristics, which radically changed how much and how often they utilize the Internet.  Moreover, the advancements of those same technological laws began radically reducing the costs and difficulties of the hardware and software for consumers to create and publish or broadcast their own contents in multimedia online and made all that easy-to-user.  Millions of individuals began publishing their own personal websites. As those laws’ continued advancing, turnkey online publishing software and hosted sites (such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com, Tumblr.com, etc.) were created, with hundreds of millions of people blogging. Simultaneously, turnkey Social Media services (such Facebook, VKontakte, Renren, Twitter, etc.) were developed for people who didn’t want to operate an entire website or blog but just wanted their own ‘home’ page with which to express themselves, share content with friends, and individuatedly aggregate and ease all their online needs.

Gone are the days when consumers had to visit theaters, scribes, printers, booksellers, newsstands, or kiosks to obtain media content. It not only now comes to them instead of them to it, but they can now get the item of contents from all sources and vendors in one locus, one ‘portal’, their own ‘home’ page on an Individuated Media service.  Consuming media via individuated services requires virtually zero motility, just view your own, almost constantly opened and present, ‘home’ page. Rather than the consumers having to go to every edition, program, album, or performance, whatever items they individually want within those pages come to them. The consumers used to flow to the producer’s package of contents, but now the producers must flow to each consumer’s own unique package of content. The direction has reversed: rather than consumers flowing to the content producers’ edition, programs, albums, or performances, the pertinent items in those packages flow to the consumers.

This reversal in flow, entropic motility, and switch in who assembles the package of contents that each consumers sees are all predictable results of people’s access and supply of contents having shifted from relative scarcity to surplus. Such shifts aren’t unique only to media, but are normal whenever the supply of something consumed shifts from scarcity to surplus.  As people’s access and choices of contents has switched from scarcity to surplus, the balance of power between media producers and media consumers has likewise shifted, giving the consumers more power, which reduces their need to go where each individual media company chose (a newsstand, kiosk, website, broadcast channel, etc.) to obtain the contents that were packaged the way that the producer chooses.

The swiftness of this reversal in flow is causing massive turbulence throughout the media environment, a maelstrom which the traditional media industries failed to foresee, a catastrophic oversight which will sink most traditional media companies during the next ten years. Those industries’ myopic misperception that the major change underway is simply a change in consumers’ media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ augmented their failure. During the nearly 20 years in which traditional media companies have published on the World Wide Web (plus an earlier ten years in which some published on proprietary online services), the contents they placed online were still the contents of their Mass Media printed editions or broadcast programs. They simply shoveled those traditional packages into online, packages (now called ‘web editions’) in which the publishers, editors, broadcasters, or producers choose which items of content all recipient consumers will simultaneously receive. Those years of producing traditional ‘analog’ packages now in ‘digital’ formats lulled them into believing that such production and packaging practices would continue to be pertinent forever. Thus, now that the technological advancements of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws led to the rise of Individuated Media, those traditional media companies’ production practices and business models are not only ill-suited to the future but the companies are even more flummoxed, having thought that online was merely a ‘digital’ version of their traditional ‘analog’.

In this new world in which billions of consumers have begun receiving each of their own customized or individuated packages of items from many, most, and soon all content producers’ itemized feeds, traditional media companies that each instead produce uncustomized or unindividuated packaged of items in which they, not the consumers, choose the mix of selections, will ever increasingly find themselves left out. Their business practices and business models practices aren’t tooled for the right production, packaging, and transaction in a world in which the content items in aggregate are now worth more than the producer’s package of content items as a whole.

Individuated Media have fundamentally and forever changed how media content is created and consumed, an epochal change in the direction in which people expect their news, entertainment, and information to flow. This flow moreover will be an integral aspect of the Semantic Web (‘Web 3’, the so-called ‘Web 3.0’) during the 2020s.

Next webpage: Why Web 3 will Sink Traditional Media Industries

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Islamic Women After Prayer, Kuala Lumpur

Personalization, Customization, Individuation, and New Media

Previous webpage: Social Media and Other Inchoate Individuation Platforms.

Many media executives and media academicians inadvertently conflate the differences between the terms personalization, customization, and individuation. The terms differ in meaning. Here is a primer about correct usage:

Personalization is a form of address or motif. Let’s imagine that your first name is John. You receive an unsolicited commercial postal letter (i.e., ‘junk mail’) that begins with ‘Dear John’ and that tries to entice you to purchase a product or service. Meanwhile, untold thousands of other people also receive the same unsolicited commercial letter, except that theirs begins with ‘Dear Susanne’ if their name is Susan or ‘Dear Mark’ if their name is market or ‘Dear Judy’ if their name is Judy, etc. That is a personalized letter. It’s a mass mailing of nearly identical content to thousands of people, with the only differences between the letters being that salutation in each uses its recipient’s name. Likewise, you might have or could receive a personalized gift such as a key fob embossed with your initials, or cuff links engraved with your initials, or golf balls on which your initials have been printed. Those gifts are basically identical gift that thousands of other people might have received, except for the initials.  These are examples of personalization, the hallmark of which is mass production of otherwise identical products, on each of which a recipient’s name or initials. The practice of personalization began mainly in the final century of the Industrial Era, when Mass Marketers began to realize that personalized (or customized or individuated) products are more attractive than impersonal or generic or common products of approximately the same price. Online products that use mere personalization aren’t per se innovative but merely online repurposing of marketing practices much older than their online producers. Although some might claim this is New Media, there is nothing new about it.

Customization differs from personalization in that some or much of the substance of what is received, not just its salutation, was specifically designed for that individual’s specific needs, interests, and tastes. This almost always starts with a common product that is then adjusted, generally by adding or removing parts or components, for whomever is to receive it. An off-the-rack dress that then is adjusted by a tailor for the purchaser’s body is an example. A home kitchen that is designed for that home owner, but which uses ready-made cabinets and mass-produced appliances, is another. Or a row of identical new homes, each of which is painted a color which that individual home’s new owner chooses, is another. Degrees of customization span a spectrum bordered on one end by personalization and on the other end by individuation. Customized products have existed for existed throughout the Industrial Era, if not earlier.

Individuation involves products that from the onset were specifically designed, or have immediately evolved to, the recipient individual’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. A bespoke suit or dress. A house designed and built to serve a specific individual. A sculpture fabricated for an individual purpose. Those are individuated, in contrast to merely personalized or customized, products. The term individuation comes from Jungian psychology in which it denotes the process by which the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. In media, the term is used to describe the production of a product that is uniquely differentiated from any other according to its recipient’s individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes. Individuated products have existed since the beginning of tool-making humanity.

Many, if not most, Mass Media executives and mass marketers nowadays mistakenly use the terms personalization or personalized when they instead mean customization or customized.

Furthermore, the respective lengths of time in which people have been producing personalized, customized, and individualized products are counter-intuitive.  Humans have always had individuated products, starting with the first flint knives during the Neolithic Era. Customized products predate the Industrial Era, perhaps dating from hand-copied books, each of which might have been embellished with calligraphic designs and illustrations designed to fit its individual owners interests and tastes. Yet personalized products do date from the Industrial Era because the underlying basis of those are mass produced.

What has changed now that the Informational Era has begun is that individuated products can now be mass-produced.

Nevertheless, a trichotomy appears when the limitations of media during the Agrarian, Industrial, and Informational eras are examined:

  • The primary mode of communications that existed during the During the Agrarian Era, (as well as earlier during prehistoric times, was Interpersonal. This is the aboriginal mode of communications, arising were basic animal communications, and predate humans and their technologies. It evolved into human language(s) in the form of human conversation. The Interpersonal mode is still the most basic and common medium of communication. Technologies have increased its speed and reach, via such vehicles as postal letters, telephone calls, electronic mail, text messaging (SMS), etc. The hallmark characteristics of the Interpersonal mode of media are that each participant has equal and reciprocal control of the content conveyed and that the content can be individualized to each participant’s unique needs, interests, and tastes. However, that equal control, as well as individualization of the content, degrades into cacophony as the number of participants increases beyond two. Although some marketers nowadays mistakenly refer to any online media as ‘one-to-one’ media, the only truly one-to-one modes of media are Interpersonal mode, such as those listed in the middle of this paragraph. A website that is communication with many users simultaneously is obviously engaged in ‘one-to-many’ communications.
  • A second mode of communications also developed during prehistoric times and the Agrarian Era was the Mass I disagree with most media academicians that Mass Media originated during the Industrial Era; I use a much stricter definition of a mass. Mass Media predates mass production and even all technologies. The earliest forms of mass communications were the utterances and speeches of tribal leaders, kings, and priests. They communicated directly with their masses. Like the Interpersonal mode, the Mass mode isn’t necessarily dependent upon technology. For example, an actor or speaker can perform directly before a mass audience without any technologies. What technologies have done is extend the speed and reach of the Mass mode of communications. Forms of the Mass mode include oratory, sermons, edicts, scriptures, theater, books, newspapers, billboards, magazines, cinema, radio, television, bulletin boards, most webpages and streaming media. The Mass mode generally conveys content from a single person’s viewpoint (the orator, the actor, the author, the broadcaster, etc.) to many people simultaneously. Thus, the hallmark characteristics of the Mass mode are that exactly the same content goes to all recipients simultaneously and that the one who sends it has total control over the nature and substance of that content. The disadvantages of the Mass mode is that its communications cannot be individualized to each recipient’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, and that the recipients have no control over that content.

Note that the Interpersonal and the Mass modes have reciprocal advantages and disadvantages. For millennia until recently, people were limited to only those two modes of media. A person could communicate customized or individualized contents but generally just to one person at any time. Or else the person could communicate to many people simultaneously but not customize or individualize the contents for each individual recipient. There was no way to deliver truly individualized contents to many people simultaneously. That dilemma of media and marketing—customization/individuation versus reach—existed for millennia.

  • Yet technology has not shattered that dilemma. The rise of computerization has made it possible to produce mass customization or mass individuation. This is the Individuated It combines the advantage of the Interpersonal and Mass modes but without their reciprocal disadvantages. The hallmark characteristics of Individuated mode is that highly customized or truly individualized contents can simultaneously be delivered to a potentially infinite number of people and that the consumer and the producer shares equal and equal or reciprocal control over those contents. Unlike the Interpersonal or Mass modes, the Individuated mode is entirely dependent upon technology, which is why it arose quite recently. It arose only during the Informational Era.[4]

Much as media and marketing companies have learned that personalized contents are more attractive to people than otherwise impersonal or generic or common products of approximately the same price and that customized products are even more attractive, it becoming obvious that truly individuated products are the most attractive.

Individuation is the true definition of the New Media plus a key to the future of marketing. For too many media executives, marketers, and academicians, the phrase New Media has become conflated and confused. Some use it simply as the combination of an adjective and a plural noun: there are new media. Online media are new media at the turn of the millennium, just as the telegraph and telephone were new media during the 1800’s. In that usage of the phrase, the meaning of New Media simply becomes a matter of chronology and those media to which it refers were be new media and then not new media. This meaning shouldn’t be capitalized: it should merely be new media rather than New Media. The meaning of New Media as capitalize must be more distinct and refer to a mode or a hallmark characteristic or attribute that is distinct from merely the passage of time or any past, present, or future technologies that eventually become historically ephemeral. That is why the definition of New Media mustn’t be tied to semaphore flags or telegraphs or radio or television or digital transmissions or electronic computers or any other technology that could obsolesce and become ephemeral in history.

For those reasons, I state that the definition of New Media is an entirely new mode of communications in which highly customized or even individuated contents can be delivered simultaneously to a potentially infinite number and that these consumers and the producers of the contents share equal or reciprocal control over the nature and transaction of those contents. This differs from Interpersonal Media (conversation, postal letter, telegraph, telephony, text messaging, etc.), in which both parties share equal and reciprocal control over the nature and transaction of the contents but in which the number of people to whom the contents can be communicated without cacophony is limited (normally no more than two and practically no more than a congress), and from Mass Media (oratory, edict, scripture, theater, book, billboard, newspaper, magazine, cinema, radio, television, most webpages, etc.), in which the producers of the contents hold virtually total control over the nature of the contents and preponderant control over the transactions of those contents.

As civilization evolves, it inevitably reaches a technological level at which communication that has mass reach but also simultaneous customization or individuation of that communication becomes possible. That level has been reached, a new era of communications begun.

Next webpage: Flow Reverses

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

apocalypse

Why Web 3 Will Sink Traditional Media

Previous webpage: Malestrom as the Flow Reverses

apocalypse

Much like how marketers affixed unnecessary decimal points to the terms Web 1 and Web 2, they’ve begun to misuse the term Web 3.  Some term Web 3 (or ‘Web 3.0’) to be anything they happen to be doing, attempts to cloak themselves somehow in an aura of cutting-edge trendiness. However, Web 3 does have an actual definition.

Web 3 is a third stratal era in Internet history. Another term for it is the Semantic Web. It is stratal because its technology is built atop the earlier Web 1’s and Web 2’s eras technologies: earlier technologies that provided Web publishing and Web broadcast (Web 1) and then abilities of anybody to publish or broadcast online as easily (Web 2) as could large organizations during the Web 1 era. It is stratal just as Jurrasic geologic era’s stratum lays atop those of the Triassic and Permian geologic era’s strata.

Web 3 will be semantic because its technologies focus on how computers and other machines find, understand, and process information, rather than how humans do those things. For examples, people using Web 1 and Web 2 technologies know how to find, understand, and process information online, but the computers themselves don’t.

The example I teach in class is to imagine that you plan to travel to New York City overnight for business, during which you wanted to take a client to dinner, plus see if any of your other friends happened to be there that day and fit in some time for sightseeing. You could probably find online all the information necessary make those plans and arrangements. However, you’d need to visit multiple different websites and Social Media services, then coordinate the information you find there. What if instead you could simple speak or type into your computer…

 “Find a convenient and relative inexpensive airfare from here to New York City’s airports. Make an overnight hotel reservation at one of the types of hotels I like. Arrange round-trip transportation between the airport and the hotel. Find the best Italian restaurant in Manhattan and make dinner reservations for two people there at a time convenient for me and my client. See if any of my friends are in Manhattan that day. And find time in my schedule to see the Statue of Liberty.”

…and your computer would find and coordinate all that information (even checking with your client’s and your friends’ computers) and present it to you for your approval? That is Web 3, an era when our computers and computerized devices understand the semantics of what we want them to do. Your computer acts as an intelligent assistant or concierge for you, rather than as a mere information machine.

In 2001, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the Web’s continued development, wrote a seminal article in Scientific American magazine explaining the concept. Work has been underway ever since and more needs to be done. Semantic Web coding however, already underlies websites on more than 4 million Web domains.

For the Semantic Web to operate, information needs to be accompanied by such underlying code about the information (in other words, data about the data, which is called metadata). Moreover, what information that the Semantic processes isn’t the ‘Web edition’ or other online version of a printed media edition or a broadcast program, but the actual items of contents that make up those traditional packages. When a Semantic Web device proposes a coordinated itinerary for your trip to New York City, it doesn’t say, ‘Here is the airline’s complete schedule, look at it. Here is a list of Italian restaurants, look at it. Etc.’ It is more specific and articulate that than, which is what you really want from it.

There are some minor differences between the exact definitions of Web 3 and the Semantic Web. However, those differences are almost entirely ones of scale. For example, major appliance companies are developing refrigerators that can sense what foods they store. These refrigerators can sense and record highly inexpensive radio frequency identification (RFID) chips printed onto the foodstuffs’ price tags. The refrigerators can then inform the homeowner or cook about what refrigerated foods might be beyond spoil dates, what staple refrigerated foods have been expended, and what recipes can be made from the foodstuffs stored. These Web 3 technologies, aspects of the ‘Internet of Things’, don’t deal with people or understand information as quite intelligently as do full Semantic Web technologies, but nonetheless are built upon the same technological foundations: semantic encoding.

Traditional media companies that aren’t encoding Semantic Web code (more than just Web search keywords) into all of their stories and other items or broadcasts won’t survive the rise of this era. Likewise, those media companies that focus more on the production and the distribution of the editions or programs or albums (or other package of information) rather than on the production and the distribution of the individual elements that comprise those traditional packages. All Semantic Web services are highly-customizable or even individuated for their consumers. The content items in aggregate are now worth more than the producer’s package of content items as a whole. So, any traditional media company that hopes to be distribution items of content in Semantic Web era needs to radically alter its production and distribution systems and business models.

The initial step for such companies is to employ someone who has practical expertise in coding content for the Semantic Web and has theoretical expertise in individuating contents. Web 3 in general and the Semantic Web in particularly depend upon content providers utilizing standard Dublin Core metadata or approved industrial variants, something that only about one percent of media companies today use. Google, most of the international news services (except the Associated Press), and most of the world’s scientific publishers, and most of the world’s consumer electronic device manufacturers and software manufacturers already use Dublin Core extensible Markup Language (XML) to process, distribute, and display information. All media companies that want to survive the next ten years must.

Now, let’s focus specifically on how the all the colossal changes underway that are ultimately caused by Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws are affecting how people use media and the media industries. Go to the next chapter.

Next webpage: The Spectrum of Change

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

La Noche en el Calle Nilo, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Social Media and Other Inchoate Individuation Platforms

Previous webpage: The Rise of Search Engines Heralded Individuated Media

Since the new millennium began, billions of people have discovered a more practical way to obtain a customized supply of news, entertainment, and other information than manually using search engines or revisiting numerous favorite or ‘bookmarked’ websites to see if anything there is new. They discovered a 21st Century version of something known since Neolithic times: that hunting and gathering is much more efficient when done by groups of peoples. Find yourself people who have similar—not necessarily identical, but similar enough—needs, interests, and tastes as you do, then hunt and gather those things as a group. You all will cover more ground, make far more discoveries, and obtain a great supply of the things you need or want than if you alone hunted and gathered. That ancient description also describes 21st Century Social Media. It is a description upon which human society and civilization was built.

The rise of Social Media has provided more than 1.5 billion people with a more practical and automatic way to obtain a customized supply of news, entertainment, and other information than constantly using search engines or revisiting numerous websites. Social Media allows them to network with people who have similar — not necessarily identical, but similar enough—needs, interests, and tastes as they do; people who, if this were Neolithic times, might be their hunting and gathering network. (Of course, each Social Media member’s group will have a unique set of members, unlike a unitary tribe of Neolithic hunters/gatherers.) When a member of the group makes a discovery, he shares it with all the others in his group. Social Media involves not just collaborative filtering of information, but collaborative discovery and acquisition of information. For the billions of people who use Social Media, these methods have greatly reduced the labor of themselves searching for much of the contents that interest them. These methods provide them with a much more richly customized mix of contents than any common package (such as a Mass Media edition or program or program schedule) can provide to them. As a result, Social Media have rapidly superseded Mass Media in post-industrial countries as the predominant ways in which people under age 35 obtain news, much other information, and quite a bit of entertainment, a trend that is spreading as people’s access and choices of contents likewise changes from relative scarcity to surplus.

Among the many Social Media that have arisen, Facebook is major example of Individuated Media’s popularity and displacement of Mass Media. Facebook has 1.4 billion monthly users, including more than 980 million use the service daily. Surveys of Facebook users under the age 35 indicate that it has become one of their leading initial sources of news about the world around them. (Among its users of all ages In Arab-speaking countries, Facebook has become a paramount source of news).

Although almost all practitioners of Mass Media and academicians who teach those media now perceive the rise of Social Media, most still tend to mistake Social Media as just consumer-generated, computer-mediated forums which are auxiliary to Mass Media. In other words, they think Social Media are merely online forums in which topics culled from Mass Media are discussed. Moreover, some traditionalists in the media industries don’t consider Facebook, or other Social Media service companies, to be media companies at all because Social Media companies don’t create any of the contents that Social Media users see. (That’s an odd disqualification, because those traditionalists do consider magazines such as Reader’s Digest or the Utne Reader to be media companies, despite those magazines creating little or none of the contents within their pages.)

Certainly by any measurement, Facebook is a media company.  With one-fifth of the world’s population using it, this 11-year old company’s service clearly has mass scale. Only two traditional media company approach such massive reach.. In the People’s Republic of China, a nation in which only the national and local governments broadcast television, the 45 television channels of the national government’s China Central Television (CCTV) reaches a population (1.35 billion) almost as large as the total number of Facebook’s monthly users. However, CCTV’s market share has dropped by one-quarter during the past ten years as an increasing number of Chinese consume online videos from other sources. Furthermore, CCTV’s single most popular show, the once-a-year CCTV New Year’s Gala, reached only 91 percent of China’s people last year. The Western media company that closest approaches Facebook’s mass scale is the United Kingdom’s national British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) whose television and radio programs in 28 languages reach approximately 350 million people worldwide. Facebook clearly has more mass reach and scale than any Mass Media company in the world.

Moreover, Facebook’s business model is a media one. It sells advertising space to companies that want to reach large numbers of consumers; it competes directly with traditional Mass Media companies. Moreover, when measured by Facebook users’ consumption of contents, it is certainly a media company. The topics of contents that a plurality, if not a majority, Facebook consumer, are news, entertainment, and other types contents that traditionally only Mass Media companies produced. A crucial difference with Facebook is that its users also consume those topics from each other and from other sources that aren’t Mass Media companies, such as bloggers, uploaded videos, and many other forms of consumer-generated contents both on Facebook and from outside it. Measured by consumption, Facebook is the largest media company in human history.

Yet it isn’t a Mass Media service, despite it reaching a gargantuan mass of people, selling advertising as a media business model, and a having significant portion of the contents is user consumer being what had traditionally have been purveyed by only Mass Media companies, Facebook, like indeed all Social Media companies, is a manifestations Individuated Media, the opposite of Mass Media. Social Media companies are Individuated Media companies.

The characteristic hallmark of Mass Media, besides its eponymous mass reach, is that all users of a Mass Media product simultaneously receive the same package of its contents. However, each of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users sees a different package of contents than every other Facebook user simultaneously sees. This mix of contents unique for every user. What each user of Facebook sees is entirely based upon what he has previously designated to ‘like’ (i.e., specifics in musical artists, actors, books, movies, brands, products, periodicals, broadcasts) and upon what that individual’s own probably unique mix of friends has posted onto Facebook. Even the advertising he sees is individuated to him. Moreover, each user is able at any time to alter that mix of contents as he sees fit. And no publisher or broadcaster has control over that mix of contents. The only things that all Facebook users see simultaneously are the controls they use to make those alterations.

Individuated Media are any forms of communications in which people obtain news, entertainment, and other information, based upon their own individual needs, interests, and tastes, rather than obtaining exactly the same package of news, entertainment, and other information that other individuals receive. The mix of contents that each of them receives is based upon that person as a unique individual and not as a member of a demographic. Although the initial mix of contents might be based a demographic of that individual and might subsequently include as a factor a behavioral analysis of that individual’s ongoing active consumption of contents, the individual always has the capability at any time to alter, partially or completely, the ongoing mix of contents he receives.

In contrast to Mass Media, Individuated Media are interactive. Many practitioners of Mass Media and too many academicians of Mass Media inadvertently conflate the terms digital and interactive, mistakenly believing that any digitally transmitted communications is interactive. Whenever a Mass Media company’s package of contents is placed online, there is very little interactive about it except the allowance by publisher or broadcaster to permit the user to choose which webpage and the options to hear any audio or see any video or animations embedded or linked to that page. Moreover, the Mass Media company staff unilaterally decided the mix of contents in that package that all users see or hear. It is a one-way process: the media company staff packages the same set of contents that all users simultaneously see and the users can choose what parts of that set of contents to see. The publisher or broadcaster otherwise possesses full control over the mix of contents with which the user is presented.

By contrast, Individuated Media companies and the user share equal control over the mix of contents with which the user is presented. No matter whether the Individuated Media company has a finite and closed inventory of contents (such as Facebook) or a virtually infinite one (such as Google or Baidu), the user can at any time alter or completely change the contents with which he is presented, regardless of his demographics or previous behavior.

Indeed, the academically and technologically accepted meaning of interactive was defined by Dr. Jonathan Steuer (later one of the founders of Wired.com) in a 1992 article entitled Defining virtual realities: Dimensions determining telepresence in the Journal of Communications :

Interactivity is the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a mediated environment in real time. Interactivity in this sense is distinct from engagement or involvement as these terms are frequently used by communication researchers. [Italicizations from the original.]

Providing a package of contents (i.e., edition or program or program schedule) which the user cannot alter at will is not interactive (moving from one webpage to another isn’t alteration). Many Mass Media executives whose company repurpose online their printed edition’s or broadcasts’ contents might argue that what they provide is interactive because they allow users to choose which webpage to select from within a finite set of webpages that they provide simultaneously to all users. However, that is as interactive as publishing a printed book and claiming that its physical pages are interactive because the reader is able to select which of its pages to read. By contrast, true interactivity has two characteristics.

If the contents are print or still photographs, true interactivity allows the user the capability to exceed any finite selection of contents that a media company might otherwise provide to all users simultaneously. In other words, it can provide all the stories from which a Mass Media company’s editors selected to provide to everyone at that time. For instance, the average daily newspaper in the United States receives at least a dozen, if not dozens of, stories from its own journalist plus hundreds of stories from news services and syndicates, all stories submitted for publication; yet the editor normally select only a subset of all those stories to include in the package they provide to all readers that day. A truly interactive service would allow the readers themselves to select from among all the stories submitted for publication, not just those the editors selected.  Or, in the case of broadcasting (a term which would be a misnomer in Individuated Media), if the contents are video, animation, or other forms of motion story-telling, true interactivity would allow the user the capability to alter the flow or outcome of the story told, within the parameters possible. For examples, a cinematic motion picture is not interactive, but a video game is.

When the Web 2 era began providing consumer-generated contents online, it vastly increased the possible inventory of contents available to Individuated Media. For examples, virtually every Mass Media company limit the contents that its users can see to contents created by that Mass Media company plus contents which the company receives from only other companies (such as wire services and syndicates) which the Mass Media company has licensed or otherwise contracted. By contrast, users of Individuated Media companies generally have access to all available contents online; any individual, blog, organization, company, or other party can freely contribute contents, without prior permission of that Individuated Media company. The only exceptions for that are the nature contents be within the guidelines of the Individuated Media company (such as no pornography, etc.)

Several Individuated Media services that aren’t Social Media have arisen since the turn of the millennium. Most of these provide musical content, but some newer ones provided text stories and photos. Pandora Radio, last.fm, and several others provide customized music services to users. The selections within the musical stream that a user hears are based upon that user’s own preferences of musical genres and artists. Moreover, those services use a form of collaborative filtering to play other selections that the user might not have pre-selected or expected but that the user might enjoy based upon his preferences. These individuated music services have become phenomenally popular. For example, Pandora Radio, whose number of user is growing 20 percent annually, has more than 150 million users worldwide, of which more than 80 million listen ‘regularly’. That is more any single music radio station in the world and more than seven times that of the most popular Mass Media radio company, Sirius XM Radio.

The trend towards individuation of services is beginning to spread throughout the media industries. Flipboard is a individuated service that provides its users with a customized selection of textual and photographic contents based upon each users choices of traditional content providers (such as newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters), newer providers (such as major blogs), and from the selections that the user’s friends using Flipboard. The result is a customized magazine for that user, with contents that can change in real-time. I’ve also encountered entrepreneurs who plan to launch individuated video services, which would provide users with customized cinematic and television (plus videos uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, and other online video repositories) contents based upon each users preferences of genres, actors, plots, locations, etc.

Because these individuated music or text/photograph services provide copyrighted contents from traditional Mass Media companies, they license those contents and thus aren’t able to provide unlimited selections of items to their users. Nevertheless, their licensing efforts grow ever more successful as their user numbers grow. Pandora Radio, for examples, has already licensed more than 800,000 musical tracks from more than 80,000 artists.

The algorithmic form of collaborative filtering that these music or text/photography services use to provide unexpected items to each users which that user did not predesignate involves (a) recording all selections that that user predesignated plus others that he subsequently ‘liked’, (b) finding other users who made the same combination of predesignations and ‘likes’, (c) finding any additional musical items or text/photograph pages that those users predesignated or ‘liked’ that the user hasn’t heard, and (d) streaming those additional items or pages to that user as suggestions or recommendations. This algorithmic form of collaborative filtering is different from the organic form of collaborative filtering used in Social Media, in which the user’s choices of friends and acquaintances, rather than a computerized algorithm, provide additional items they like, suggest, or recommend. Such methods of algorithmic collaborative filtering also provide the ability for serendipitous discovery by the user, much as if an editor or friend suggested something the user hadn’t known or might never have discovered had he been provided only with the categories or genres of contents that he predesignated or preselected.

Individuated Media services have become wildly popular tapping a latent need that Mass Media couldn’t satisfy: providing each of their users with a mix of contents that more precisely matches that user’s needs, interests, and tastes. These services have begun making Mass Media companies’ general-interest editions or programs obsolete because none of those editions or programs can match that mix. The decline of Mass Media in the post-industrial countries reflects the rise of Individuated Media in those countries.

Yet, however wildly popular, all current forms of Individuated Media, such as search engines, Social Media, and the types of services that Pandora Radio, Flipboard, and similar companies provide, these are inchoate forms of Individuated Media and will be rapidly evolving in future years as their developers refine their algorithms, increase their inventories of available contents, and as technology advances into the era of the Semantic Web (‘Web 3’).  The prime flaw of all current Social Media is that they are proprietary systems; ‘closed-source’ systems in that a person who is a customer of one Social Medium service can’t access or interact with friends or contents on another Social Medium. However, there are many technological precedents during the past 20 years — the triumph of the open-source Internet over proprietary online services such as Minitel, Prodigy, CompuServe, America Online, etc.; the rise of open-source Linux as a viable alternative to server software from Apache, Microsoft, etc.; and other examples — which might indicate that ‘open-source’ solutions are likely to be developed and replace these proprietary Social Media services. Although more than eight years’ work by the OpenSocial movement’s work to do so hasn’t succeeded and has retracted its scope, the century is still early.

Whatever the pace of development, Individuated Media is likely to succeed Mass Media worldwide because Individuated Media can provide a more satisfying mix of contents to people than any Mass Media newspaper, magazines, or broadcast can. The gargantuan success of Social Media, Pandora Radio, Flipboard, and other services in less than a dozen years illustrates that.

Next webpage: Personalization, Customization, Individuation, and New Media.

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Search

The Rise of Search Engines Heralded Individuated Media

Previous webpage: The Significance of Web 1 (‘Web.1.0’) and Web 2 (‘Web 2.0’)

Why did more than three billion people begin routinely using the Web when they were already being served news, entertainment, and other information by the publications and broadcasts of Mass Media?

It’s a question virtually never asked in schools that teach Mass Media theories, doctrines, and practices. Yet it’s a question that should be asked in any school of media or journalism.

Consider the question another way. For centuries, Mass Media had been people’s predominant means of obtaining and consuming news, entertainment, and other information. The theories, doctrines, and practices of Mass Media have been honed for scores of decades, and scores of universities worldwide have schools devoted to teaching those theories, doctrines, and practices. Yet if Mass Media are the best or most efficient ways for people to obtain and consume news, entertainment, and other information, then why have billions of those people dwindled their usages of the publications and broadcasts of Mass Media and instead began routinely using the Internet subset known as the World Wide Web, and more lately Social Media, as their primary ways of obtain news, other information, and increasingly entertainment?

Most people who work in Mass Media or teach those subjects will (if they’ve even considered the question at all) generally give a superficial answer — that those billions of people have shifted their news, information, and entertainment consumption to the Web, and more lately Social Media, and dwindled their consumption of broadcasts and printed periodicals because Mass Media contents on the Web can provide more up-to-date information than can any printed periodicals or scheduled broadcasts and do so in multimedia format rather than just text and still photos or just audio or just video. In other words, that billions of people are dwindling their usage of Mass Media organizations’ packaged editions in print and in broadcast so that they can instead use those organizations’ websites directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, that answer is merely wishful thinking; a narcissistic answer which usage data about the Web, as well as about Social Media, negates.

Websites certainly can provide more up-to-date information, and in multimedia format, than can printed periodicals or scheduled broadcasts, but data about Social Media in specific and the Web in general show that usage of Mass Media organization’s packaged editions and programs wasn’t primarily why billions of people began lessening their usages of printed periodicals and broadcasts and began routinely use the Web and Social Media as their predominant ways of obtaining and consuming news, information, and entertainment.  For example during May 2012, according to Nielsen, the average American who went online did so 64 times; visited 94 websites; viewed 2,716 webpages; and spent 29 hours and nearly 8 minutes that month doing so. Yet Nielsen reported that only 18 of those 94 websites were operated by either traditional Mass Media organizations or ‘pure-play’ (i.e., startup companies operating online and no printing or over-the-air or cable broadcasting operations) companies providing what would typically and traditionally be defined as Mass Media contents. Moreover, when people do use traditional Mass Media organizations’ websites an analysis of 2013 Nielsen data by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that the average user of, for examples, U.S. news organizations’ websites spent an average of merely 3 minutes 4 seconds per visit per site. Such U.S. Web usage data have been consistent since the late 1990’s, varying no more than ten percent except during the initial six months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Claims or contentions by practitioners of Mass Media that billions of people began routinely using the Web or Social Media primarily to access Mass Media contents are cases of Maslow’s Law, an effect more properly known as the Law of the Instrument.  As Abraham H. Maslow described the effect in his 1962 book, Toward a Psychology of Being, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” If your tools are Mass Media, everything looks like a usage or place to use Mass Media.

So, what is the real reason why billions of people have dwindled their usage of Mass Media’s printed editions and broadcasts and routinely using the Web and Social Media, when they already were being served news, entertainment, and other information by Mass Media’s editions and broadcasts? To obtain news, entertainment, or other information that they desired but which were not being provided to them by those Mass Media editions and broadcasts. Or, to state it more precisely, to obtain a selection of news, entertainment, and other information that more precisely matches each of those billions of individual’s unique mixes of needs, interests, and tastes, a mix that they weren’t obtaining from any Mass Media edition or program.

Mass Media is a development and product of the Industrial Era. It consequently suffers that era’s hallmark limitation: analogue uniformity, a term which has nothing to do with any analog/digital dichotomy. Printed periodicals and books are analogs of the printing plates that imprinted them. Likewise, radio and television signals are analogs of the electromagnetic pulses of the transmitters that sent them. The hallmark of Industrial Era media technologies is that a mass number of products can be produced or likewise a mass number of customers can be reached but in either case the product is itself simultaneously uniform, created from a master imprint or signal. All consumers of a printed newspaper or magazine simultaneously receive the same edition (some large newspapers might ‘zone’ a certain number of copies of an edition, such as ‘Eastern Suburbs’, ‘Downtown’, and ‘Western Suburbs’ editions, but all the consumers within each specific ‘zoned’ edition nonetheless receive the contents.) Similarly, all listeners or viewers of a broadcast simultaneously receive the same program at the same time from a transmitter or from a cable television channel connections. All viewers of a cinema projecting simultaneously see the same version of that film. Overall, all recipients of any Mass Media vehicle (newspapers, magazines, or radio or television broadcast, movie, or music album) simultaneously received that same production at once.

For more than 500 years since Gutenberg invented the printing press—the world’s first mass‑production machine—people have had to forebear this limitation in media. And the theories, doctrines, and practices colloquially known as Mass Media arose as a result of it. The invention and development of Mass Media help catalyze the Renaissance and hence modern civilization: news, entertainment, and information became available to the mass thanks to the mass production of those contents. No longer was news, entertainment, and other information conveyed only through word of mouth or through laborious copying by hand. And relatively simple economics helped Mass Media thrive: producing a uniform product simultaneously for its mass of readers, listeners, or viewers simplifies the economics of any media company.

Nearly 500 years later, the hallmark technological limitation of Mass Media remains. The individual people served by any Mass Media product are each different but the product any media company produces is simultaneously uniform. There are extremely few common interests shared by all people of each gender and all ages, even in any community. However, numbers of people do share some group interest. Yet each individual possesses myriad specific interests, even though he might not be acquainted with anyone who shares such an interest. It is this unique mix of common, group, and specific interests that makes each of us an individual. Unfortunately, Industrial Era technologies aren’t able produce a unique edition or program or movie or book for each of those individual consumers. The hallmark of Mass Media is also Mass Media’s crucial flaw. For the analog printing technology known as the printing (from ‘imprinting’ an analogue image of the text) press, producing a unique edition for each individual would require creating a unique printing plates (or arrangements of moveable type) for each individual, which would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. And for analog broadcast technology, it would require using a separate transmitter or frequency for each and every listener or viewer, likewise prohibitively expensive thing to do. There thus isn’t any economically practical way for Industrial Era media technologies to satisfy any and every individual consumer’s own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes.

Producers of media during the Industrial Era (which only recently ended even in the post-industrial countries) were forced by that limitation to targeted the contents of their editions and programs to the average demographic audience they wanted to reach. Stories were selected according to two criteria:

  • Information with the greatest demographic or topical interest to the target audience.
  • Information about which the producer thinks all members of that demographic should become informed.

This is still the way that Producers of Mass Media select the contents of their editions and programs, even in post-industrial countries, where Mass Media are being superseded.

Although most producers of Mass Media are well-trained, perhaps even having commissioned consumer focus groups or surveys of what interests their target audience, their choices of which stories or items to include will almost always be imperfect compared to if the individual consumer of that edition or program had made the choices himself from the resources of the producer had. The results of this core limitation of Industrial Era media technologies is that any edition or program (or program schedule) is an imperfect match of contents to each and every consumer’s individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes. Yet people had no other choices during the Industrial Era.

That all began to change some 40 years ago in the now post-Industrial countries and is rapidly change in all other countries worldwide. Due to myriad technological advancements, peoples’ access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information changed from relative scarcity to surplus, even overload.   Billions of people have gained ways by which they obtain more precise mixes of contents to match their own individual mix of news, interests, and tastes.

The initial way by which billions of people found these more precise matches was by using search engines. Using search engine websites, such as Lycos, Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Northern Light, Alta Vista, Yahoo!, Google, Baidu, etc., they search for the specific items of news, entertainment, and other information that more precisely match their own individual needs, interests, and tastes. They thus began self-customizing the supply of news, entertainment, and other information they received, much like a diner at a vast buffet will pick and choose the individual items that meet his individual needs, interests, and tastes. Although they might ‘bookmark’ the resulting websites that best matches their needs, interests, and tastes, and probably later revisit it, that didn’t, however, mean they stopped using search-engines. As events in and outside of their lives changed, they continued using search engines to best match their changing needs, interests, or tastes. The full process of a person becoming distinct from others is known as individuation. Search engines give each of the billions of people who use the Web an extraordinary tool for better satisfying their individual needs, interests, and tastes, in news, entertainment, and other information. These people are self-individuating their supplies of such contents, a process that ineluctably reduces their consumption of entire editions or program schedules of Mass Media.

Yet using search engines to self-individuate one’s consumption of contents that matches one’s own needs, interests, and tastes is work: hunting and gathering. There are hundreds of millions of websites, but no website delivers anything; its contents await retrieval. A specific website might have a particular expertise at one subject that interests a person; another website might have some other particular expertise in another subject that interest that person; and etc. As news, entertainment, and other information changes, as do as the needs, interests, and tastes of that person, that person has to continue the manual labor of using search engines or revisiting many ‘bookmarked’ websites. During the past 17 years, some newer technologies, such as various online ‘Push’ technologies or Really Simple Syndication (RSS), have tried to eliminate that labor, but none of those gained widespread or entirely practical usage. Nevertheless, self-individual of contents became a largely daily activity by billions of people.

The effects of that trend weren’t initially apparent to Mass Media organizations until the majority of people in post-industrial countries gained broadband online access shortly after the turn of the millennium. Broadband’s ‘always-on’ access markedly increased those hundreds of millions of people’s consumption of online contents, and ten years ago (beginning in the years immediately prior to the Great Recession of 2007) consumption of Mass Media’s printed periodicals and scheduled broadcasts, as well as inflation-adjusted revenues, markedly began to decrease. Widespread usage of wireless access, starting with WiFi during the first decade of this century and followed by broadband access via ‘smartphones’ during the second decade, accelerated these declines in Mass Media’s traditional products. These trends are now obvious in post-Industrial countries, evident in Industrial countries, and latent in all other countries, particularly now that all mobile telephone handsets are now being construction on the ‘smartphone’ model.

Next webpage: Social Media and Other Inchoate Individuated Media.

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

© 2015

Dinosaur

The Significance of Web 1 (‘Web.1.0’) and Web 2 (‘Web 2.0’)

Previous webpage: Some Corollaries of the Interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws

As Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws exponentially increased the power of computer chips and the bandwidth of the fiber optic lines and wireless signals connecting those chips, billions of people who used those personal computers extraordinarily quickly by historical measurements gained access to a cornucopia of news, entertainment and other information—extremely more news, entertainment, and other information than had been available locally from the Mass Media’s printed publications and over-the-air broadcasts. Although Mass Media publishers and broadcasters are still trying to contend with that greatest of changes in history of media, there are many unequivocal indicants that they never truly will and that the centuries-old predominance of Mass Media organizations as people’s way of obtaining news, entertainment, and other information is now doomed.

One of those indicants is the rise of what has now become colloquially known as ‘consumer-generated contents’. It has become as easy for any individual with a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, to become online a publisher or broadcaster as it is for Mass Media publishers and Mass Media broadcasters. All the individual needs do is produce a blog hosted by a third party or else a website. Consumer-generated contents greatly augment the already gigantic volume of contents available online, providing even greater competition and stresses for Mass Media organizations. (An unintentional but innate aspect of that augmentation is that the consumer-generated contents of subjective nature — particularly when accessible on blogs and websites that are cloaked in guises which mimic the types of guises used by traditional publishers and broadcasters —are often difficult to discern from otherwise objective contents. Although the branding of traditional publishers and broadcasters can help people avoid some of the resulting confusion about which contents are objective and which are subjective, the financial duress traditional publisher and broadcasters suffer adapting to all these changes has led to them reducing their own production of contents and even led many such organizations to feature subjective contents disguised as objective contents (i.e., ‘advertorials’ or ‘native advertising’).

How the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws led to the huge rise of consumer-generated contents online is best seen by deflating two over-hyped New Media marketing terms —‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ —until the two tumescent terms have actual meaning. At the start of an academic year, most of my postgraduate students have heard these terms but confused about what ‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ (and ‘Web 3.0’) mean; as well they should be, considering how these terms have been coined, marketed, and hyped. (The term ‘Web 2.0’ was actually trademarked in the United States by CMP Media, a business media and conference company that did not coin the term. However, the European Union denied CMP Media the trademark in EU countries.)

I teach my students that there are only three things that they need to know about these terms:

First, that the decimal points are a meaningless marketing hype. For examples, there are no such things as ‘Web 0.8’ or a ‘Web 1.4’ or a ‘Web 2.3’.

Second, that the resulting ‘Web 1’ and ‘Web 2’ (and ‘Web 3’) are useful terms to denote two different eras in public usage of the Internet; much like the terms Triassic or Jurassic denote different, albeit immensely longer, eras in natural history.

‘Web 1’ denotes the period (1991 to approximately 2000) when the software and hardware needed to publish online or to broadcast online were expensive, complex, and difficult to use. The result was that only large organizations (such as governments, militaries, universities, and corporations) published online. During the ‘Web 1’ era, content was produced and consumed in the traditional way: organizations produced it and people consumed it. The only difference between this and the Industrial Era was the content was offered online to the consumers.

However, as several years progressed, the three laws interacted. Moore’s Law permitted more powerful and less expensive hardware, capable of running complex software. It takes complex software to make computer, notably computer interfaces, easier to use. Simultaneous with Moore’s Law, Cooper’s Law and Butters’ Law eliminated the need for people to utilize their home telephone lines to go online, and permitted the transmission speeds of people’s online access to be ever faster. The resulting effects of the laws’ interactions — more powerful, less expensive hardware running more complex software that communicated at ever higher speeds, made online publishing or online broadcasting so inexpensive and easy-to-do that by the middle of the first decade of the this millennium anyone could do so. Furthermore, thanks to the three laws’ interactions, turnkey-software system and services (such as YouTube, Moveable Type, WordPress, Blogger.com, and many others) allowed anyone to publish or broadcast without having much, if any, technical knowledge at all. Hundreds of millions of people (‘the people formerly known as the audience’, as New York University Professor Jay Rosen wryly noted) were no longer just consumers of media but also creators of it. This is the Web 2 era.

Third, that Web 1 and Web 2 have a stratal relation. One is founded atop another, but the two co-exist and aren’t mutually exclusive. In media, large organizations still publish online and broadcast online, as also now do the people themselves.

People’s newfound capabilities to publish or broadcast as readily as traditional publishers or broadcasters creates quite unexpected competition to traditional publishers and broadcasters, extraordinarily complicating and challenging traditional media organizations’ existences. Many traditional media companies unfortunately still don’t comprehend how much.

Moreover, as Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws further interacted, new companies arose that not only helped give people, no matter what their technological abilities, the capabilities to publish online their words, photos, videos, and choices of hyperlinks to other contents, but form networks of their friends and acquaintances who through such a company can also do and share those contents. These are companies such as MySpace, Facebook, VKontakte (ВКонтакте), Renren (人人网),etc., whose services are collectively and colloquially known nowadays as Social Media.

Unfortunately, most executives of Mass Media companies, as well as most academicians who teach Mass Media practices, still misperceive consumer-generated contents (whether in forms such as individual’s websites, blogs, or even Social Media) as merely computer-mediated forums that are ancillary to Mass Media. What those executives and those academicians don’t understand is the Social Media forms of consumer-generated contents are entirely new, intrinsically different, and evolutionary advanced forms of media than Mass Media.

Next webpageThe Rise of Search Engines Heralded Individuated Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

interactivity

Corollaries of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interactions

Previous webpage: When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

Here are some corollary effects resulting from observable dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws. These go beyond the computer and telecommunications industries from which those dynamics directly stem and beyond the media industries which are the subject of this particularly work you’re reading, and pertain to virtually all industries now and in the future, as well as to societies, culture, and civilization. The ramifications of these corollary effects demonstrate the sheer scale of changes that the dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws have engendered:

Mind-boggling increases in the pace of change. The single most remarkable effect of the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws is an ever-increasing pace of technological acceleration. Humanity never before has had to deal with such a meteoric pace of change. To put this in perspective, compare the current pace of technological change with that of previous revolutionary technologies. If the capabilities of the powered-flight aviation technologies invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903 had accelerated at even the slowest pace of the three laws I’ve mentioned (i.e., Cooper’s Law), then by 1978 the average airliner would have been capable of conveying a quarter billion people at the Speed of Light (a flight which, of course, would probably be impossible due to the size of the craft but certainly due to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity!) Likewise, if the capabilities of the automotive technology invented by Karl Benz in 1885 had accelerated at that pace, then by 1982 any auto would have been capable of carrying everyone in the world at the Speed of Light. If the printing technology invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 had advanced at that pace, the capabilities of the average printing press today would denude the Earth of trees for paper in less than a second. Mind-boggling! Clearly, no previous technology, no matter how revolutionary that people considered it, has ever progressed at the paces of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws. When I tell my university students, “You’re a unique generation,” some at first think that I am patronizing them; but I justify my statement by explaining to them that, “You’re a generation who will have to adapt to more changes than any previous generation of humans who’s ever lived, changes no previous generation imagined. If you think that you’ve seen changes during the past ten or 20 years, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Ever shorter ‘mature’ phases for products and ideas. On a more practical level, one aspect of the accelerating pace of change will be increasingly short ‘mature’ phases for many, if not most, technologies and products. Traditionally, industries and businesses have enjoyed long commercial lifespans for products, amortizing the products’ developmental costs over their ‘mature’ period. However, the accelerating pace of change almost guarantees quicker product obsolescence and thus shorter ‘mature’ product lifespans. It will become increasingly likely that many, if not most, new products’ commercial lifespans will be ever shorter as the pace of technological progress continually accelerates. New products will become obsolete ever more quickly. Thus, businesses and industries will need to adopt their product development and accounting models to ever more quickly (if not immediately) recoup development costs, and will need to continuously improve and update their products more and more. Financial profits relying on a durable ‘mature’ phase of products’ lifespans will increasingly become an obsolete concept.

Increasingly frenetic need for businesses and industries to change. Indeed, the paces of change engendered by the three laws clearly mean that businesses and entire industries will have to adapt to ever‑accelerating changes. If they don’t quickly adapt, they will fail. A newspaper executive who was unfamiliar with the dynamics of the three laws and the unprecedented technological changes they are engendering, recently asked me, “When will all the change in our industry end?” Although I was tempted to joke, “Next Thursday,” the changes affecting his and others’ industries aren’t about to stop but will accelerate until the paces of change become, well, somewhat mind-boggling. Only an economic depression or widespread war can slow or stop the ever-accelerating pace of technological change. Otherwise, an ever-widening array of traditional products, tradition business models, traditional business practices, traditional devices, and traditional trades and employments will increasingly be disrupted, uprooted, replaced, or eliminated. This has begun to happen and will happen ever more quickly than during previous years, decades, or centuries. It means increasing instability for traditional companies and traditional industries. There will be ever more business mergers, bankruptcies, closures, even failures of entire industries. Some industries will meld or incidentally blur with others. (For example, who a decade ago would have predicted that Nokia, rather than Kodak, would become the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer cameras? Or that Nokia, which had the world’s dominant share the mobile phone handset market, would itself largely implode within the span of only four years? Or Apple Computer Company would become a major vendor of recorded music and of mobile phone handsets?) As the pace of technological changes continues to accelerate and waves of change come ever more quickly, businesses and industries will need to implement organizational and production changes ever more quickly to survive. One can’t surf behind a wave of change. The most successful organizations during the 21st Century will be those that can predict the figurative hydrodynamics of its environment and ride ahead of each wave.

Brand names are decreasingly a defense against change or decline. As the pace of technological advancements continues to accelerate, as waves of change become ever more frequent and the ‘mature’ phase of products and services become ever shorter, traditional companies that hope their established brands will extenuate or palliate that turbulence or turmoil will discover that the ‘goodwill’ value of their brands will become increasingly less. There primarily are two factors for this:

The first is simply that the inertial momentum of an establish brand can itself hobble or thwart that adaptation. A long-established brand can easily become an anchor, chaining consumers’ perceptions of that company to its old and now obsolete products rather than adapted products. For examples, during the past decade separate studies by the Medill University’s Readership Institute and by the  Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping International Business School in Sweden have shown that many United States daily newspapers’ established brands, brands established and known for printed newsprint products, imparted no greater, and even sometimes negative, value to those same companies’ products put online. Consumers identify the brand with the old, not the new. Early in 2000 during a conference in New York City, the chief of Time Warner’s online efforts was asked what his corporation’s New Media strategy was. “We don’t yet fully understand the changes going on,” he said. “But Time Warner has been one of a handful of great media corporations during the 20th Century. So, we expect our brand to be one of the great New Media corporations during the 21st Century, just like American Online, Amazon, Ebay, PayPal, Google, and Yahoo!” I don’t think he realized the unintentional paradox of his claiming that his corporation’s will axiomatically place it among wildly successful New Media companies whose own brands were virtually unknown or even non-existent only nine years earlier. (Or the irony of how later that year his corporation would itself be purchased by one of those brands –, in the most financially disastrous merger in business history.)

The second and more ultimately powerful reason why brands are decreasingly a defense against change or decline is that the branding’s rise as what had been a formidable marketing tool was rooted in scarcity. Brand initially arose as logotypes in cultures centuries ago when few people could read. A wooden carving of a shoe, hanging above the entrance to a shoemaker’s or cobbler’s shop showed the illiterate what that business was. Names themselves later became brands and logotypes. The strength of brands or logotypes lay in providing consumers with a sense of comfort and reliability about those brands’ or logotypes’ products or services. Having relatively scarce access to current reviews of all similar products and services available, perhaps seeing a review for one or another of those products or services one a year or less in a monthly magazine, consumers bought the product or service a brand they knew or perhaps trusted from previous purchases. As James Surowiecki of The New Yorker magazine recently remarked:

“When consumers had to rely on advertisements and their past experience with a company, brands served as proxies for quality: if a car was made by G.M., or a ketchup by Heinz, you assumed that it was pretty good. It was hard to figure out if a new product from an unfamiliar company was reliable or not, so brand loyalty was a way of reducing risk. As recently as the nineteen-eighties, nearly four-fifths of American car buyers stayed loyal to a brand.

“Today, consumers can read reams of research about whatever they want to buy…..what’s weakened the power of brands is the Internet, which has given ordinary consumers easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, and detailed product data, in an array of categories. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eight percent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence of those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours.”[3]

What has caused that is the epochal switch from relative scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of information about products and services. Some traditional branding consultants, attempting to adjust to that switch, claim that brands become ever more important now that consumers no have relative scarce access to information. Yet Surowiecki and others note that a recent study by Ernest & Young reported that only 25 percent of Americans said that brand loyalty now affects how they shop.

Start-up companies have an ever-increasing advantage over traditional ones. If there’s a fourth ‘law’ atop the three I’ve mentioned, it’s Darwin’s[4], which dictates that in a changing environment the nimblest and the quickest to adapt have advantage over the biggest, fleetest, best fed, or the even sharpest-toothed. The ever-accelerating paces of changes favor start-up companies and start-up innovators (although too many attempt innovation without first understanding the underlying dynamics of the changes).

Academia will tend to adapt ever more slowly in proportion to the changes underway and certainly ever more slowly than people, companies, or industries do. A prime reason why is that most academics are employed for their expertise in traditional practices. They tend to be older individuals, many of whom haven’t worked for years (sometimes very many years or even decades) in the professions or trades that they teach. Changes can undercut their expertise. The faster the changes, the more insecure these older academicians can become and the more likely they will be to resist those changes, no matter if the changes have become manifest in their professions or trades. These older academicians hold senior positions (department chairman, faculty senators, etc.) and have tenure in institutions where the doctrine of Academic Freedom[5] is considered inviolate, so feel no great motivation to adapt their syllabi and teach something different that is becoming manifest. Many do adapt, but many others prefer to continue teaching what they best: the expertise of earlier times. Compounding this resistance, younger academicians who seek tenure, a sinecure granted by senior academicians, often find its pursuit safer if they focus on traditional rather than changed practices, particularly when changes are accelerating and volatile. That is particularly true of those younger academicians who’ve never actually worked in the professions or trades they teach, who’ve become academicians immediately after their own graduations. These overall systemic problems tend to make academia lag, even resist, at adapting to changes.

The law lags ever more behind. The slowest of all sectors of society to adapt to change are laws and regulations. These will lag ever further as the change accelerates. The number of discrepancies, incongruities, and outright collisions between old laws and the new capabilities of technologies will increase not only in number but spread to codicils yet untouched. This is primarily because laws and regulations, rather than foster revolutionary change, tend to protect the companies and industries that are traditional and well-established. Those companies and industries, and their lobbyists, use laws and regulations as cudgels against prospects of change. Yet however blunt or heavy, these legislative and regulatory cudgels ultimately never reach far enough, matter how bloodied, change ineluctably wins.

One observable macro-effect of the three laws’ interactions is the ending to the ‘Digital Divide’ (i.e., poor people not being able to afford computer technologies and online services). The effects of Moore’s Law constantly decrease the expense of technologies. Likewise, Cooper’s and Butters’ Laws is constantly increasing the ease and access by which people can connect and use such technologies. During the Industrial Era, decades used to elapse before the poor could afford the technologies of the rich, but the meteoric pace of change brought by computerization is ever shortening that lapse. For examples, there are now more mobile phones used by Africans than Europeans or North Americans, despite those two other continents having more than 20-times Africa’s per capital incomes. A recent survey in Honduras, the second poorest country in the Americas, found that even the lowest-income households (i.e., those likely to lack running water) possessed not only a mobile phone (handset street price equivalent to USD5 plus rechargeable ‘pay-as-you-go’ calling credits) but a LCD‑screen DVD player (street price USD20) and a microwave oven (which are cheaper to purchase than conventional ovens and require no physical installation). A few years ago in South Africa, I met a successful local entrepreneur whose business in the huge ghetto township in which he resided was to solicit collection of  mobile phone videos of weddings, anniversaries, and other events, and to turn those videos into DVDs, which he then sold for $0.50 each as an electronic form of community newspaper. He succeeded because so many people in the township owned mobile phones and DVD players.

Poor countries are beginning to afford and utilize advanced technologies that only rich countries had been able to afford. In some cases, poor countries are leap-frogging rich countries in technological infrastructure. Countries such as Mongolia or Montenegro now have more advanced telephone infrastructures than do the United States or the United Kingdom, simply because not only are new technologies for telephones now less expensive to purchase but are easier to install in less developed countries that don’t have vested legacies and that delay installing advancement until the costs of older technologies are amortized. Moore’s and Cooper’s laws made mobile telephony relatively inexpensive and easier to deploy than copper-wired telephony.  Meanwhile, Moore’s and Butters’ laws are causing wired systems to be replaced by photonics, which is phenomenally cheaper signal-carrying capacity/costs than copper wire.

Increasingly large technological gaps within peer groups. Although the three laws’ interactions are closing the ‘Digital Divide’, an odd macro‑effect is that the interactions are causing technological fissures within peer groups. When the paces of change were slower, the technologies affordable and used by a demographic rank were generally the same for long durations. For example, audio recordings sold in the form of vinyl discs for gramophones (i.e., phonographs), a technology invented in 1889, were for some 100 years the primary musical entertainment technology for consumers. Audio recorded on Compact Discs (‘CDs’) began superseding gramophone discs around 1989, but themselves had much shorter popularity before beginning to be superseded in turn by directly downloaded audio recordings. For video recordings, the progression from Video Home System (‘VHS’) tapes to Digital Versatile Discs (‘DVD’s) to directly downloaded video recordings showed even shorter technological ‘half-lives’. The progression from analog mobile telephone handsets to digital ones to Internet-equipped digital ones to broadband Internet-equipped digital ones to ‘smartphones’ has shown remarkably short technological ‘half-lives’.  Consumers have to adjust to new technologies ever more quickly.

The result is that households within demographic peer groups are increasingly less likely to all be using the same levels of technology. This result occurs less among younger peer groups, who always tend to adapt more quickly than any other demographic, but this result is becoming ever more easily observable among older peer groups. It seems increasingly unlikely that all consumers—even most peers within a demographic rank—will ever again all be using the same platform, nonetheless using any one platform for a decade or more. Our grandparents or parents might have used gramophone records or Compact Discs for decades, but our children probably won’t use any one medium platform or device for long. Last year in a popular restaurant in my town, I overhead a foursome of ladies in their seventies discuss whether or not they used personal computers much, while nearly another table of women the same age was comparing various speech-to-text software programs. Wide technological gaps like that within a common demographic were highly unlikely in previous generations, but will probably be common occurrence for the future. As science fiction writer William Gibson quipped, “The future is here, just unevenly distributed.”

The best skill to learn is how to learn new skills. During previous centuries and generations, the skill one learned young generally was the skill one used all one’s life. For example, if you apprenticed as a baker, it was very likely that you’d be a baker all your life. However, this dynamic began ending two or three generation ago, and has now become ever more unlikely. It’s not unusual for educated people in developed countries to have not only more than one job during their lifetimes, but a career spent in more than one industry. As the ever-accelerating paces of change make previous technologies increasingly obsolete, and with those obsolete technologies more and more businesses, trades, and industries, archaic, obsolete (‘disrupted’), or defunct, many skills learned young (such as in college) will also become archaic, obsolete, or defunct. This new dynamic will put increasing pressure on the traditional system of providing education primarily before people are aged in their mid-twenties. People that old have the majority of their careers ahead of them, during which they will experience an extraordinary amount of changes – likely more changes than all previous human generations combined. They will thus probably need constant retraining and continuing education rather than relying upon only what they learned in consecutive years of secondary and higher education during their teens and early twenties. They will need to learn how constantly to learn new skills. I believe the business models of colleges and universities, in order for such institutions to survive and be relevant in the 21st Century, must change to focus primarily on continuing education rather simply than educating young people.

Increasingly polarized societies. Fear of change is called metathesiophobia. Change causes anxiety and stress in most people: indeed, in most creatures. History holds many precedents showing that when stressed by change, large numbers of people will seek comfort in traditional values, theories, and practices, rather than accept change. As the English historian A.P.J. Taylor explained (using the British term for this macro-effect), “Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, and prefers the past to the future. It is a sentiment rather than a principle.” (Some historical examples are the Roman Catholic Church’s retreat from, and later persecution of Galileo and other heliocentrics; the German people’s conservative electoral swerve during the Great Depression; or the rise of the American conservative movement once the practical limits of United States global hegemony or power were reached during the 1970s.) Many people, including those who offer pay lip-service to change, retreat into the seeming sanctuary of tradition as a defense against change. This sociological effect by itself exacerbates cultural or industrial adaption to change, creating turbulence, difficulties, and polarization of large segments of society. Given the ever‑accelerating paces of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws, those problems might become more formidable, even chaotic, during coming years.

An appointment with Fermi’s Paradox. Indeed, as Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws double their paces every nine to 30 months, creating hyperbolic technological progress, some reputable futurists believe that during the first half of this century the sheer pace of change — unless checked by war or economic depression — will ultimately skyrocket so rapidly it will merge into a ‘singularity’ that will “rupture the fabric of human history”. According to their predictions, new products, services, business models, even new ideas, will eventually become almost instantly obsolete, almost immediately replaced by newer, until our technological capabilities will eclipse our caution and comprehension. This concept of a technological ‘singularity’, which some other futurists criticize as alarmist or as a techno-utopian fantasy, might seem absurd to laymen, yet the observable validity of Moore’s, Cooper’s, Butters’ laws, and similar dynamics, indicates its possibility. I hope the truth will be somewhere between those two contrasting views. Perhaps people’s (i.e., individual’s, households’, industries’, societies’, and governments’) limited human capabilities to deal with such a pace of change will create a sufficient behavioral constraint on such hyperbolic changes that no mind-boggling absurdities become reality. If not, however, the instabilities of human actions or reactions to ever-accelerating technologies will probably lead to war or economic chaos or worse: human inability to be a species that transcends what’s known as Fermi’s Paradox. During a casual lunchtime conversation with other physicists in 1950, the Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi ventured a series of rapid calculations estimating that the probabilities of earthlike planets and possible intelligent life elsewhere among the billions of stars in our galaxy are good; that some of those other forms of intelligent forms might be millions or billions of years more advanced than humans; and that such unimaginably advanced civilizations might have technologies that easily permit or otherwise have had time for vast interstellar travels. Yet “Where are they?” a mystified Fermi exclaimed. That scientific mystery has become known as Fermi’s paradox. Many possible answers to it have been postulated, one of which is that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

Next webpage: Web 1 to Web 2

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

Previous webpage: Butters’ Law Acting on Media

Alone, neither Moore’s Law nor Cooper’s Law nor Butter’s Law would have led to the world we know today and the one we will know in the future. During the past 50 years, Moore’s Law, without the bandwidths of fiber optic doubling approximately every nine months and of wireless doubling approximately every three years, would have resulted merely in very powerful computers barely able to communicate and network with each other at much more than teletype speeds. Butter’s Law without computer chip power doubling approximately every two years would have led to no reason to use fiber optics; the world would still be using woefully slow copper wires for its long-distance communications and have been unlikely to ever been able to support the deployment of local, regional, and long distance mobile telephone communications, etc. The three laws’ interactions are the ultimate cause of the tumultuous changes and progress underway.

As these three laws interact, their blended speed of technological changes increasingly accelerates (not as quickly as Butter’s Law but neither as slowly as Cooper’s Law), resulting in the momentum of changes increasing geometrically faster than its own increasing acceleration. The force of these technological changes grows cubic to the pace of changes, according to Newton’s Second Law of Motion.

Moreover, as more and more traditional devices (automobiles, airliners, refrigerators, bicycles, student and teacher desks, bar tops and counter tops, furniture, ski goggles or eyeglasses with heads-up displays, etc.) are replaced by internally computerized and photonically or wirelessly networked replacements, the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ ‘laws’ gather even more amplified momentum than just their accelerations render, an effect due to a fourth ‘law’, Metcalf’s (named after the co-inventor of Ethernet, Robert Metcalf), which observes that the power of any networked item is proportional to the square of the number of devices connected to the network.

Thus, the force of technological changes very quickly becomes inexorable, creating pressures that the traditional practices and traditional technologies within any industry cannot withstand, a concept that many traditional media executives, who are used to linear changes, tend to find either confusing or incomprehensible.

In developed countries, the effects of Moore’s Law have been visible for a few decades; those of Cooper’s Law for only a few years; and those of Butters’ Law are only beginning to be seen. All will soon be readily apparent. Media analysts and academicians who talk only of Moore’s Law as a means of understanding the changes underway see only a one-dimensional of the perspective rather than the fully-formed three-dimensional situation created by the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws.

The observable dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ ‘laws’ are the ultimate causes of all the changes underway in the media environment.

Now, let’s examine the ramifications — the proximate effects — of the three ‘laws’ interactions in the media environment. In other words, no longer why the media are changing but the more practical topic of how the media are changing.

Next Webpage: Web 1 to Web 2

(However, if you’d first like to read about some corollary effects of the three laws’ interactions that go beyond just the media industries, go here.)

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

Butter’s Law Acting on Media

Previous webpage: Cooper’s Law Acting on Media

 

We don’t live in a ‘wired’ world, but a ‘fibered’ world. Wired communications is obsolete. Metallic wires could never have sustained the phenomenal growth of the Internet and of the global telecommunications networks in general. The world’s capacity to use telephones and networked computers would have expired and collapsed more than a dozen years ago if not for two telecommunications inventions of the 1960’s ad 1970’s: lasers and fiber optics. The constant acceleration of those combined technologies, known as Butters’ Law, makes the speed of Moore’s Law look like a snail’s pace.

Copper fibers had been used as the sole means of electronic communications from 1837 until 1880 and as the primary means of interpersonal telecommunications until the 1990’s. Copper fibers are still how most of the world’s wired telephones inside homes and offices get their signals from telephone poles or underground junction boxes outside. But simply an electrical signal through a copper wire, be that signal the on-off binary of Morse Code telegraphy or amplitude sine wave of a voice telephone call, has a physical speed limit which was first hit during the late 1870’s, a speed limit of approximately 30-kilobytes (0.03 megabytes) per second. Although that’s far faster than anyone could use a telegraph key, during the early age of telegraphy it meant that only one telegraph could be sent at a time through any single copper wire, a burden to any commercial telegraph system linking together major cities or countries. Even today, it means that a copper wire phone line is incapable of delivering stereophonic sounds (which requires more than 30-kilobytes of information per second).

During the 1880s, an English telegrapher and self-taught electrical engineer, Oliver Heaviside, found that by first converting signals into a radio wave, rather than a simple electrical pulse, multiple signals could be sent simultaneously down a copper fiber if each signals was sent at a different radio frequency and if the copper fiber carrying the signals was itself sheathed within a tube of copper mesh that blocked outside radio signals. His invention was the coaxial cable, which he patented. When wireless radio was invented by Guglielmo Marconi and by Nikola Tesla each independently during the following decade, the radio industry utilized copper coaxial cables to deliver their radio signals from transmission studios to transmitter towers, as did the television industry in later decades. However, there was still an intrinsic transmission speed limit to copper wire used with radio or television signals: a few gigabytes per second aggregate total for all the signals carried. Moreover, those wired signals needed to be amplified at least every 20 kilometers or so. By the 1960’s, the telephone, radio, television, and other industries were looking for a faster alternative to keep pace with the growth of telecommunications.

Light operates as much faster frequencies than do television or radio signals (150-terabytes compared to 1-gigabytes or 3-megabytes per second respectively). Thanks to Albert Einstein’s explanation in 1905 of the Photoelectric Effect, physicists had by the early 1960’s had developed first microwave and then laser signaling and receiving devices that could communicate across long distance outdoors. During the 1970’s, they’d miniaturized these photo-electronic devices (see Moore’s Law) enough to be able to send their laser signals through fibers of glass, a science now called photonics but colloquially known as fiber optics.

The transmission capacity limit of photonics is yet unknown. For example, physicists recently demonstrated a photonic system capable of delivering the contents of 700 DVD discs in a single second – nearly 3 terabytes or 3 million megabytes per second – an unlimited distance over a fiber optic cable thinner than a human hair. These superb capacities have led telecommunications companies worldwide to begin replacing their copper wire fiber networks with fiber optic ones. In all but very rural areas of developed countries, that work has been completed to the point at which the only remaining copper fiber or coaxial cables left are those remaining inside homes or offices themselves.

The phenomenal capacities of photonics and how increasingly faster signals can be transmitted through fiber optics led Gerald Butters, the scientist who formerly headed Lucent’s Optical Networking Group at Bell Labs, to see if he could make an observation similar to Moore’s Law for its advance. Like Cooper, he looked back at the transmission speeds of early photonics and forward to the present. He found that the speed at which information can be communicated through fiber optic circuits has been doubling every nine months, an observation that since become known as Butters’ Law.

That is an astonishing pace of accelerating capacity! By the time that Moore’s Law has merely doubled computer chip power, photonic capacity has increased 6.35 times. By the time that Cooper’s Law has doubled wireless capacity, photonic capacity has increased 16 times! And those increases in photonic capacity are just along a single strand of fiber. When strands like that are used to connect ever more computers in a network, such as the Internet, the communications capacity further increases according to Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the capacity of the network is proportional to the square (n2)of the number of connected computers! Imagine a network whose individual links can double in capacity every nine months yet also have that networks aggregate capacity additionally increase by the square number of its users during those nine months; because that is what’s happening. The resulting increase in capacity is astronomical!

Most people who live in developed countries where photonics are in widespread usage by telecommunications industry won’t see the transmission speeds provided by their Internet Service Provider companies double every nine months or certainly accelerate into the terabytes per second range in the immediate years. Those companies aren’t able to install and amortize the newest photonic technologies through their networks as quickly as Butters’ Law is accelerating, and most of the increased transmission capacity those companies for which those companies have been able to avail themselves has been used keeping pace with the increasing numbers of cable TV channels, of on-demand video deliveries, and of long-distance conveyance of mobile telephony. Nevertheless, most home and office users of wired Internet access (and mobile Internet access, too) have seen steady increases in transmission speeds and capacities. At the beginning of this decade, home Internet speeds of, at most, 1- to 3-megabyte were the norm, but now 5- to 50-megabytes per second are common. The European Commission has proposed that all new households in the 27-nation European Union be wired for 100-megabyte per second Internet access by 2020 (the initial minimum proposed is 30-megabyte per second).

The ramifications of Butters’ Law are mind-boggling and will have tremendous effects on 20th Century media industries such as telephony, broadcasting, and cinema, as well as on 21st Century media developments such as holography projections, augmented or virtual reality, and whatever other new forms of communications come next.

One of the practical effects of Butters’ Law is that probably by the end of this decade the time it takes to download or upload a song, a photograph, or a high‑definition movie via a modem connected to fiber optics won’t be perceptible. People now old enough to remember dial-up modems might think that to be incredible but by 2020, at the current pace of Butters’ law, all the textual information currently in the U.S. Library of Congress could be downloaded within a minute or the entire inventory of a Hollywood movie studio (nonetheless a single movie) within five minutes. The next generation won’t know the meaning of the phrase, ‘waiting to download’.

Next webpage: When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

Cooper’s Law Acting on Media

Martin Cooper
Martin Cooper

Previous webpage: Moore's Law Acting on Media

As much as Moore’s Law affects the world in terrific ways, it alone would result merely in very powerful but isolated and unconnected computer boxes, with no broadband networking, no Internet, not even anything online, were not for two similar observations or so-called laws. Although these two other dynamic laws of technology are taught in my classroom, they need also be taught in any classroom that teaches Moore’s Law. Moreover, every technology or media executive who needs to predict or understand the future needs to understand the two as well as Moore’s Law.

The acuity of Moore’s observation prompted radio telecommunications scientist Martin Cooper, the inventor of the mobile phone, to notice a similar dynamic in the progression of wireless communications. He observed that the number of wireless signals that can simultaneously be transmitted without interfering with each other has been doubling approximately every 30 months since the early 1900s.

When in 1901 Guglielmo Marconi began wirelessly transmitting (‘broadcasting’) Morse code across the Atlantic, radio technology was so primitive that his signal used a significant fraction of the world’s radio spectrum. Had radio not advanced technologically, today there would be room within the electromagnetic spectrum for no more than eight radio stations in the world.

Yet wireless communications technology has been advancing at the pace Cooper’s observed. The number of radio signals in the world that can today be simultaneously sent without interfering with each other (calculations involving effective signal strength and how finely technology has diced the electromagnetic spectrum) is more than one trillion. If Cooper’s Law continues apace, by 2070 each person on Earth will theoretically be able to use the entire radio spectrum himself without interfering with anyone else’s signals. An infinite answer!

The practical effects of Cooper’s Law are readily observable to people who live in developed nations. It is why a roomful of people can now simultaneously use their mobile phones, Bluetooth headsets, WiFi laptops, etc., without those devices’ signals interfering with one other. There are ever fewer places where mobile phone voice and Internet connections can’t be received and at ever higher speeds. Not only are homes and offices now equipped with wireless information access to the Internet, but so are some entire citiesand countries (Bahrain, Barbados, Estonia, and Malta have become wireless information fields.) During 2011, a new WiFi standard called WRAN was announced, which is capable from a single antenna of delivering a 22-megabyte per second Internet connection over 12,000 square miles (30,720 sq. km.), an area the size of the country of Taiwan or the U.S. State of Maryland.

This steady rise of wireless capabilities also has allowed access and distribution of news, entertainment, advertising, and other information to become truly mobile. Cooper’s Law means that readily obtaining a wireless Internet connection of tens, if not hundreds, of megabytes per second speeds anywhere in the developed world will be the norm by the end of this decade. Wireless Internet access will reach an even larger human population than will have access to electricity. And the very concept of waiting for something to download wirelessly will soon fade away as a practical concern, as will the questions of whether or not a person in those countries can connect wirelessly to ‘cloud-based’ services. (The only barriers that remain won’t be technological but corporate or governmental policies.)

Next webpage: Butters' Law Acting on Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

Moore’s Law Acting on Media

mooreslaw-300x224

Previous webpage: Proximate Remarks & Ultimate Causations

The more transistors a standard-sized computer chip contains, the more computation power it has, the more calculations it can make, and the more problems it can solve. Physicist Gordon Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corporation, observed that the sheer numbers of transistors which manufacturers were able to miniaturize and place on a standard chip had been doubling approximately every 18 to 24 months. The practical effects of what he observed were that the new chips had twice the power of the old after that time or that the old chip’s price halved (in actually, it’s not purely an either-or but can as easily be a blending of those two effects). He published this observation, which has subsequently become known as Moore’s Law.

His observation proved prescient. He first made it in 1965, and Moore’s Law has held true for more than 50 years. Although a state-of-the-art computer chip in 1965 contained hundreds of transistors, such a chip today contains several billion.

Will this accelerating pace of computer power continue forever? The practicality of Industrial Era experience says no, but the theory of Informational Era science indicates possibly yes. The Industrial Era wanes while the Informational Era dawns. During this past twenty ten years, the accelerating advance of what Moore observed has been thought to approaching some theoretical limitations of physics: namely that a transistor cannot be manufactured smaller than a molecule. Nevertheless, most computer scientists believe that Moore’s Law will continue apace at least through the remainder of this decade. And many believe that if quantum computing, which doesn't utilize transistors and operates at the subatomic level, proves practical, Moore Law will profoundly accelerate rather than slow or stop.

Besides breaking the molecular size barrier for the equivalent of a transistor, quantum computing imparts the extraordinary and somewhat mind-boggling realm of quantum science effects. For example, a quantum computer doesn't sequentially try every combination to break a code, as an analog or digital computer would; a quantum computer at the same instant instead simultaneously applies every possible combination as if time didn't exist! If acceleration is a calculation of how much faster something applies itself through time, then imagine how fast acceleration would be if all time were instantaneous. Quantum computer promises awe-inspiring breakthroughs in computing. Nevertheless, the state of quantum computers today is largely akin to the level that analog computers were at during the early 1940’s. Worse, quantum computers are hugely difficult to manufacture and operate, sensitive to the slightest outside electromagnetic interference and radiation. However, the first commercially-available rudimentary quantum computer has been developed by a Canadian firm with a U.S. defense contractor as its initial customer[2] and Google as its second customer

What does Moore’s Law have to do with the media industries? The conventional answer being taught in media schools is that it means the computerized devices that consumers and media industry workers will use become either twice as powerful or half as expensive (or some combination of both) every 18 to 24 months. Although that’s an entirely correct answer, it’s a woefully myopic one.  Not only are computerized devices utilized by consumers to consume media contents and by media industry workers to create such contents, but computerized devices also are utilized companies involved in the media contents distribution chain but that who want to circumvent or eliminate the other intermediary companies now between content creators and consumers and computerized devices also are non-media companies, including start-up companies, that are not now involved in producing or distributing media content but might want to become so involved. The ever-accelerating pace of Moore’s Law every approximately 18 to 24 months makes all those types of companies twice as capable of disrupting or eliminating existing media companies or entire media industries or makes it half as costly for all those types of companies to launch such attacks against existing media companies during that time. Moore’s Law, of course, also gives the existing media companies and industries equal capacities or equally lesser costs when defending against such attackers (provided that the existing media companies and industries grasps such tools and react quickly enough). Nonetheless, this ever-accelerating technological arms race creates ever more industrial and commercial volatility; ever greater momentum for the attackers; and every greater challenges and disadvantages for legacy or traditional media companies and industries.

Simply put, the consequence of Moore’s Law for the media industries is that the more transistors that can be placed on a standard computer chip, the more disruptions and replacements there will be for traditional media products, traditional media applications, and traditional media practices. The constant acceleration of Moore’s Law means that every 18 to 24 months the tumult, disruption, and chances of extinction for traditional media industries double plus are half as expensive to foment. 

Woe to any media industry or media company that doesn't quickly adapt before the pace of changes overwhelms it. For many, if not most, media companies and industries in post-industrial nations, it’s already too late. American daily newspaper publishers frequently ask me, “When is all this change going to stop?” Although I’m tempted to tell them, ‘Next Tuesday,’ the real answer is that, barring catastrophic war or economic collapse, the changes aren't going to stop.

You need look back only to the history of the personal computer to see how the accelerating pace of Moore’s Law constantly doubles disruptive effects. Although I’ll generalize a bit in the following descriptions, I won’t be far off the historical mark:

  • When the personal computer was invented during the 1970's, one of its earliest popular applications was as the replacement for the typewriter. This was because, when combined with an electronic printer, a personal computer can do everything that a typewriter could, but better and faster. The personal computer began ending the typewriter industry.
  • Then, as Moore’s Law progressed during the subsequent 18 to 24 months, new personal computers became twice as powerful, capable of twice as many possibilities, without costing more. Besides, being used as a replacement for the typewriter, personal computers replaced manually-calculated accounting spreadsheets, because a personal computer could calculate and update spreadsheets far more quickly and accurately than could accountants manually can with ink with paper. The personal computer, in addition to ending the typewriter industry, began ending the paper ledge/adding machine industry – doubling the number of disruptions it causes from 18 to 24 months ago.
  • As another 18 to 24 months progressed, a total of 36 to 48 months from the personal computer’s invention, personal computers added two more new capabilities or applications, which, for the sake of brevity we’ll not describe but merely list as now totaling disruptions of four industries.

And so the doubling of power, so the geometric progression of new applications and capabilities of personal computers were engendered. The total number of traditional industries, traditional devices, and traditional practices disrupted continued to climb geometrically:

  • By between 54 to 72 months (six years) after the personal computers’ inventions, the overall number of personal computer’s new capabilities and applications grew to eight, as did the number of traditional industries disrupted.
  • By between 72 to 96 months (eight years), 16 industries were disrupted.
  • After 90 to 120 months (ten years), 32 industries disrupted.
  • By the late 1980's, 108 to 120 months after personal computers’ invention, the number of new capabilities or applications for personal computers, and numbers of industries facing disruption from personal computers, would have reached the hundreds.
  • After ten to 14 years, the number of applications or capabilities for personal computers, and the number of industries disrupted, was in the hundreds.
  • By the 1990's, 16½ to 22 years after the personal computer’s invention, there were thousands of capabilities and applications, thousands of industries disrupted, by personal computers.
  • Today, 30 to 40 years after personal computer’s invention, there are millions of capabilities and applications for personal computers, and nearly every industry on the planet has, in some way or another, been disrupted by them. Worldwide, millions of factory jobs in developed have been lost to the automation of manufacturing that personal computer chip technologies have caused; plus the loss of millions of potential jobs in developing countries, manual jobs that might have otherwise existed.

Moreover, as more and more other devices, conveyances, constructions, and contraptions – such as phone, televisions, automobiles, refrigerators and other kitchen appliances, lighting fixtures, mirrors, and walls, etc. – have or are becoming equipped with computer chips, the capabilities and applications that have already become established in personal computers are transplanted into those. This is why the relatively new categories of devices known as ‘smartphones’ and tablet computers already have more than half a million applications within only a few tens of months after those devices own inventions.

Another effect of the advance of Moore’s Law is that it increasingly makes software and hardware easier to use. A person no longer needs a computer science or information technology degree to operate a website, blog, or online store, as would have been the cases a 15 years or more ago. Complex software is required to for easy-to-use interfaces (such as touchscreens or voice recognition) to operate, and that requires powerful computer chips so that the complex software can process information quickly. The further Moore’s Law advances, the easier it is for people to use computerized devices, or for those interaction to seem nearly ‘magical’ to people.

Next webpage: Cooper's Law Acting on Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2015

Arco de las Puntas, Isla El Hierro, Canary Islands.

Outernet

One of the most audacious New Media projects I’ve been involved with as a viability consultant is Outernet, my friend Syed Karim‘s project to bring free Internet access to more than four billion people. He plans to do this by piggybacking a fleet of mini-satellites onto commercial satellite launches. These mini-satellites, known as cubesats (each a 10 cm cube weighing no more than 1.33 kg), will provide Internet access (albeit mainly text access) to the majority of the world’s people, who don’t live in regions where Internet access is affordable or even receivable, which is a surprisingly large portion of the planet’s inhabited landmasses. Hundreds of cubesats have been launched for other non-profit purposes during the past 11 even years. Karim and his Outernet team have already raised the US$10 million necessary to build and launched their network of cubesats. CNN recently featured a story about him. Prior to his heading the Outernet project, I’ve known him as Director of Innovation at the Media Investment Loan Fund, a position he still holds. I’ve been an adviser to MDIF for the past seven years.

 Spain recently passed a law that would require online news abstractors and aggregaters, such as Google News, to pay royalties to Spain’s periodical publishers. It’s a bone-headed law, but not surprising that at least one developed country would pass such a law, pressured by the publishers’ lobbying. Those publishers haven’t adjusted to individuation of their contents – the fact that each person online wants to be able to search (or otherwise find or be delivered) only for the stories that match that person’s own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, and to be able to receive such stories from all vendors and publications without having to purchase all those publications. The news law is a desperation move at the behest of those publishers. Google announced that Google News will shutdown in Spain on Tuesday. Similar machinations have been underway in Germany. Subsequent stories about the Spanish law – as well as my own talks with Spanish friends (disclosure: my wife is a Spaniard) – indicate that the new law is immediately unpopular among Spain’s online consumers. Rumors have begun that AEDE (the Spanish daily newspaper publishers association) may be having second thoughts about the law. However, I should note that Google’s policies about recording its users actions have often, and probably still do, violate the European Union’s 1995 Consumer Data Privacy regulations, something that few American commentators deign to mention. I only regret that this particular case occurred three weeks too late for me to feature it in the the week’s class on Internet Law that I teach in my postgraduate New Media Business course at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It’ll be part of the syllabus there next year.

Forget what’s being called Wearable Computing technologies.  The BBC this week reports from Sweden about Implantable Computing technologies.