On the battles for marketshare that are fought right now (1997) for the Electronic Highways into the Golden Triangle (the space in the home between the TV-set in front of you, a package of potatochips on your left, a glass of beer on your right) and the troops of Telecom Carriers (Telephony), Entertainment & News media & cable (TV) and Electronics Manufacturers (Mass Consumer Devices) are finding out the hard way that home interactive media + content do not sell as expected. Now suddenly their attention shifts to the Internet, which DOES move and shake!!
I do however predict that:
All this is not new, but it is hard to learn if your mind is in another (outdated) world or mindset.
The following is a little revised copy from a paper I wrote in 1987 about the strange phenomenon of the two paradigms: the unsuccessful top-down attempts to sell information to consumers (the Info-Broadcasting Model) versus the unexpected exploding bottom-up demand for human-to-human info exchange of mature producers & consumers (the Communication Model).
This paper was presented at the IFIP TC 9 Conference on Social Implications
of 'Home Interactive Telematics' (HIT), in Amsterdam, The Netherlands,
June 24-27, 1987.
The original paper was published in: Concerning Home Telematics, F. van Rijn and R. Williams (eds.); pp. 361- 367; Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North-Holland) © IFIP, 1988
Jaap van Till and Jacques Op Hey
When we start thinking about the future and more particularly about
Home Interactive Telematics (HIT) it turns out that 'suppliers' as well
as 'demanders' are pessimistic. Suppliers are unhappy because the Home
Info Technology has met with unexpected failures as well as unexpected
'Demanders', people urging for regulation and guidance of the high-tech push, are unhappy because not enough attention is paid to their warnings about the possible negative consequences that the use of powerful Home IT-tools can have.
Both groups want things to behave in an orderly planned fashion, and seem to know what people (should) want in their homes.
In this paper we present a third side to the HIT future: small pioneer groups of home USERS are active already but are not behaving according to predictions or simplified official assumptions.
Most popular seems to be 'dialogues between people who share common interests' instead of 'using central databases'.
We present a more positive possible future in which 'prosumers', mature personal producer/consumers of information, are not under-estimated in their ability to choose and apply telernatic tools. They offer info to the networks themselves and want to have direct access to data or others without intermediaries.
From this perspective the 'info society' seems to be better visible and we can perhaps help to grow (modemocratic) consensus about where people want to go, in and from their homes.
2. Description of the situation
People are generally aware that, coming from 'agricultural' and 'industrial'
cultures, society has now made a transition to the 'information age'.
Too many predictions about, the 'info future' are however, in our opinion, still from the 'industrial' perspective. Manufacturing expectations as well as sociological worries about Home Telematics reflect the lagging of our value systems (culture) behind the already present high-tech tools.
Because these tools can be (and are) used for good and bad purposes, we should forget about 'industrial age' quarrels and start thinking about the 'information age' ethics and objectives.
We propose to distinguish in the 'information age' four different waves,
each with its own learning curve, each wave adding to the preceding ones.
Between the subsequent waves are transitions (paradigm shifts) of primary cultural attention like the transition that Keppler and Galilei encountered.
|I||hardware centred||computer processing,|
|II||software centred||info storage, (+/- 1987),|
|III||network centred||internal and external prof. services,|
|IV||interworking||home use of telematics.|
The absorption waves I and II are the famous six 'Nolan Phases'.
Waves I-III are mainly for professional/business use of telematics.
We state that most organizations are now in the transition between wave I and II and that a few organizations, in finance or transport, have already started to focus on their internal and external networks (wave III) as a vital competitive resource. Suddenly their computers are no longer central but are peripherals to the network!
It is too early for wave IV to be felt. That will happen when prices for telecom and info start to go down!
It is therefore not surprising that sales of equipment (I) and info
(II) to the general public 'consumers' have been disappointing in the sense
of large numbers, and that people use tele networks (III) in different
ways than expected.
From their homes only Yuppies can afford the professional info services and Hackers do pioneer 'interworking' (IV) because to them it makes sense. Their motivation makes up for their lack of money, and yes! they do have codes of ethics. Example: the IFNA code of conduct for bulletin board system-operators.
Manufacturers of telematic equipment and suppliers of info services do react to the disappointment in three ways now:
From the point of view of active computer and telecom users, salesmen as well as 'people who want to protect us', seem equally uninformed about what they are talking about.
3. Unexpected telematics DO work
Although it is very early for HIT, it is very important to look at what
the pioneers are doing instead of being blinded by supply side expectations
or demand side well-intended ideas of sociologists or government officials
on what would be good telematics for the public.
The truth is: nobody knows.
We suggest the suppliers and 'demanders' take a closer look (if they can) at what the users already DO on a large scale:
The Source, Compuserve, Teletel (Fr) E-mail;
or with a very high growth rate (epidemic doubling time of < 1/2 year):
FidoNet/OpusNet, QZ COM, BIX, Usenet/Eunet (Internet), Bitnet/EARN, EAN, amateur packet radio.
Characteristics of present popular home telematics use are:
Why have some telematic services attracted many home users or are showing explosive growth rates? And why didn't this attract very much commercial attention?
Analysis shows that people buy three distict species of consumables:
From these 'consumable things' the non-physical INFO can be transported by three types of networking, each more or less visibly present in most organizations:
We propose that, for the analysis of the future absorption of HIT and its social implications, two, not opposing but orthogonal, views must be distinguished:
We repeat that these visions are not opposites but form two orthogonal
axes. Each point in the two dimensional reality-space has two components.
Example: publication of an interactive adventure game with film sequences and direct channels to expert helpers.
So do not worry Mr. Publisher, the telephone also did not make newspapers
obsolete. The only point we do want to make is that the new 'telematic
services' are not the exclusive domain of info providers but that
people might like to 'talk' to each other directly offering their own info.
The essence of telematics is that people can make contact with reality and each other without unnecessary intermediaries. This does not mean that all intermediaries are unnecessary.
So if the real action is taking place in (1) then why should 'consumers'
organize and influence (0), like the HIT conference brochure suggested?
Prosumers vote by choosing personally from what is offered in the market
and if none is useful they produce their own with info-com tools.
Therefore they do influence the market but are not easily organized nor can they clearly predict their diverse cultural telematic needs. The only way to know that is to offer a large diversity of services and let the home users be the judges.
In this context we feel that the official 'expected impacts' on households, info services, tele-bureaucracy, and the perceived absence of consumer influence on central media are based on false assumption patterns (0).
The home users of info are active but somewhere else, talking to each
other; like ants collecting and exchanging bits of reality, without any
People do already interconnect to each other with <PC+modem> like brain cells do, building GAIA's global brain.
We predict that, if they can start to explore reality and their telematic environment with networking tools and intelligent workstations, thus cutting through the present 'intermediary layers', a new Renaissance age will come about. When people meet telematically, new ideas will emerge.
Useful Telematic Interworking, not Space or Atomics, is the next human
For the information age the balance should be re-established in the 'Trias Telematica':
We have to apologize to the readers because this discussion note is:
We do however predict that this paper contains at least 1 bit of info
for future readers:
two orthogonal views (0,1) on HIT did exist in 1987.
For a glimpse of the 90 degree transition between these take a good look at what children (hackers and yups of all ages) DO NOW with telematic tools. They do already know better themselves what to do and it net-works!
|||Paul Baran, Some Perspectives on Networks, IFIP Computer Communication Conference 1977, pp. 459-464.|
|||Peter Russell, The Awakening Earth, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1982.|
|||David Andrews, The IRG Solution (info routing groups), Souvenir Press Ltd., 1984.|
|||Dean Gengle, The Netweavers Sourcebook, Addison-Wesley, 1984.|