Chapter 8: Technology Disruption and Divergence
Technological convergence is the tendency that as technology changes, different technological systems sometimes evolve toward performing similar tasks. Digital convergence refers to the convergence of four industries into one conglomerate, ITTCE (Information Technologies, Telecommunication, Consumer Electronics, and Entertainment). Previously separate technologies such as voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications), and video can now share resources and interact with each other synergistically. Telecommunications convergence (also called “network convergence”) describes emerging telecommunications technologies, and network architecture used to migrate multiple communications services into a single network. Specifically this involves the converging of previously distinct media such as telephony and data communications into common interfaces on single devices, such as most smart phones can make phone calls and search the web.
Media convergence is the interlinking of computing and other information technologies, media content, media companies and communication networks that have arisen as the result of the evolution and popularization of the Internet as well as the activities, products and services that have emerged in the digital media space. Many experts[who?] view this as simply being the tip of the iceberg, as all facets of institutional activity and social life such as business, government, art, journalism, health, and education are increasingly being carried out in these digital media spaces across a growing network of information and communication technology devices. Also included in this topic is the basis of computer networks, wherein many different operating systems are able to communicate via different protocols. This could be a prelude to artificial intelligence networks on the Internet eventually leading to a powerful superintelligence via a technological singularity.
Convergent services, such as VoIP, IPTV, Smart TV, and others, tend to replace the older technologies and thus can disrupt markets. IP-based convergence is inevitable and will result in new service and new demand in the market. When the old technology converges into the public-owned common, IP based services become access-independent or less dependent. The old service is access-dependent. Educational institutions and modern Universities have started developing courses leading to specialized degrees.
Siddhartha Menon defines convergence, in his Policy initiative Dilemmas on Media Covergence: A Cross National Perspective, as integration and digitalization. Integration, here, is defined as “a process of transformation measure by the degree to which diverse media such as phone, data broadcast and information technology infrastructures are combined into a single seamless all purpose network architecture platform”. Digitalization is not so much defined by its physical infrastructure, but by the content or the medium.Jan van Dijk suggests that “digitalization means breaking down signals into bytes consisting of ones and zeros”. Convergence is defined by Blackman, 1998, as a trend in the evolution of technology services and industry structures. Convergence is later defined more specifically as the coming together of telecommunications, computing and broadcasting into a single digital bit-stream.Mueller stands against the statement that convergence is really a takeover of all forms of media by one technology: digital computers.
Communication networks were designed to carry different types of information independently. The older media, such as television and radio, are broadcasting networks with passive audiences. Convergence of telecommunication technology permits the manipulation of all forms of information, voice, data, and video. Telecommunication has changed from a world of scarcity to one of seemingly limitless capacity. Consequently, the possibility of audience interactivity morphs the passive audience into an engaged audience. The historical roots of convergence can be traced back to the emergence of mobile telephony and the Internet, although the term properly applies only from the point in marketing history when fixed and mobile telephony began to be offered by operators as joined products. Fixed and mobile operators were, for most of the 1990s, independent companies. Even when the same organization marketed both products, these were sold and serviced independently.
In the 1990s an implicit and often explicit assumption was that new media was going to replace the old media and Internet was going to replace broadcasting. In Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital, Negroponte predicts the collapse of broadcast networks in favor of an era of narrow-casting. He also suggests that no government regulation can shatter the media conglomerate. “The monolithic empires of mass media are dissolving into an array of cottage industries…. Media barons of today will be grasping to hold onto their centralized empires tomorrow…. The combined forces of technology and human nature will ultimately take a stronger hand in plurality than any laws Congress can invent.” The new media companies claimed that the old media would be absorbed fully and completely into the orbit of the emerging technologies. George Gilder dismisses such claims saying,[clarification needed] “The computer industry is converging with the television industry in the same sense that the automobile converged with the horse, the TV converged with the nickelodeon, the word-processing program converged with the typewriter, the CAD program converged with the drafting board, and digital desktop publishing converged with the Linotype machine and the letterpress.” Gilder believes that computers had come not to transform mass culture but to destroy it.
Media companies put Media Convergence back to their agenda, after the dot-com bubble burst. Erstwhile Knight Ridder promulgated concept of portable magazines, newspaper, and books in 1994.“Within news corporations it became increasingly obvious that an editorial model based on mere replication in the internet of contents that had previously been written for print newspapers, radio, or television was no longer sufficient.”The rise of digital communication in the late 20th century has made it possible for media organizations (or individuals) to deliver text, audio, and video material over the same wired, wireless, or fiber-optic connections. At the same time, it inspired some media organizations to explore multimedia delivery of information. This digital convergence of news media, in particular, was called “Mediamorphosis” by researcher Roger Fidler , in his 1997 book by that name. Today, we are surrounded by a multi-level convergent media world where all modes of communication and information are continually reforming to adapt to the enduring demands of technologies, “changing the way we create, consume, learn and interact with each other”.
Some media observers expect that we will eventually access all media content through one device, or “black box”. As such, media business practice has been to identify the next “black box” to invest in and provide media for. This has caused a number of problems. Firstly, as “black boxes” are invented and abandoned, the individual is left with numerous devices that can perform the same task, rather than one dedicated for each task. For example, one may own both a computer and a video games console, subsequently owning two DVD players. This is contrary to the streamlined goal of the “black box” theory, and instead creates clutter. Secondly, technological convergence tends to be experimental in nature. This has led to consumers owning technologies with additional functions that are harder, if not impractical, to use rather than one specific device. Many people would only watch the TV for the duration of the meal’s cooking time, or whilst in the kitchen, but would not use the microwave as the household TV. These examples show that in many cases technological convergence is unnecessary or unneeded.
Furthermore, although consumers primarily use a specialized media device for their needs, other “black box” devices that perform the same task can be used to suit their current situation. As a 2002 Cheskin Research report explained: “…Your email needs and expectations are different whether you’re at home, work, school, commuting, the airport, etc., and these different devices are designed to suit your needs for accessing content depending on where you are- your situated context.” Despite the creation of “black boxes”, intended to perform all tasks, the trend is to use devices that can suit the consumer’s physical position. Due to the variable utility of portable technology, convergence occurs in high end mobile devices. They incorporate multimedia services, GPS, Internet access, and mobile telephony into a single device, heralding the rise of what has been termed the “smart phone,” a device designed to remove the need to carry multiple devices. Convergence of media occurs when multiple products come together to form one product with the advantages of all of them, also known as the black box. This idea of one technology, concocted by Henry Jenkins, has become known more as a fallacy because of the inability to actually put all technical pieces into one. For example, while people can have e-mail and Internet on their phone, they still want full computers with Internet and e-mail in addition. Mobile phones are a good example, in that they incorporate digital cameras, mp3 players, voice recorders, and other devices. This type of convergence is popular. For the consumer, it means more features in less space; for media conglomerates it means remaining competitive.
However, convergence has a downside. Particularly in initial forms, converged devices are frequently less functional and reliable than their component parts (e.g., a mobile phone’s web browser may not render some web pages correctly, due to not supporting certain rendering methods, such as the iPhone browser not supporting Flash content). As the number of functions in a single device escalates, the ability of that device to serve its original function decreases. As Rheingold asserts, technological convergence holds immense potential for the “improvement of life and liberty in some ways and (could) degrade it in others”. He believes the same technology has the potential to be “used as both a weapon of social control and a means of resistance”. Since technology has evolved in the past ten years or so, companies are beginning to converge technologies to create demand for new products. This includes phone companies integrating 3G and 4G on their phones. In the mid 20th century, television converged the technologies of movies and radio, and television is now being converged with the mobile phone industry and the Internet. Phone calls are also being made with the use of personal computers. Converging technologies combine multiple technologies into one. Newer mobile phones feature cameras, and can hold images, videos, music, and other media. Manufacturers now integrate more advanced features, such as video recording, GPS receivers, data storage, and security mechanisms into the traditional cellphone.
The role of the internet has changed from its original use as a communication tool to provide easier and faster access to information, mainly through a broadband connection. The television, radio and newspapers were the world’s mediums for accessing news and entertainment; now, all three mediums have converged into one, and people all over the world can read and hear news and other information on the Internet. The convergence of the internet and conventional TV become popular in the 2010s, through smart TV, also sometimes referred to as “Connected TV” or “Hybrid TV”, (not to be confused with IPTV, Internet TV, or with Web TV). Smart TV is used to describe the current trend of integration of the Internet and Web 2.0 features into modern television sets and set-top boxes, as well as the technological convergence between computers and these television sets or set-top boxes. These new devices most often also have a much higher focus on online interactive media, Internet TV, over-the-top content, as well as on-demand streaming media, and less focus on traditional broadcast media like previous generations of television sets and set-top boxes always have had.
In the marketplace
Convergence is a global marketplace dynamic in which different companies and sectors are being brought together, both as competitors and collaborators, across traditional boundaries of industry and technology. In a world dominated by convergence, many traditional products, services and types of companies will become less relevant, but a stunning array of new ones is possible. An array of technology developments act as accelerators of convergence, including mobility, analytics, cloud, digital and social networks. As a disruptive force, convergence is a threat to the unprepared, but a tremendous growth opportunity for companies that can out-innovate and out-execute their ever-expanding list of competitors under dramatically new marketplace rules. With convergence, lines are blurred as companies diversify outside of their original markets. For instance, mobile services are increasingly an important part of the automobile; chemicals companies work with agribusiness; device manufacturers sell music, video and books; booksellers become consumer device companies; search and advertising companies become telecommunications companies (“telcos”); media companies act like telcos and vice versa; retailers act like financial services companies and vice versa; cosmetics companies work with pharmaceutical companies; and more. Mobile phone usage broadens dramatically, enabling users to make payments online, watch videos, or even adjusting their home thermostat while away at work.
Network neutrality has emerged as an issue. Wu and Lessig (2004) set out two reasons to adapt neutral network model for computer networks. First, “a neutral network eliminates the risk of future discrimination, providing more incentive to invest in broadband application development.” Second, “neutral network facilitates fair competition among application, no bias between applications.” The two reasons also coincide with FCC’s interest to stimulate investment and enhance innovation in broadband technology and services. Despite regulatory efforts of deregulation, privatization, and liberalization, the infrastructure barrier has been a negative factor in achieving effective competition. “Kim et al. argues that IP dissociates the telephony application from the infrastructure and Internet telephony is at the forefront of such dissociation .” The neutrality of the network is very important for fair competition. As the former FCC Charman Michael Powell put it: “From its inception, the Internet was designed, as those present during the course of its creating will tell you, to prevent government or a corporation or anyone else from controlling it. It was designed to defeat discrimination against users, ideas and technologies”  Because of these reasons, Shin concludes that regulator should make sure to regulate application and infrastructure separately.
The layered model was first proposed by Solum and Chug, Sicker, and Nakahata. Sicker, Warbach and Witt have supported using a layered model to regulate the telecommunications industry with the emergence of convergence services. Many researchers have different layered approach, but they all agree that the emergence of convergent technology will create challenges and ambiguities for regulations. The key point of the layered model is that it reflects the reality of network architecture, and current business model. The layered Model consists of 1. Access Layer – where the physical infrastructure resides: copper wires, cable, or fiber optic. 2. transport layer – the provider of service. 3. Application layer – the interface between the data and the users. 4. content layer – the layer which users see. In Convergence Technologies and the Layered Policy Model: Implication for Regulating Future Communications, Shin combines the Layered Model and Network Neutrality as the principle to regulate the future convergent Media Industry.