First up, the evolution of television. As discussed on previous posts, television is undergoing a rapid change. Do you all remember the days when there were only 3 networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), and everything on TV was pretty much controlled by them? Neither do I! Now television is expanding, people in the US of A have a choice of the original 3 networks as well as other now-familiar faces like FOX, PBS, and even some foreign channels like BBC.
Let's return for a moment to the bygone era of TV. Back then the big 3 (networks) controlled what you watched and when. VCR's existed in prototypes and no one had heard of DVD's or even Laserdiscs! Your TV Guide was your best friend in these days, telling you what programs were on at what time for that particular week, so you could plan your life accordingly.
Now TV Guide has been rendered all but obsolete thanks to TiVo. TiVo hasn't been around very long, but it has become very popular with the American people
(I should know, my family has NI NE!). TiVo works similar to a VCR in that it records a program for later viewing, but instead of recording it to a magnetic tape it records it digitally to a hard drive. The latest series of TiVo DVR's (Digital Video Recorders) now allow you to "burn" recorded programs t o a writable DVD. TiVo also has a feature that is similar to TV Guide's function: it receives data from the networks about what shows are on which channels and when, also providing any special information that is necessary (e.g a guest host, an extended program and so on). The user can ask TiVo to record this one instance of the program, or get a "season pass" which will automatically record all episodes of the program that will air this season.
But with the evolution of media, TiVo now has been integrated with the internet. The latest TiVo's can now connect to a local area network, and download media from the internet. For example, the popular video site YouTube has a page that instructs you on how to watch YouTube videos on your TiVo. The page also tells you how to watch YouTube videos on other devices, like the Nintendo Wii. In previous posts we talked about how Television was expanding outwards to the internet, and now the opposite is happening here: the internet is coming to television. This makes the line that divides "television" and "the internet" very blurry, and I suspect that it will soon disappear altogether. If the current trend continues as is, I predict in about 10 years or so that TV's will be fully integrated with computers. You wouldn't need to buy separate machines anymore, you could watch your favorite show and then using your remote (and/or perhaps a QWERTY keyboard that could be plugged in via USB) you could go online to a blog, like this one, and make a post about what you just saw.
Now in a way, this is already happening. As stated above the Nintendo Wii along with Sony's Playstation 3 can now watch videos on the internet, and similar softwa re is coming soon for the Xbox 360. However there are already some TV channels that can be watched online, and vice versa.
Let me tell you a personal story about this: when I was a kid my dream was to be an Astronaut, and that desire still has not changed. So while other kids my age were watching Barney or Big Bird on PBS, or the shows on Nickelodeon (the good ones, not the drivel they have on now), I was watching the NASA channel. Yes, such a channel exists. The NASA channel is what it sounds like, it airs live coverage of space missions (usually the Space Shuttle and ISS) as well as programs pertaining to spaceflight, aerospace, engineering, and so on. I used to watch this channel every day until the evil empire Comcast removed it from it's lineup. Fortunately NASA broadcasts its channel online, where you and I and everyone can view it 24/7. They have a programming schedule as well so you know what's comin g up next. You can also watch the NASA channel on your PC's media center if you have one.
In The Television will be Revolutionized, Lotz lists something called "Th e 5 C's of the Post-Network era." Theses are: Choice, Control, Convenience, Customization, and Community. To end this part of the blog let's see how they play out in a n era of TV merging with the internet.
- Choice: Gone are the days of network tyranny and dominance, now you are free to watch what you want, when you want. Be it from watching episodes of the hottest TV shows on YouTube or Hulu, or letting TiVo do it's thing.
- Control: Playing into the above statement, viewers have more control over their entertainment than ever before. You have hundreds of channels to choose from, not to mention the content available on the web.
- Convenience: DVR's let you watch TV shows that you've recorded, and you can even use the internet to tell your DVR to record a show while you're away from home. With YouTube and Hulu and iTunes you can watch your favorite shows on your iPods or laptop PC's.
- Customization: TiVo allows you to pick which shows to watch, and even suggests shows for you based on your recording history (though this can result in hilariously awkward situations) and with the internet content available on YouTube, etc. you no longer are limited to what the networks insist on showing you.
- Community: The best part of this who endeavor: you can connect with people from around the world who enjoy the shows that you do! ABC, FOX, NBC, and CBS have web sites set up for their biggest shows (such as Survivor, V, and 24) which feature message boards for fans of the show to commune. You can also watch clips of episodes and even full episodes on those sites.
Moving right along now. One of the many features (and dangers) of the internet is the lack of privacy. As this video so aptly states you can find out virtually anything about anyone online. One of my favorite things to do online is Google the screennames of my friends, and report any particularly hilarious results (try doing a Google search for heliosphoenix sometime, I dare you). Unfortunately if I can find this information about you, so can everyone else. Forget the CIA or MI5, or hell even terrorists, Joe Six Pack can now find out a lot of things about you, and should this information fall into the wrong hands...could be trouble.
Now part of this is because we all willingly post information about ourselves online. Take a look at this screenshot of my Facebook profile As you can see, I've filled out quite a bit about myself here. Some of the details have been blurred out for privacy reasons (ironically), but this gives you an example of what information can be easily accessed by anyone with a basic understanding of the internet. We are asked for our age, sex, family members, home address, even our phone number! Now we don't feel too concerned by putting all this info, I mean Facebook is supposed to be a safe site right? Well, maybe it's not. Either way, that information is out there, and it's available to everyone.
Remember Second Life? The folks at Linden Lab also require personal information about you in order for you to access some of the mature-rated areas. This is a screenshot of their age verification page.
It's not surprising that this age verification method has gotten a lot of negative reception from the Second Life community. You already need to provide a cell phone and credit card number just to join. Here they ask you for your name, address, city, state, country, and either your Social Security number, or the last 4 letters of your drivers license. The information must be true and accurate or the verification will fail. As you can imagine, not everyone is comfortable with such sensitive information being in the hands of anyone who isn't working for the government, and there has been a lot of outcry against this system. Fortunately there are ways around age verification (which I cannot go into here), but this isn't all jokes and policies. In September of 2006, Second Life's customer database server was hacked. While the pay ment info (such as credit card numbers) was encrypted, personal information (such as real names and addresses) was not. This is just one example of many of the dangers of giving out sensitive information.
Now the odds of you getting hacked aren't as high as you would think, provided you know what you are doing online (no responding to Nigerian princes!) but sometimes people can get your personal information, and this can cause problems. Enter Encyclopedia Dramatica (WARNING! NSFW!) the toxic waste dump of the internet. A wiki run by the people who are typically found on the /b/ board of 4chan, this is a site that humiliates and degenerates everyone and everything for the sake of getting a laugh. Targets include celebrities (like Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber), but most of the pages are dedicated to harassing and mocking ordinary people. Hundreds upon thousands of typical internet users like you have a page dedicated to them, hell I even have a page about me on that site! These pages as a whole m ock and deride and make fun of the person in question, as well as post info like any websites they may have, or private conversations between them and someone else, and sometimes their personal info. With these pages internet troublemakers can harass and torment you with ease. Now I haven't gotten my share of said morons, but others have, and being slandered on the internet is a devastating thing indeed.
Now the new trend in business is to use sites like Facebook to judge potential employees, or even their current ones. Again, everyone can see what you put on there. Recently though the internet has been used for legal means. My favorite example is a case involving Troy Judge Michael Martone, and some Michigan State Students. The short version of the story is this: these girls were caught drinking at their High School prom, and were charged with MiP's with Martone giving the sentencing, including a direct order to stay away from alcohol. The girls then went to MSU, and during a dorm party one night (where they were served alcohol) they took pictures of themselves and posted them on a website they created, with the title "F U Martone." Martone was not amused, and the girls were sla pped with a jail sentence.
Now with all those to take in, it certainly feels like Big Brother is watching us, and indeed they are in a way. Google Maps now have "Street View" which allow users to panoramic images of streets that were taken by cars equipped with special cameras. Google's ultimate goal is to get a view of every street in the world, so it's unsurprising that a fair amount of privacy concerns have come up. The US Military and Department of Defense has asked that Google not take pictures in the vicinity of military bases, and that any existing photos of bases be removed, a request Google complied with. In the UK there were supposedly photos taken of a man leaving a sex shop, another man being arrested, and even another m an vomiting. 200 people also claimed that they could identify themselves in the images (despite Google's pledge to blur out the faces of people in photos) and the village of Broughton actually formed a human wall to stop the car from taking pictures. It's also believed that Google may not be able to take pictures in European Union countries due to privacy concerns.
So it seems that cyberspace is not as safe as we think, but this should not dissuade you from experiencing it! These blogs have examined many aspects of a world that is increasingly being integrated and fused with cyberspace, with beneficial results for all. Today people around the world can connect with each other like never before, and share ideas, thoughts, information, and media. Artists can reach a wider audience than they would in a world without the internet, and can rake in immense profits. Google is now the universal to ol for answering our questions, whatever they be, and with technology like the iPod, we can remain connected to the world even as we travel around it. This uniting of the global community is a monumental achievement, but it's still not finished yet. Sure there's some things that can be done better, and there's some dangers involved, but this really is a glorious new beginning for the people of the world, who are no longer divided by petty barriers like race or ideology.
Since these issues are becoming more and more critical to how our daliy lives work, there is a lot of ground to cover, and in fact I hope to continue this blog with postings about such issues as they evolve and change, and any new ones that may arise. For now though we shall have to content ourselves with these entries.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed making it. I know these entries got pretty long, but I hope I was able to entertain, inspire, and educate you all. For anyone who wishes to discuss these issues with me or just say hi, I can be reached at my regular email: firstname.lastname@example.org or my gmail: email@example.com. My Twitter account is HeliosPhoenix, and my Second Life account is Helios Eusebio.
(Note that I get a lot of messages every day, and while I can't respond to all of them, I do read all of them).
Again, I hope you all enjoyed the writing on the Wall, and I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors. I hope that as the world turns, the internet will become an even better place and our world will truly be united. And from what I have seen, I truly believe that such a day is close at hand.
For now, this is Joseph "Helios" Niemiec, signing off.
Lotz, Amanda D.. The Television will be Revolutionized. New York City: NYU Press academic, 2007.