From hieroglyphics to computers, the art of communication has been forming itself since the beginning of time. With each new era and each transition of technology, communication is at the forefront, paving the way for proceeding generations. At each turn the tale becomes longer as more methods are developed and establish themselves as respected forms of media. Over the past century, as these areas of communication have matured into industries of their own, they have also realized the effect of joining forces to better serve the public. Media convergence is now such a prominent component of society that few aspects are in their original, pure form. Mediums such as books, music, television, telephones, and even video games have embraced the latest convergence trend and joined the world of cyberspace as technology continues its rapid shift toward unified media.
Books are essentially the grandfather of all media, so it is fitting that they set the example by becoming partners with the Internet.
But in this scenario their versatility as a compact, lasting, and portable device is nullified, and their unique effectiveness is not utilized. However, their increased accessibility cannot be overlooked. One benefit of online books is the search engine. Instead of flipping through hundreds of pages in a book, one can simply type a word to gain the desired results. Bartleby.com offers an array of books on the Internet to read free of charge. They range from dictionaries to Charles Dickens. Within the last year, Bartleby.com has established itself as the "preeminent Internet publisher of literature" (www.bartleby.com). Unlike the 1800's when literature was available only to the elite, books are now available for the convenience of those who may not be able to obtain or afford them.
Newspapers and magazines have taken a similar route.
Because most newspapers are available only in the area in which they are produced, it is a globe-spanning aid for each small town newspaper to rest at one's fingertips. The benefits of online newspapers exceed the ease of availability. Not only is the current day's edition on hand, but editions from days or even weeks prior are accessible at the click of a mouse. Magazines on the Internet are helpful largely for the purpose of research. The vast number and numerous styles of magazines make it virtually impossible for one to manually preview all possibilities that exist. Through search engines, the Internet filters the unnecessary information for one's needs. Because of the benefits to company and customer, few newspapers or magazines have declined the opportunity of cyberspace.
The music industry has profited immensely from exposure to the Internet.
Few recording artists' websites are without an offered song to download. It is a wise marketing device to promote new albums or simply review old ones via this system. For a period of time, Napster was the teenagers' craze, offering a free and easy method of gaining favorite songs on a computer. However, because of copyright controversies, Napster was restricted in the songs they offered, allowing other companies to step up. Now the latest hot item is the MP3 system, which incorporates the Internet into the music industry. This allows one to download authorized songs from the Internet and save them onto MP3 files already in the computer. The songs can then be transferred onto electronic memory cards for portable use (www.htxtech.com).
This role of the Internet in providing free songs is a major benefit to the consumer, explaining why MP3's are one of the most popular and fastest growing items of the year in the technological world. Apple Computers recently offered an extension of this device known as the iPod. It is a digital MP3 music player with five gigabytes of storage (the capacity to contain 1,000 songs). According to Steve Jobs, Apple Computer's chief executive, "...it's a quantum leap in listening to music. This is going to be the hottest gift this holiday season for every Mac owner" (www.msnbc.com). After the essential first step of converging the music industry and the Internet, elaborations and extensions of this concept will continue to branch off the original idea to create a well-rounded industry.
Television is beginning to assume its own role in the Internet, though this technology is not yet well-established.
Toshiba developed a version of this technology which allows a PC to be hooked to a television set or a computer monitor. The PC contains features such as a DVD player, wireless keyboard, remote control, and one-touch Internet access which are all inputted into the connected monitor (www.synyrgy.com). This idea led to a concept called HyperTV through the company ACTV. HyperTV was designed to blend the devices of a television set and the Internet. During a television program or advertisement, a signal of web addresses is sent from the television set to a computer. Content on the web site is then synchronized to programming on the television (www.actv.com). In an advanced age, this convergence of television and the Internet fits well as it offers the consumer the maximum benefits of a wide range of information.
By teaming up with the Internet, telephones are on their way to becoming completely digital.
For years Internet phone systems were available for free downloading, but they were primitive in the sense that they required microphones, speakers, and tolerance for the quality of the conversation. A step up from this is now being developed, leading today's technology into the next phase of advancement. Data networks will soon be the means by which calls are completed.
Using this method, voices are broken down into "packets" of data and are sent over the Internet. This service would be thirty percent cheaper than traditional telephones and would also integrate voicemail and email onto a single program. Companies are already embracing this system even though it has not yet reached the marketing stage of development (www.msnbc.com). Through this convergence of distance communication and the Internet, consumers are one step closer to never having to leave their computers to access any form of media.
Another telephone development involves video conferencing. Companies are in the process of developing a video communications system that mimics instant messaging while aiding the cause of basic communication. Through this, an individual can communicate via video by sending them easily and instantly over the Internet (www.tmcnet.com). This technology would greatly expand the realm of what began as basic telephones and would aid in customer service calls, product demonstrations for telemarketers, and everyday communication.
One medium that sneaked into the world of convergence is video games.
What was once enjoyed by young boys has exponentially grown into a very successful industry that is utilized by almost every age group. The apparent next step is to expand it on the Internet. Artifact Entertainment is offering an opportunity to play video games online with a monthly subscription (www.artifact-entertainment.com). This reduces the amount of equipment one must purchase to play video games and will be cheaper for those just entering the gaming world because they will not even need to purchase a separate player. Another feature soon to be offered includes an inbox, an outbox, and a video game. The process of emailing video games is currently being developed. It will allow friends to send saved games and even play against each other via email (www.synyrgy.com). These developments are not yet ready for the market; however, the rate of technological advancement promises that they are not long in coming.
Computer animation, television concepts, and the Internet are all teaming up to create something the communication realm has not yet produced. Virtual actors are becoming the stars of Internet television. The American public is soon to witness news broadcasts by computerized anchors through a company called V*Star (www.synyrgy.com). This will be equivalent to television on the Internet without the hassle of hooking a PC to a television set. Just as one would open a website to read the headlines, one can now open a website and watch a newscast of those same headlines. As an accent to this impersonal age, it is worth mentioning that digital actors are becoming a large part of the media. Final Fantasy's digital star Aki Ross is just as much a human being as a real one to those who are familiar with her (Ebiri). Having the capabilities to create an entirely imaginary person who has exact human characteristics is surely a stunning accomplishment in the computer industry, but at what point is it taken too far by devaluing human life? At this point in technology, it is vital that the media safeguard against total computerization of simple things.
As the years progress, an increasing number of mediums will continue to converge with the Internet. An interesting thought is that these mediums become less and less known as the individual ones that they are, and their identity is found more in the Internet. USA Today is no longer a newspaper, but a website; CNN is no longer a news show, but another element of cyberspace. Just as all currencies in Europe are turning into the euro, so are all mediums converging onto the Internet. The Internet is becoming the main means of communication. It is leading this generation into the next era of technology.
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