I'm just thinking there's a big difference, a really big difference between television and the internet.
Why even compare them? Because they both compete for the same prize. Our time. The web is the one item that cuts into the time we sit in front of the tube. TV has been the solo high-technology centerpiece that every family in the world somehow had to have the moment electricity became available. It's been the handsome devil that cut in on the time we spent on the porch, with our families, with our communities. And now there's the net -- taller, darker, and even a better dancer. Taking all the girls' hearts.
The big difference is that you sit back in front of a tv, with the internet you sit up.
I think we're mostly past the point where this is because it's hard to use. It's no longer like early radio when you had to be an amateur technician to tune in a station. Somehow it did get sexy to be a geek in America for a while. Which allowed a lot of companies to waste time making crappy hard-to-use computers and software. But we're almost through that. It'll be completely over when the chairman of Sony gets his wish that when you turn on a computer, it's on, no waiting to boot.
I think the reason we're still sitting up is because we have the tools in our hands to make everything we see on the screen.
Oh sure, I know: "Interactivity!" Yeah, we've been hearing that since day 1 with Nicholas and Brand and all those 60's era guys. New world order. Virtual communities. Cyber citizens. Yeah, Sure. And the net could just as easily become the TV for the video game generation, where we follow whoever gives us the best games.
The tools aren't just about being able to make a flash animation or play Quake online. It's also tools so people can combine easily and quickly to produce anything a large corporation can. We're in odd times. Corporations have used these tools to become vast in ways never before possible (I mean, how big IS TimesWarner/AOL now?) but at the same time there is such interest in buying "startups" because it's just as likely a small group of people will produce something brilliant. The old models of how things get done just aren't working. The individual appears to be both powerful and insignificant at the same time. Being too early for hindsight, I'd say that issue simply isn't settled yet. And my guess is that as long as it appears possible for an individual to be powerful, we will sit up for a very long time trying it out.
This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 21 May 2000