THE FUTURE OF SATELLITE AND CABLE SYSTEMS IN 2005

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THE FUTURE OF SATELLITE AND CABLE SYSTEMS IN 2005
THE FUTURE OF SATELLITE AND CABLE SYSTEMS IN 2005

Source: www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/scenario1.htm

Technological Changes

1. Deployment of Iridium and "Gates-McCaw Net" LEO satellites provides personal, interactive, and two-way Internet, videoconferencing, telephony, and other communication services for individuals via satellite

This prediction assumes several basic factors, namely that it in fact proves feasible and affordable to put 63 or 840 low-earth orbit satellites into orbit, and that they don’t get destroyed on the launchpad by a malfunctioning rocket engine or blasted out of the sky by space junk or a wayward Strategic Defense Initiative test. Because the low-earth orbit satellites tend to be cheaper to build and put into orbit, it begins to change the economies of scale.

By 2005, "sattphones" (basically personal digital assistants [PDAs] or personal communication units [PCUs] with built-in satellite uplink and downlink – the dish gets carried around in a backpack or maybe on top of an Al Franken-style helmet) begin to replace cellular phones as they become smaller and more affordable. The sattphone might at some point offer videophone service; access to the Internet, corporate intranets, and online services; GIS services for locating yourself on a map of where you are and finding nearby roads, restaurants, hotels, etc.; remote access to your PC; and multi-person voice conferencing and voice mail.

The Third/developing/peripheral world begins to realize that they will never be able to develop the wired-telecommunications infrastructure of the First/developed/core world (in many parts of China, there may one telephone line for an entire village), so they begin turning to "sattphony" as a feasible alternative for asserting their "right to communicate." As part of their initiatives for local development, more and more Third World countries like India and China begin investing in their own initiatives for satellite construction, launching, and repairing (i.e. they begin focusing on developing their own national space programs.)

2. Rupert Murdoch’s "SkyNet" and similar services bring satellite DBS television into more households, displacing cable and big dishes as the primary source of television in rural areas

The smaller CU-band dishes become more and more attractive options for consumers, since by 2005 they are already considerably more and more unobtrusive and easier to install. Murdoch and others begin to realize that the money is in the software, not the hardware, so they begin giving away the dishes and indoor electronics for next to nothing, while collecting their revenue from monthly fees. They come up with more and more clever solutions for making the dishes next to invisible when installed properly, eliminating many of the "aesthetic" restrictions that some communities have imposed. By 2005, DBS is catching up with cable boxes in many households.

Technological solutions are developed (because consumers demand them) to solve many of the problems with DBS, including "spotcasting" to provide local affiliate network channels, cyclic redundancy checks to reduce the "noise" from weather interference, "multicasting" to allow multiple TVs in one home to be tuned to different channels, and built-in interactive programming guides to allow people to find and watch "what’s on satt-TV tonight," which becomes even more a problem of massive information overload.

Because DBS is already digital, it’s "ahead of the game" as other media (such as wireless digital-HDTV broadcast, DVD players, digital cable radio, digital camcorders, etc.) begin to be phased into this format. This will produce a small sector of people nostalgiac for the more "authentic" feel of "old-style" analog transmission, just like there are lots of people who claim it’s a more "real" experience to listen to vinyl records instead of Compact Discs.

3. Cable TV providers, realizing they cannot compete with DBS in certain areas, begin upgrading their network for two-way broadband transmission, and begin providing a new generation of services such as video-on-demand, interactive television, tele-shopping,"WebTV," and Internet service through cable "modems"

Although various kinds of two-way satt-services are underway by 2005, the cable companies are ahead of them because they began moving toward two-way broadband in the early 1990s. This required a large investment because it was necessary to upgrade much of the copper cable they put down years before (the back-channel for "uploading" of information was much narrower than the channel carrying programming "download" to the home), and to start putting in "smart" video servers that were able to respond to requests from the consumer as well as transmitting programming to the home.

Because of the incredible frustration Internet users face over download times for their favorite sites, and the inability of "streaming video" to reduce the overall wait time to watch video over the Net, many begin turning to "cable modems" (which are not really modems at all) as a better alternative to "ISDN modems" and true telephone modems. In addition to the vast, anarchic Internet, the cable companies start realizing that consumers may want more focused kinds of online services where they can do tele-shopping, tele-voting, online multi-person video gaming, etc. People give up on a busy AOL dialtone and 56 Kbps downloads, for faster, more responsive cable-based online services.

By 2005, there are various kinds of "interactive television" systems, but there’s no uniform agreement over what precisely that means. Each takes a slightly different take on what it means to be interactive. Is it the ability to watch the same sports game or news event from multiple perspectives? To offer instant feedback to "cable-back live" talk shows? To have a personalized newspaper or news program which covers only the kinds of stories you want to know about? To contribute your own video, a la "America’s Funniest Home Videos," but perhaps instantaneously? To have a truly personalized story where you can choose the characters you want to live and die, prosper and fail? Companies with interactive-TV projects struggle over the fact that there are many competing definitions of "interactivity."

4. Cable broadcasters begin migrating their signals from analog to digital since wireless broadcasters have begun adopting a digital-HDTV standarddigital compression means that the now 500+ cable channels become more "narrowcasted," in fact, not even like TV channels as we know them now.

The idea of a TV "channel" per se comes under question. One way that many cable systems will respond to a universe of 500+ channels is to continue the already accelerating trend of "narrowcasting" thus, in addition to a comedy channel, cartoon channel, music video channel, sports channel, news channel, arts channel, etc., we might see by 2005 such things as a 24-hour cooking channel, fishing and golf channels (I think these already exist), a computer/technology channel, a gay and lesbian channel; in short channels dedicated to programming having to do with nothing other than one particular hobby, interest group, leisure activity, lifestyle, or social faction.

But the other way that some cable systems respond to this situation is to adopt Olympic-style "multi-casts." In this sense, channels become simply one different mode of accessing an event or situation. Thus, if you were broadcasting coverage of a local music festival, you could have one ‘channel’ carrying the main stage performances, another ‘channel’ carrying interviews with the performers, another ‘channel’ catching backstage gossip, and another ‘channel’ focused on side events or on the audience. Thus, the meaning of a ‘channel’ switches in this sense.

What it means to "flip the channel," "use the remote," etc. may change in this sense. How people choose what they want to see, how they want to see it, and when they want to see it may change radically by 2005. This will put more hands in the power of the watcher/consumer, who now has a greater degree of choice and control over his idiot box, but it will be a nightmare for advertisers, who will respond to it in ways suggested below.

5. As sattelite uplink earth stations become more mobile and affordable, more and more individuals, independent video producers, and small organizations begin using LEO satellite for local "microcasting."

The process that Alvin Toffler described as the "demassification" of media began in earnest in the 1990s, and is well underway in 2005. Basically, its origins lie with the original pirate radio stations of the 1960s, who tried to offer an alternative to mass-produced, corporate-controlled, Top40-homogenized music stations. The first experiments in this area were with low-power or "micropower" FM radio and TV broadcasting, designed to be picked up over a small neighborhood area from a shoestring-budget basement transmitter.

However, micro-satt-casting offers the potential of reaching an entire city, megalopolis, county, or even region with locally produced, independently controlled programming, and for this reason the next generation of "pirates" will begin experimenting with it by 2005. Many nonprofits and NGOs already have had some experience with it because of earlier experiments with sattelite teleconferences, and they will turn to satellite as a way of offering non-corporate points of view.

"Demassification" leads to a considerable boom in all kinds of DIY media, a trend that had already begun with such things as desktop publishing of ‘zines and Web publishing of electronic journal. DIY satt-video becomes one more way of people making heard points of view that get ignored in the mass-produced, corporate media. Like shortwave radio or Soviet samizdats, it begins to lead to a proliferation of all kinds of unheard voices, ranging from political extremists and dissidents to counterculturalists and other subcultures.

Media Changes

1. In general, the nature of media changes from a "broadcast" model to a "many-to-many" model. The centralized broadcast system gives way to a more decentered exchange system. Media passive consumption begins to shift toward personalized media prosumption and collaboration.

The broadcast model is based on the idea that you gather images from all over the world, assemble them in one place, and then transmit that assemblage from one place back out to receivers all over the world. But "the Internet is not television," and in the network model, media of various kinds (audio, video, software, text, data) go from many to many. The network makes possible novel means of exchange and payment for services, and in software we see such things as "shareware" where you get to try before you buy. In the future, people may have the same expectation with regard to other kinds of media. Or per-person per-use "micropayments." Or exchanges-in-kind, where media are traded for other media: "you show me your video and I’ll show you mine."

In a network, there is no one central point from which media originate, and anywhere along the "stream" media can be changed and altered. This makes media creation a more unusual decentralized collaborative process. Examples of this include some of the recent "E-Jam" sessions of scattered global musical artists over CU-SeeMe, or some of the collaborative stories written by multiple authors on bulletin board systems, or multiple-artist images created on collaborative "whiteboards". The idea of media being the work of one producer or one point of view may be replaced by that of media as a melange or pastiche.

Since in the network there is no real terminal point, no one is really a "media consumer" anymore. After I’m done watching something, I can take it and add my feedback to it, or even change it around or add a new segment or feature and send it to someone else. Todd Rundgren has started distributing music this way – where the "prosumer" can remix the tracks, change the tempo, add or delete instruments, etc. People’s relationship to media becomes less passive and more active.

2. Along with programming, advertising begins to become more "interactive" and targeted at particular groups of consumers.

Because of these changes, advertisers are forced to utilize even more extreme techniques to get your attention and buy their products. Through getting a hold of data as to people’s personal preferences or demographics (perhaps out of what they watch – just like Netscape "cookies" tell sites where you like to surf) advertisers will begin to try out various kinds of targeted advertising. Networks already do this to a limited extent by evaluating what age groups are likely to be watching TV at a particular time of day, and aiming commercials at that demographic.

Still, the more targeted, the more effective, as far as ad agencies are concerned. So perhaps we might have advertising "intelligent agents" that search for Ford owners and try to convince them to buy Toyotas, or try and sell umbrellas and aluminum siding to people who watch a lot of weather-related programming. There may be several versions of a single ad developed for different groups (blacks, women, Asians, Jews, etc.) with each member of said group getting the "version" developed specifically for them.

Of course, this presumes that media-makers will still be reliant on advertising (rather than the consumer) for revenue, but this is a situation I suspect will very much still be in effect in 2005. Especially in the telecommunication world, where every company will be seeking to get into every other company’s business and steal away its customers, the next wave of advertising tech may put the nuisance of telemarketing to shame.

3. Media companies embrace the Internet in various ways, ranging from Web sites that are a "front door" to the public to the use of "push" technologies like BackWeb which tell users a continual list of upcoming programming on their desktop.

Certainly, there are plenty of examples that already exist of the former. CNN, the Sci Fi Channel, the Discovery Channel, and even many TV programs or producers (like POV) have their own Web siteand then there are the strange hybrids like MSNBC which attempt to seamlessly integrate a TV channel and a Web site. Things like MSNBC probably work best on WebTV, where you can watch a story and then effortlessly surf to the area on the web site which goes more into detail on that subject, but they’re certainly not the last word on the subject.

Much better might be some version of BackWeb-style "push" technology. Many computers now have TV-tuner video boards that allow you to watch TV on your monitor. There are already continually running "pushing"/streaming stock tickers, news tickers, etc. Why not have a server which constantly "pushes" on to your PC what’s on TV at any given time. You click it, then you go see itthus giving people yet one more way to waste time on their computers while at work.

People could also use Internet "agents" to act on their behalf and look for TV programs of interest to them while they’re working on something else. Thus they could spend less time channel surfing, and more time doing other things. Also, watching TV through the Internet allows parents to employ receiver-based solutions to objectionable material like SurfWatch, rather than relying on producer-based solutions such as the V-Chip.

4. The ready ability of "souped-up" movies on Digital Video Disc makes people more reluctant to turn to cable or satellite for movie programming, and more interested in more specialized kinds of programminggame shows, talk shows, documentaries, news, etc.

It’s certainly widely expected that by 2005 the DVD player will have replaced the CD player and the VCR. Because of its storage format and capacity, it will be the hands-down favorite for movies, far better than the VHS tape, CD-V, or laserdisc. There will be some initial drawbacks – the lack of a recordable DVD format, for example – that will very likely be corrected by then. Because of its capacity and ease of use, DVD will probably also replace DAT/DCC and we’re likely to see DMD (music discs) and DVD-ROMs in the near future.

DVD will offer a lot of value-added features to movies that broadcast or even "intercast" simply can’t duplicate. The movie can be completely accessed nonlinearly – you can watch whatever point you wantwithout the difficulties of doing this using fastforward and rewind on VCR. It could be in several languages, maybe several formats (letterbox and standard screen, etc.) On a DVD, a movie becomes "navigable," you could go to a scene, watch it, then "click over" to an interview with the actor about doing the scene. Ultimately, like "Clue," you might see movies with several endings, with the user selecting how the movie ends.

Because of this fact, I suspect that "movie channels" will disappear, because people will prefer to watch movies this way, but video-on-demand may give DVD a run for its money. It all depends on whether people want to run to the DVD store to rent a new disc or are too lazy to do it. But in any case, traditional cable and satellite delivery may have to turn to other kinds of programming other than movie channels if they’re going to keep their consumers happy.

5. The fact that all media are going digital (‘convergence’) means that the computer may replace the television, stereo, and telephone as the receiving unit of choice for all kinds of media. Media companies get into the computer business and vice versa.

This is a no-brainer of sorts, one that has been talked about quite a bit lately. In various ways, the computer is already taking over the functions of other electronic devices in the home. Using voice modems, FM tuner cards, and video capture boards, people today can already use their computer as a "smarter" telephone, radio/audio receiver, and television. By 2005, many people will basically have chucked specialized telecommunication devices in favor of a general-purpose computer which handles all their incoming and outgoing digital media. That computer will have to have a lot more memory, storage, and processing power than the ones that exist today; but due to exponential growth in all these areas in the computer field, this is a reasonable prediction for 2005.

Again, the reason for this is because using a computer allows the person to change their media experience from a passive to an active one. The computer gives the person more control. And it’s a lot more reprogrammable than specialized devices. You could have an agent program running on your computer that delivers to you a "personalized" TV guide which shows only those things which are on that day which are of interest to you. Or another program which blocks out certain kind of scenes when the children in your family are logged in. You can quickly send QuickTime clips of your favorite "Melrose Place" scenes to your friends.

Your computer could be equipped with voice control or some of other kind of interface which makes it even more responsive than existing TV remotes. By 2005, it may even interact with other devices in your home through an artificially intelligent RS-232 device, turning on and off your coffee maker whenever you decide to watch "Coffee Talk!" or putting on a home repair channel when something goes wrong with a home appliance. The possibilities are endless

Social Changes

1. In the new era of digital media, the ease of copying and retransmission makes questions of copyright and intellectual property more and more thorny.

It’s these problems of copyright that are currently holding up development of DVD and digital camcorders, just like what happened with DAT. Media producers are not altogether comfortable with the ease of copying media that these technology provide. Ultimately, I think they’re going to have to come to the realization that John Perry Barlow suggested people adopt in Wired magazine: "Everything You Know about Intellectual Property is Wrong." By 2005, for better or worse, the technology will be here, although various kinds of ineffective anti-piracy schemes (just like the bogus copy protection used by software manufacturers in the early 80s) will be attempted.

Barlow and others suggest that intellectual property laws in the U.S. need a major revamping. Copyright itself is based on the era of the printing press, when making a copy of a book took considerable time and effort. Today, a book-length text can be sent across the Internet in seconds. There will be two simultaneous pressures. Media producers will push for stronger, updated laws, while some new media avant-garde independent producers will push for the abolition of copyright altogether, arguing that there is no such thing as originality and no basis for ownership of information.

In the multi-media environment of 2005, where digital media can be rapidly morphed, remixed, altered, retransmitted, reoriented, and reproduced, copyright may not even be enforceable. In particular, the issue of "use of part or whole of the original" may become unworkable, as it already has with regard to sampling in the music industry. When does a sample become a violation of the artist’s copyright? If that sample is totally reworked and redesigned, does it belong to the original artist? Is it a violation of software copyright to borrow a small section of object code? Is it "fair use" to use a 2-second QuickTime clip of "Star Wars" on an educational CD-ROM? These types of questions will be increasingly asked with regard to other kinds of media in the future as well.

2. Since digital media are also more manipulable, the validity, truthfulness, and accuracy of how media represent the world becomes more and more problematic.

Although the validity of the photograph has been in question ever since the technology was developed, it still required some fairly detailed darkroom knowledge to alter photographs significantly and convincingly. What makes digital imaging far more dangerous is that now more than ever it’s become incredibly easy for just about anyone to quickly and effortlessly change images. Using Photoshop, pounds can be melted off of models, pyramids can be moved a few inches, OJ Simpson made a little more darker and more menacing, and people’s faces can be put on the bodies of others.

The use of the image as proof will become more and more questionable. By 2005, people will have to question considerably the aphorism "seeing is believing." Considering the increasing growth of video surveillance and the use of video evidence in courtrooms, there are likely to be some growing areas of contention with regard to "video truth." Although people have always doubted the bias or accuracy of television news, now they will start questioning its basic truth-value altogether.

The issue of trust in media will grow to larger proportions. If we had a populace that was well educated in critical thinking, I suspect they would not fall for some of the new media digital tricks. However, there will be propagandists aplenty who will seize on the opportunity to use this for persuasion, just as they did with analog television and radio.

3. Society begins to shift from print literacy to a more synaesthetic kind of "teleliteracy" or "visual literacy." A new grammar of the visual and the moving image begins to be developed.

Although we are not entering an era of the death of the book, or an end to the era of print literacy, there are some realities to be aware of. Marshall McLuhan knew it back in the 60s: just as print literacy created a certain kind of socialization and personal consciousness, we have a whole new generation being raised on electronic media, and this has changed the way they relate to their senses, to information, and to knowledge and memory. Print is static, linear, and fixed. The electronic media are nonlinear, dynamic, and increasingly interactive. They are more experiential.

Although the electronic media are often accused of being more superficial and visceral than print, creating short attention spans and lack of self-control, the children of electronic media in fact are often savvier than their predecessors because a) they’re used to receiving data from multiple sources at one time b) they’re used to rapidly sifting and sorting through information in quick "bytes" and c) they more used to tracking the moving image. Ultimately, in hypermedia, text has not gone away, but it’s just become one form of data along with still and moving images, audio, and 3D animations.

By 2005, the implicit visual knowledge we have will start to become more explicit. We know how to evaluate and analyze text and its underlying grammatical structures. In the digital future, people will attempt more and more to create such "grammars" for the media, as a way of developing this new kind of teleliteracy. We know what images are good and which are bad, which persuade and which repel. But right now those reactions are still unconscious and personal; we don’t discuss them. This will change.

4. In the new information economy, control over the means of information becomes key, and there are more and more kinds of "media terrorism," hacking, and piracy

There have already been numerous examples of "media terrorism" in the 80s and 90s. "Captain Midnight" taking over the HBO signal. Gunmen taking over TV stations to give their demands. Clandestine radio stations attempting to overturn governments. Terrorism is already largely a media phenomenon, with various political factions using TV as a means to transmit fear and propaganda. But what will happen in the future, probably already by next decade, is terrorism with control of the media (rather than the government) as its goal.

There was a famous "Bloom County" cartoon in the 80s in which a young hacker hacked into Pravda in the Soviet Union and changed around the stories to make them more humorous. This type of incident may become more serious and more likely in the near future. Denied acess to media technology, media "have-nots" may attempt to seize the technology of others and hijack it for their own purposes. Already, intelligence agencies use media "disinformation" (leaking false stories) to accomplish political objectives. By 2005, we will probably see other groups doing this as well.

Others may simply attempt various kinds of media sabotage, ranging from jamming the signals of transmissions they don’t like, to maliciously altering that signal so as to embarrass the network or convey an opposite ironic message. This kind of media prank, known as "detournement," was widely used by the Situationists in the 1960s when they took comics and changed their captions in order to critique their ideological assumptions. In the digital new media environment, it will also be easy to do with video and television as well.

5. New virtual communities form around the new media’s traditional neighborhoods and other forms of geographic and locally-based cultural identities begin to wane.

Satellites don’t respect national borders, and cables often pass underneath them with nary a tariff or checkpoint. One aspect of our wired "global village" is that people are forming new kinds of associations that are not based on geography or "accidents of birth" (race, religion, ethnicity, language, culture) but are instead based on mutual interest and desire for affiliation. By 2005, these ‘virtual communities’ will be well-established, and grappling with many of the problems that non-virtual communities have faced up until that point: who do you invite? Who do you keep out? How do you survive? What obligations do we have to our members?

There are already "media tribes" of various kinds, ranging from Star Trek fans (Trekkies) to "CNN junkies" who meet to gather and talk about what was on CNN that day. While some people are predicting that new media are increasingly isolating and alienating people, what they may in fact be doing is eating away at some kinds of community (those based on where you live or where you were born) while creating new kinds of identities, affiliations, and associations to replace them. Communities based on mediated rather than face-to-face interaction will become more acceptable and more influential.

While some also suggest the global electronic media are a homogenizing force, I think that there will be a countervailing tendency, because people will turn to the media to assert their own sense of uniqueness and particularity. Traditional culture will not disappear altogether, but there will be new kinds of hybrid identities, as various subcultures develop along lines of fusion created by the media.

Sources

* Brand, Stewart, The Media Lab: inventing the future at MIT, Penguin Books, New York, 1988.
* Brook, James A., Resisting the Virtual Life: the culture and politics of information, City Lights, San Francisco, 1995.
* McLuhan, Marshall, The Global Village : transformations in world life and media in the 21st century, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989.
* Negroponte, Nicholas, Being Digital, Knopf Books, New York, 1995.
* Rheingold, Howard, The Virtual Community : homesteading on the electronic frontier, Addison-Wesley, Reading, 1993.
* Toffler, Alvin, Powershift : knowledge, wealth, and violence at the edge of the 21st century, Bantam Books, new York, 1990.

By caseorganic on 2009-06-16 22:02:06
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