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August E. Grant, Ph.D.
Communication technologies are the nervous system of contemporary society, transmitting and distributing sensory and control information and interconnecting a myriad of interdependent units. These technologies are critical to commerce, essential to entertainment, and intertwined in our interpersonal relationships. Because these technologies are so vitally important, any change in communication technologies has the potential to impact virtually every area of society.
One of the hallmarks of the industrial revolution was the introduction of new communication technologies as mechanisms of control that played an important role in almost every area of the production and distribution of manufactured goods (Beniger, 1986). These communication technologies have evolved throughout the past two centuries at an increasingly rapid rate. This evolution shows no signs of slowing, so an understanding of this evolution is vital for any individual wishing to attain or retain a position in business, government, or education.
The economic and political challenges faced by the United States and other countries since the beginning of the new millennium clearly illustrate the central role these communication systems play in our society, lust as the prosperity of the 1990s was credited to advances in technology, the economic challenges that followed were linked as well to a major downturn in the technology sector. Today, communication technology is seen by many as a tool for making more efficient use of energy sources.
Communication technologies play as big a part in our private lives as they do in commerce and control in society Geographic distances are no longer harriers to relationships thanks to the bridging power of communication technologies, We can also be entertained and informed in ways that were unimaginable a century ago thanks to these technologies and they continue to evolve and change before our eyes.
This text provides a snapshot of the state of technologies in our society, The individual chapter authors have compiled facts and figures from hundreds of sources to provide the latest information on more than two dozen communication technologies. Each discussion explains the roots and evolution, recent developments, and current status of the technology as of mid-2010. In discussing each technology, we will address these technologies from a systematic perspective, looking at a range of factors beyond hardware.
The goal is to help you analyze technologies and be better able to predict which ones will succeed and which ones will fail. That task is harder to achieve than it sounds. Let's look at Google for an example of how unpredictable technology is.
The Google Tale
As this book goes to press in mid-2010, Google is the most valuable media company in the world in terms of market capitalization (the total value of all shares of stock held in the company). To understand how Google attained that lofty position, we have to go back to the late 1990s, when commercial applications of the Internet were taking off. There was no Question in the minds of engineers and futurists that the Internet was going to revolutionize the delivery of information, entertainment, and commerce. The big Question was how it was going to happen.
Those who saw the Internet as a medium for information distribution knew that advertiser support would be critical to its long-term financial success, They knew that they could always find a small group willing to pay for content, but the majority of people preferred free content. To become a mass medium similar to television, newspapers, and magazines, an Internet advertising industry was needed.
At that time, most Internet advertising was banner ads, horizontal display ads that stretched across most of the screen to attract attention, but took up very little space on the screen. The problem was that most people at that time accessed the Internet using slow dial-up connections, so advertisers were limited in what they could include in these banners to about a dozen words of text and simple graphics. The dream among advertisers was to be able to use rich media, including lull-motion video, audio, animation, and ever) other trick that makes television advertising so successful.
When broadband Internet access started to spread, advertisers were quick to add rich media to their banners, as well as create other types of ads using graphics, video, and sound. These ads were a little more effective, but many Internet users did not like the intrusive nature of rich media messages.
At about the same time, two Stanford students. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, had developed a new type of search engine. Google, that ranked results on the basis of how often content was referred to or linked from other sites, allowing their computer algorithms to create more robust and relevant search results (in most cases) than having a staff of people indexing Web content. What they needed was a way to pay for the costs of the servers and other technology.
According to Vise & Malseed (2006), their budget did not allow Google to create and distribute rich media ads They could do text ads, but they decided to do them differently from other Internet advertising, using computer algorithms to place these small text ads on the search results that were most likely to give the advertisers results. With a credit card, anyone could use this "AdWords" service, specifying the search terms they thought should display their ads, writing the brief ads (less than 100 characters total—just over a dozen words), and even specifying how much they were willing to pay every time someone clicked on their ad. Even more revolutionary, the Google founders decided that no one should have to pay for an ad unless a user clicked on it.
For advertisers, it was as close to a no-lose proposition as they could find. Advertisers did not have to pay unless a person was interested enough to click on the ad. They could set a budget that Google computers could follow, and Google provided a control panel for advertisers that gave a set of measures that was a dream for anyone trying to make a campaign more effective. These measures indicated not only overall effectiveness of the ad, but also the effectiveness of each message, each keyword, and every part of every campaign.
The result was remarkable, Google's share of the search market was not that much greater than the companies that had held the number one position earlier, but Google was making money-lots of money—from these little text ads. Wall Street investors noticed, and, once Google went public, investors bid up the stock price, spurred by increases in revenues and a very large profit margin. Today, Google is involved in a number of other ventures designed to aggregate and deliver content ranging from text to full-motion video, but its little text ads are still the primary revenue generator.
In retrospect, it was easy to see why Google was such a success. Their little text ads were effective because of context—they always appeared where they would be the most effective. They were not intrusive, so people did not mind the ads on Google pages, and later on other pages that Google served ads to through its "content network." And advertisers had a degree of control, feedback, and accountability that no advertising medium had ever offered before (Grant & Wilkinson, 2007)
So what lessons should we learn from the Google story? Advertisers have their own set of lessons, but there are a separate set of lessons for those wishing to understand new media. First, no matter how insightful, no one is ever able to predict whether a technology will succeed or fail. Second, success can be due as much to luck as to careful, deliberate planning and investment. Third, simplicity matters—there are few advertising messages as simple as the little text ads you see when doing a Google search.
The Google tale provides an example of the utility of studying individual companies and industries, so the focus throughout this book is on individual technologies. These individual snapshots, however comprise a larger mosaic representing the communication networks that bind individuals together and enable them to function as a society. No single technology can be understood without understanding the competing and complementary technologies and the larger social environment within which these technologies exist. As discussed in the following section, all of these factors (and others) have been considered in preparing each chapter through application of the "umbrella perspective." Following this discussion, an overview of the remainder of the book is presented.
The "Umbrella Perspective" on Communication Technology
The most obvious aspect of communication technology is the hardware—the physical equipment related to the technology. The hardware is the most tangible part of a technology system, and new technologies typically spring from developments in hardware. However, understanding communication technology requires more than just studying the hardware. It is just as important to understand the messages communicated through the technology system. These messages will be referred to in this text as the "software." Note that this definition of "software" is much broader than the definition used in computer programming. For example, our definition of computer software would include information manipulated by the computer (such as this text, a spreadsheet, or any other stream of data manipulated or stored by the computer), as well as the instructions used by the computer to manipulate the data.
The hardware and software must also be studied within a larger context. Rogers' (I986) definition of "communication technology" includes some of these contextual factors, defining it as "the hardware equipment, organizational structures, and social values by which individuals collect, process, and exchange information with other individuals" (p. 2) An even broader range of factors is suggested by Ball-Rokeach (1985) in her media system dependency theory, which suggests that communication media can be understood by analyzing dependency relations within and across levels of analysts, including the individual, organizational, and system levels. Within the system level, Ball-Rokeach (1985) identifies three systems for analysis: the media system, the political system, and the economic system.
These two approaches have been synthesized into the "Umbrella Perspective on Communication Technology" illustrated in Figure 1.1, The bottom level of the umbrella consists of the hardware and software of the technology (as previously defined). The next level is the organizational infrastructure: the group of organizations involved in the production and distribution of the technology. The top level is the system level, including the political, economic, and media systems, as well as other groups of individuals or organizations serving a common set of functions in society. Finally, the "handle" for the umbrella is the individual user, implying that the relationship between the user and a technology must be examined in order to get a "handle" on the technology The basic premise of the umbrella perspective is that all five areas of the umbrella must be examined in order to understand a technology.
(The use of an "umbrella" to illustrate these five factors is the result of the manner in which they were drawn on a chalkboard during a lecture in 1988, The arrangement of the five attributes resembled an umbrella, and the name stuck Although other diagrams have since been used to illustrate these five factors, the umbrella remains the most memorable of the lot.)
Adding another layer of complexity to each of the five areas of the umbrella is also helpful, fn order to identify the impact that each individual characteristic of a technology has, the factors within each level of the umbrella may be identified as "enabling," limiting." "motivating." and inhibiting, depending upon the rote they play in the technology's diffusion
Enabling factors are those that make an application possible. For example, the fact that the coaxial cable used to deliver traditional cable television can carry dozers of channels :s an enabling factor at the hardware level, Similarly, the decision of policy makers to allocate a portion of the spectrum for cellular telephony is an enabling factor at the system level (political system). One starting point to use in examining any technology is to make a list of the underlying factors from each area of the umbrella tha: make the technology possible in the first place.
Limiting factors are the opposite of enabling factors; they arc those factors that create barriers to the adoption or impacts of a technology, A great example is related to the cable television example above. Although coaxial cable increased the number of television programs that could be delivered to a home, most analog coaxial networks cannot transmit more than 100 channels of programming. 1 o the viewer. 100 channels may seen to be more than is needed, but to the programmer of a new cable television channel unable to get space on a filled-up cable system, this hardware factor represents a definite limitation. Similarly, the fact that the policy makers discussed above initially permitted only two companies to offer cellular telephone service in each market was a system level limitation on that technology. Again, applying the umbrella perspective to create a list of factors that limit the adoption, use, or impacts of any specific communication technology is useful.
Motivating factors are a little more complicated. They are those factors that provide a reason for the adoption of a technology. Technologies are not adopted just because they exist. Rather, individuals, organizations, and social systems must have a reason to take advantage of a technology. The desire of local telephone companies for increased profits, combined with the fact that growth in providing local telephone service is limited, is an organizational factor motivating the telcos to enter the markets for new communication technologies. Individual users desiring information more Quickly can be motivated to adopt electronic information technologies. If a technology does not have sufficient motivating factors for its use, it cannot be a success.
Inhibiting factors are the opposite of motivating ones, providing a disincentive for adoption or use of a communication technology. An example of an inhibiting factor at the software level might be a new electronic information technology that has the capability to update information more quickly than existing technologies, but provides only "old" content that consumers have already received from other sources. One of the most important inhibiting factors for most new technologies is the cost to individual users. Each potential user must decide whether the cost is worth the service, considering his or her budget and the number of competing technologies. Competition from other technologies is one of the biggest barriers any new (or existing} technology faces. Any factor that works against the success of a technology can be considered an inhibiting factor. As you might guess, there are usually more inhibiting factors for most technologies than motivating ones. And if the motivating factors are more numerous and stronger than the inhibiting factors, it is an easy bet that a technology will be a success.
All four factors—enabling. limiting, motivating, and inhibiting—can be identified at the system, organizational, software, and individual user levels. However, hardware can only be enabling or limiting; by itself, hard ware does not provide any motivating factors. The motivating factors must always come from the messages transmitted (software) or one of the other levels of the umbrella.
The final dimension of the umbrella perspective relates to the environment within which communication technologies are introduced and operate. These factors can be termed "external" factors, while ones relating to the technology itself are "internal" factors, In order to understand a communication technology or be able to predict the manner in which a technology will diffuse, both internal and external factors must be studied and compared.
Each communication technology discussed in this book has been analyzed using the umbrella perspective to ensure that all relevant factors have been included in the discussions. As you will see, in most cases, organizational and system-level factors (especially political factors} are more important in the development and adoption of communication technologies than the hardware itself. For example, political forces have, to date, prevented the establishment of a single world standard for high-definition television (HDTV) production and transmission. As individual standards are selected in countries and regions, the standard selected is as likely to be the product of political and economic factors as of technical attributes of the system.
Organizational factors can have similar powerful effects, For example, as discussed in Chapter 4, the entry of a single company, IBM, into the personal computer business in the early 1980s resulted in fundamental changes in the entire industry, dictating standards and anointing an operating system (MS-DOS) as a market leader Finally, the individuals who adopt (or choose not to adopt) a technology, along with their motivations and the manner in which they use the technology, have profound impacts on the development and success of a technology following its initial introduction.
Perhaps the best indication of the relative importance of organizational and system-level factors is the number of changes individual authors made to the chapters in this book between the time of the initial chapter submission in March 2010 and production of the final, camera-ready text in May 2010. Very little new information was added regarding hardware, but numerous changes were made due to developments at the organizational and system levels.
To facilitate your understanding of all of the elements related to the technologies explored, each chapter in this book has been written from the umbrella perspective. The individual writers have endeavored to update developments in each area to the extent possible in the brief summaries provided. Obviously, not every technology experienced developments in each of the five areas, so each report is limited to areas in which relatively recent developments have taken place.
Excerpted from Communication Technology Update and Fundamentals Copyright © 2010 by ELSEVIER INC.. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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1 Introduction to Communication Technologies August E. Grant Grant, August E. 1
2 Historical Perspectives on Communication Technology Dan Brown Brown, Dan 10
3 Understanding Communication Technologies Jennifer H. Meadows Meadows, Jennifer H. 41
4 The Structure of Communication Industries August E. Grant Grant, August E. 52
5 Communication Policy and Technology Lon Berquist Berquist, Lon 66
II Electronic Mass Media 77
6 Digital Television Peter B. Seel Seel, Peter B. Michel Dupagne Dupagne, Michel 79
7 Multichannel Television Services Jennifer H. Meadows Meadows, Jennifer H. 97
8 IPTV: Streaming Media Jeffrey S. Wilkinson Wilkinson, Jeffrey S. 113
9 Interactive Television Cheryl D. Harris Harris, Cheryl D. Hokyung Kim Kim, Hokyung 127
10 Radio Broadcasting Gregory Pitts Pitts, Gregory 138
III Computers & Consumer Electronics 153
11 Personal Computers Chris Roberts Roberts, Chris 155
12 Video Games Brant Guillory Guillory, Brant 171
13 Virtual & Augmented Reality John J. Lombardi Lombardi, John J. 182
14 Home Video Steven J. Dick Dick, Steven J. 193
15 Digital Audio Ted Carlin Carlin, Ted 206
16 Digital Imaging and Photography Michael Scott Sheerin Sheerin, Michael Scott 229
IV Networking Technologies 243
17 Telephony Ran Wei Ran, Wei Yang-Hwan Lee Lee, Yang-Hwan 245
18 The Internet & the World Wide Web August E. Grant Grant, August E. Jim Foust Foust, Jim 268
19 Mobile Computing Mark J. Banks Banks, Mark J. Robert E. Fidoten Fidoten, Robert E. 280
20 Electronic Commerce Tim Brown Brown, Tim 293
21 Broadband & Home Networks Jennifer H. Meadows Meadows, Jennifer H. 303
22 Teleconferencing Michael R. Ogden Ogden, Michael R.321
23 The Mobile Revolution August E. Grant Grant, August E. 343
24 Conclusions Jennifer H. Meadows Meadows, Jennifer H. 351