Converging on Chaos

I don’t consider myself avant-garde when it comes to technology, but even as (what I consider to be) an average consumer in the US, my household is a case-study on convergence.

Case in point: Both the desktop computer and laptop allow me to listen to music, watch movies, Skype, send email, and of course, Facebook. The smartphone, essentially an ultra-portable mini-laptop, also performs these functions, takes pictures and video, and also has the capacity to make phone calls (allegedly, as I have not figured out how to use that feature yet). In addition to books, the Sony Reader can wirelessly receive daily editions of the newspaper, and stores pictures and music (for reasons unbeknownst to me). The Mp3 player has apps, the TV is connected to the internet, so I can listen to music, watch YouTube, and NetFlix, not to be outdone by the video game systems (Wii, X-Box, or PlayStation) which double as DVD players, and give online access to music and movies. Overkill? You decide.

Clearly, digitalization has changed the way information- sound, images, data- is broadcast, by allowing them to move from one medium to another (Hanson, p. 86).  Parallel to this technological convergence has been an industrial convergence with the lines between telecommunications (distribution) and broadcast (content) being blurred (Siochru & Girard, p. 28). This poses significant challenges for media governance, which has traditionally treated these as separate entities.  As Siochru and Girard point out, even seasoned regulators in wealthy countries have chosen not to regulate new media content for social objective (p. 29), using the example of the CRTC  in 1999 which was one of the first in the world to admit that it could not regulate new media services on the Internet. This makes a good case for the importance of education on media literacy, which Brian O’Neill discusses in his article on Media Literacy and Communication Rights. In the absence of effective regulation of content, we need to be better equipped to handle potential media threats and be discerning consumers.

Convergence is just one trend, that particularly resonated with me, which is affecting the media’s social and political role, and consequently national and global governance. If nothing else, let this post serve as an inventory list for my insurance, should anything unfortunate happen to any of the belongings listed above in the event of a fire, robbery, or natural disaster.

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