Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: Stillborn media
From: savage@panix.com (Colin Savage)

Bruce and David:

I was a bit shocked to read Note 26.7. In a word: no.

Each of the "Stillborn Media" proposed are lively and growing each day. I've listed rebuttals to each below.

"1. Broad-scale identification and surveillance media (not in use, fortunately! because they are a great menace to individual freedoms)."

These may be a great menace to freedom, but they are pervasive. The town of East Newark, NJ, just installed video cameras to provide surveillance of the entire town; the cameras are monitored from the police station.

Most English city centers are monitored by cameras.

Most public spaces on private property within the US are monitored by video cameras.

"1.1. Barcodes tattooed on people, so with some scanning device they can be always identified (it appeared, for example in the movie *Alien 3.* Evidently, we already have the technology to use this)."

Currently a hipster trick in the East Village, NY, (and elsewhere). Never mind the Nazi implementation in WWII.

"1.2. Monitoring private homes with TV cameras (as shown, for example in George Orwell's novel *1984*)."

See 1, above.

"1.3. ID card with genetic information in it (This was a serious European Union proposal. Fortunately, it was finally dismissed)."

All US soldiers are required to give DNA samples to assist in identification of casualties (no more unknown soldiers). Proposals to encode drivers' licenses with medical data are under consideration.

"1.4. Small radio transmitters inside people's bodies, so they can be tracked down. (You probably have seen that idea hundreds of times. Last time I saw it was in Gilliam's movie *12 Monkeys*)."

Internal trackers are in use on livestock and under review by FDA == the human application promoted is to protect children from kidnapping. External units are commonplace in the US justice system.

"2. Communication media
"2.1 Video-Phones (I'm quite sure that video-phones will never work in the same way as telephones. They can be used in video-conferences, but video-phones are an invasion of your privacy. You don't want to appear with a hangover face when some stranger calls you :-) )"

You may not want to, but it happens. Increasingly business meetings are held with either full-blown video conferencing or with a speakerphone-Quickcam jury-rig.

"2.2 Web-phones. (though they are starting to be used, I'm quite pessimistic. I believe they are going to be banned because of PTT interests before they can be used as real phones)."

The PTTs are irrelevant to the discussion. It is of far greater likelihood that voice becomes a subset on the data traffic than that a separate voice network persists into the next century. At any rate, organizations are already using Net telephony in commercial settings, c.f. IDG, et al.

"3. Aesthetic media.

"3.1. AI generated art. It is now possible to produce "contemporary" artwork by means of a computer, with no human supervision. Although this "art" is as good (or bad) as some ultra-modern works, this line is not very popular, mainly because we still live under the Romantic paradigm of the Creator of a work of art."

Um ... Naim June Pak and his self-replicating pieces? Beyond that one, how 'bout any suitably psychedelic screensaver?

"3.2. Real multimedia shows. That is, shows that employ other senses than hearing and seeing, such as smell, touch, or taste. It is possible to introduce, for example, plot-related smells in a movie theater, but no one seems very interested in doing that. My suspicion is that no one dares because a)it is not clear that people really want smells, touching or tasting in a show, b) it is still very expensive and c) no one really has good ideas about mixing different senses and producing something really valuable == or at least entertaining)."

Smell-O-Vision was introduced into theaters in the 1950s. Department stores, some corporations, and other organizations already infuse their interiors with aromas that (the theory goes) heighten performance or loosen the wallets.

(((bruces remarks: That's an interesting rejoinder, though it begs the question as to whether "stillborn media" makes a sensible category. After all, there's still rocket mail, the Babbage Occulting Telegraph, and Visi-Dep 3-D television to consider.)))

Colin Savage (savage@panix.com)