It's the Kids, Stupid

The Convergence of Media Appliances

Dale Amon

Convergence is going to happen whether the entertainment mega-industries like it or not. Will there be specialized devices attached to the net? Certainly. Just like a hotel lobby for a conference has a machine dedicated to the event schedules.

But how can you justify buying all the special purpose devices for your small flat when one box not only does it all, but does it with free software?

You can say that there is a technology barrier. Perhaps it is better to say that many people are like the ones who knew horses when the new infernal horseless carriage came along; or who faced telephones and wireless and the like with trepidation.

Some of us grew up with this stuff because we started out in a technology rich environment like engineering schools. But as the technology spreads it simply becomes a background, part of what normal kids "just know". Things that dumb adults can't handle because they're a bunch of old foggies. And because they're stupid. (Remember the things you said to your friends when you were 14?)

My guess is that the market for non-converged appliances will die off with the age bracket that can't adapt to the new conceptual framework.

And will it cause cultural convergence? Damn right it will. What do you expect when kids are growing up with a peer group spread across a planet? We've already started on the path to a planetary culture, albiet with localized differences enough to keep tourism going. People will still go to Dublin to have a Guinness in Templebar; it's just that other than accent they won't be much different from the locals in attitudes.

I once watched a teen at a cybercafe in Holywood (Just outside Belfast) playing an online game of Red Storm (I think that is the one, the battle strategy game). The opponents included kids in the US and China. You will see this in a lot of online gaming. A global playground.

One of the young guys who worked at Genesis Project as a teen (and now works for VNL at our NY office) developed close friendships with kids his age in Boston, North Carolina and Utah. Along with a couple of his cohorts in Belfast who are now spread out from Dubln to Glasgow, the whole group are a lifetime community. They grew up together and college, new jobs, emmigration have not split them up like it did for previous generations.

Kids form permanent bonds on the net; adults have difficulty forming new bonds even in the local pub. So guess where the virtual communities start?

And when I talk of virtual communities, I don't mean the manufactured ones on web sites, the buzz word virtual communities. That may be what the newbies from the business world mean or perhaps hear when one talks of internet communities. But it has little to do with what the real communities are.

Change undermines the reality built into your mind as you grew up. Those who don't keep up are obsoleted by the kids who grow up and march past them into the future.

This article has appeared in Online Europe and IF: Ireland's Internet Future.