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<nettime> (fwd) Gary Chapman: L.A. Times column, 3/22/01
geert lovink on 23 Mar 2001 09:15:11 -0000

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<nettime> (fwd) Gary Chapman: L.A. Times column, 3/22/01

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gary Chapman" <gary.chapman {AT} mail.utexas.edu>
To: <chapman {AT} lists.cc.utexas.edu>
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2001 6:57 AM
Subject: L.A. Times column, 3/22/01

> Friends,
> It's been quite a while since I sent out one of my Los Angeles Times
> columns -- I think this is the first one this year.
> There have been some changes at the newspaper, and it's taken some
> time to sort them out.
> Like many other businesses, the Times has been affected by the
> downturn in the economy and the loss of advertising revenue from the
> technology sector. They first killed the Monday technology section
> and moved most tech reporting to Thursdays, previously the day for
> "personal technology" stories but now the only day that focuses on
> tech issues. Nearly all the technology columns were killed, including
> some by respected names in the field.
> Fortunately, the Times editors decided to keep me on and continue to
> run "Digital Nation."
> However, in addition to moving the column to every other Thursday,
> the column is now shorter than it used to be and I've been asked to
> write more about consumer technology issues. I've been assured that
> the more "political" subjects I've addressed in the past are still
> welcome, but the placement of the column and the context of the
> changes at the Times have all pointed to a slightly different
> emphasis for future "Digital Nation" columns. The editors and I are
> still working this out.
> These are tough economic times for many people in the technology
> business, and people dependent on that business sector, so it's not
> my place to complain about anything -- I'm grateful to the Los
> Angeles Times for giving me space for the past six years and I'm
> enthusiastic about doing many more columns for them in the future.
> Carol and I are doing fine. She spent two weeks in Antigua,
> Guatemala, last month to improve her Spanish, and we're both planning
> a similar "immersion language course" in Italian, in Verona, for
> August. Right now is the best time to be in Central Texas -- the
> weather is breathtaking and the wildflowers are starting to bloom.
> So we're happy and doing well.
> Hope everyone is the same. Best regards to all.
> -- Gary
> gary.chapman {AT} mail.utexas.edu
>     ------------------------------------------
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>     ------------------------------------------
> Thursday, March 22, 2001
> Will Interactive Internet Television Turn Into a Two-Headed Monster?
> By Gary Chapman
> Copyright 2001, The Los Angeles Times, All Rights Reserved
> It should come as no surprise that the Internet is headed to a very
> familiar technology: your television.
> The idea of merging TV and the Web typically has been greeted with
> scorn, skepticism and disbelief among heavy Internet users. Critics
> of the concept have pointed out that the Internet is a "lean-forward"
> technology of active engagement, whereas TV is a "lean-back"
> technology of passive absorption.
> However, market studies have shown that at least one in four Internet
> users watches TV while online, and companies are keen on catching the
> interest of these "multi-taskers." There are also new kinds of
> content on the Web that might be better suited to TV than to the PC
> monitor, and at least one of these innovative, interactive Web TV
> systems is Linux-based.
> But plainly, some of these new Internet-based interactive TVs are not
> likely to convert critics.
> For example, Microsoft's WebTV -- a set-top box and subscription
> service that allow limited Web and e-mail access on a TV screen -- is
> being replaced by the company's new UltimateTV platform. And giant
> AOL Time Warner is rolling out AOLTV at the same time. Both of these
> services will feature Internet access on TV as well as the features
> found in products such as TiVo or ReplayTV, which let TV viewers
> record programs on a hard drive or stop and replay live TV
> broadcasts. Both UltimateTV and AOLTV also will provide unique
> content to subscribers, a step toward both services becoming new,
> national TV networks.
> But AOLTV and UltimateTV still have the constraints that hard-core
> Internet users disdain: the low resolution of current TV screens,
> which makes Web pages look cartoonish and often unreadable; the
> "dumbed-down" look and feel of services oriented to people who feel
> intimidated by a personal computer; and the overwhelming sense that
> interactive TV is aimed primarily at vacuuming users' wallets.
> Among longtime Internet users there is a widespread contempt for
> commercial TV and its "lowest-common-denominator" marketing and
> programming, and thus irritation that the Internet might be pulled in
> this direction by the likes of Microsoft and AOL.
> There are some emerging alternatives for interactive, Internet-based
> TV that might appeal even to the critics. A company in Santa Ana
> called Ch.1 (http://www.ch1.com) is working with TV set producers
> such as Princeton Graphics and Sylvania to hook high-definition,
> digital TVs directly to the Internet. The Ch.1 system, which is both
> the hardware inside a digital TV and a subscription service, allows
> full access to the Internet through any Internet Service Provider,
> even high-speed cable and DSL services, and the high-definition sets
> display Web pages and e-mail the same way they appear on computer
> screens.
> The Ch.1 TV sets offered now run a modified version of the open
> source operating system, Linux. Ch.1 is using Linux in the hope it
> will lure designers to write applications for example to transfer
> data to Palms and other hand-held computers, and embedding certain
> kinds of video and audio formats in the system.
> "We don't see our product as a replacement to the PC but as a
> supplement to it," says Rey Roque, vice president of Ch.1. Today,
> there's a lot of content emerging on the Web that can be viewed or
> heard, such as streaming video, Internet radio, MP3 music, weather
> maps, sports scores, online games, large graphics such as photographs
> and Flash animations. All of these things become more accessible with
> a fast broadband connection to the Internet.
> The Web site Yack.com (http://www.yack.com), for example, lists
> hundreds of live and recorded Web events in video or audio formats,
> everything from talking pundits at the Cato Institute in Washington
> to an interview with a Belgian dominatrix. There's every reason to
> believe that people will watch a wide variety of Web content online
> through their TV sets, sharing the experience with others.
> There also are growing opportunities for creating audio and video
> content for others to see. Apple Computer's user-friendly (and free)
> iMovie software is being used by thousands of people to create quick
> and interesting video files. The Independent Media Center, whose Los
> Angeles branch was created during the Democratic Convention last
> year, allows people to post video and audio files (under 100
> megabytes) on the Web for free (http://la.indymedia.org).
> It's obvious that a battle is shaping up about whether the Internet
> will quickly become dominated by giant companies that will mimic the
> programming and advertising models of TV today, or an explosion of
> creative and diverse content gradually will replace mass-market
> programming. Whichever model wins will have an immense effect on
> society for years to come.
> Gary Chapman is director of The 21st Century Project at the
> University of Texas. He can be reached at
> gary.chapman {AT} mail.utexas.edu.
>     ------------------------------------------
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