Friday, 1 October 2010

There's a chance the revolution - or at least "the change" - will be televised!

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As you all know, I like Julian Dobson’s ‘Living with Rats’ blog – despite his tendency to get a bit too greeny-greeny for my preference. And his latest post calling for ‘smarter citizenship’ is a little gem. Not just because if contain the line; “beware the rise of the geekocracy” but because it recognises that things – that change stuff, you know – are driven by consumers. Not by Governments, not by businesses, not by “social entrepreneurs” (as an aside – definition of an anti-social entrepreneur is a bankrupt) but by us, the little old consumer doing what we want to do. Here’s Julian:


“The third approach, which most of us adopt one way or another, is as consumers. We increasingly expect high speed broadband so we can watch on-demand TV or share videos or pictures. We grumble when the service isn’t working or costs too much, but don’t spend a lot of time imagining what we could do with it. It’s just there to respond to our wants.”


What we read here is the market working its wonders. The market that will deliver the stuff that responds to peoples needs, wants, demands. And we need to look at the speed with which TV and the Internet are combining (I’ve said before that Rupert Murdoch might be rather more on the ball than you think with his Times paywall) and at what that means for communications.

The core of all this will be the television not the computer. Oh, I know you’re all watching TV shows on your lap-tops, downloading them to watch while travelling and even (for reasons entirely beyond me) loading short clips onto your mobiles. But that big square thing in your living room is the tool that matters. Why? Because everyone who wants one has one. And with digital signals, interaction via a phone line and push button response via the remote control, the television will be the weapon of choice in the future of digital communications.

True we’ll be tweeting, texting and interacting with mobile phones, we’ll be surfing the wonders of the web on lap tops and mac books but most other folk will be using the TV. As Norfolk’s Wherry Housing Association have shown this can be a pretty useful tool:


“Wherry Digital TV offers services similar to those on this website but can be accessed on Sky and Virgin TV using your remote control, on your mobile phone, on your computer and on the Nintendo Wii.”

On this you can report repairs, check details from the association, link to job centre plus, check bus and train times, make GP appointments and make a complaint. Not the most exciting telly, I know but I’m sure there’s more to come – you never know maybe you’ll be able to read The Times on your TV screen soon? And this service isn’t being funded by a generous government grant or by one or other philanthropic foundation. It isn’t being charged for – it’s just another way for the landlord to keep in touch. Plus a few other serivces. And all through the telly.

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1 comment:

Julian Dobson said...

Thanks for the post! As you might imagine, I both agree and disagree with you.

The point about the telly, the mobile, the computer, is that they are platforms for information. Different people will use them according to their preferences. So Wherry TV is great, if not exactly gripping. But it's the information, not the telly, that's important.

I wrote a piece a couple of months back in New Start magazine about the Big Society idea. I think it's a useful way of thinking about a lot of important stuff, though not an all-encompassing meta-narrative (just as the human being as consumer is just an aspect of life, not a lens through which it should all be interpreted). My conclusion was that for the Big Society to work, we need literacy - not just IT literacy and the ability to use social media and technology, but basic literacy: the abilities to understand the concepts we are trying to engage with and think about and communicate our views to others.

Information without engagement is futile. What really matters is that people are able to process and use that information. The market alone won't do that. Education can help. But what really makes a difference is education in the context of relationship: not just knowing how, but understanding why.