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The rapid development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has led to a situation where digitization, storage, manipulation and development and dissemination of all forms of multimedia, be it text, graphics, photographs, audio, animation or audio-visuals, are accomplished quite easily and conveniently. This in turned has put into motion the process of Media Convergence which could ultimately result in all types of media are melting or fusing into one another.
The consumer will then be able to get all news and entertainment through a single window of access.
“Media convergence is an ongoing process, occurring at various intersections of media technologies, industries, content and audiences; it’s not an end state. There will never be one black box controlling all media. Rather, thanks to the proliferation of channels and the increasingly ubiquitous nature of computing and communications, we are entering an era where media will be everywhere, and we will use all kinds of media in relation to one another” (Jenkins, 2001).
In the context of the media however, a distinction has to be initially made between media, genres and delivery technologies, to comprehend the process of convergence in its entirety. Sound that is captured digitally is a medium, a feature film is a genre and DVDs, MP3 files and CDs are delivery technologies. The media is a constant factor, while the genre and the delivery technologies are the variables. Thus different media can ride on different or the same genre and delivery technologies. With increasing convergence, the tendency is for varied media and genres to converge on a common delivery technology.
What this implies is that sound, images, videos and animations, in the form of films, cartoons, games, etc. can be delivered through the one and same web technology over the Internet. Take for example a device as ubiquitous as the mobile or cell phone in the present world. With wireless technology, it is now not only possible to talk over the device, but also to send text, graphic and audio-visual messages, to listen to music, to play games, to watch television and movies and even to connect to the Internet and do everything that is possible on the net.
In other words, a small device can be used to practically bombard the consumer with a full array of media deliverables. Businesses will naturally try to cash on in the situation and diversify into many of the associated businesses that convergence has brought together into the cell phone. In the media industry, it becomes all the more easy for a news production house to get into music, entertainment and movie production as well as development of computer games.
A more holistic View Media convergence is however only the most visible manifestation of a much wider phenomenon. The Newton’s Telecom Dictionary (2002) defines convergence as a trend for the traditional distinctions between industries to blur enabled largely by the ability to digitise the different media. The International Telecommunication Union (1999) does not describe convergence from the viewpoint of media at all.
It characterizes convergence as the technological, market, legal of regulatory capability to integrate previously differentiated technologies, markets or industries. The Australian Convergence Review (2002), on the other hand, defines convergence as the restructuring of the services sector enabled by digitization. Convergence, from a holistic viewpoint, is the increasing use of common technologies by different sectors, predominantly telecommunication, media and Information and Communication Technology.
In fact technologies, services and the entities that provide these services are considered to be the internal drivers of convergence; while digital technology and liberalization are considered to be the external drivers of convergence (Suping, et al, 2006). While the internal drivers take advantage of platform-independent digital technology to transcend their mutually defined boundaries, liberalization allows convergence to convergence to cross economic and political barriers. The Consequences of Convergence Technology and media convergence has impacted nearly all aspects related to the media.
“New media technologies have lowered production and distribution costs, expanded the range of available delivery channels and enabled consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate and re-circulate media content in powerful new ways; on the other hand, there has been an alarming concentration of the ownership of mainstream commercial media, with a small handful of multinational media conglomerates dominating all sectors of the entertainment industry” (Jenkins, 2004). The lowering of production and distribution costs has enabled production houses to form conglomerates and expand their reach to cover the entire globe.
But such convergence has also resulted in concentration of ownership which could lead to monopolistic approaches. In such cases the media could be effectively used for propagation of false notions or propaganda. A very glaring example has been the media manipulation for the sake consumerism. The slim and slender female figure promoted in the media for selling a variety of products has led to anorexia and unwonted anxiety in a high percentage of adolescent girls. Consumer habits of accessing and selecting products have also changed drastically with convergence.
A person working on his laptop can scan through a variety of media products, listen to or view sample files before he or she decides what to purchase. And it does not stop at that. The consumer can then upload his or her own feedbacks on the products for others to view and share. In news production, User Generated Content (UGC) is finding such a level of acceptance that the role of the professional or mainstream journalist id fast turning into that of a news gatekeeper – someone who shifts through UGC and presents to the audience at large what are the most newsworthy.
Thanks to media convergence, a new knowledge culture is taking shape around what has been termed as collective intelligence as distinct from individual intelligence or knowledge. This knowledge culture has led to the emergence of new forms of communities, voluntary in nature and temporal in affiliation, held together by the knowledge that they produced and shared amongst themselves. The Corporate-Consumer Relationship Convergence can therefore be characterized both as a top-down corporate-driven process, as well as a bottom-up consumer-driven.
Business houses are turning up the pace of delivery of a wide range of media products across a equally wide range of convergent delivery technologies; and in the face of this abundance of services and products, consumers using very much the same convergent technologies to sort through, bring under control, and finally not only to use what is required by them, but also to share their product usage experiences with other users. The corporate world has mostly tended to reinforce and utilize the newfound consumer behaviour to their own advantage, but once in a while it has also sought to contradict or reject consumer opinions.
Convergence opens up new markets for businesses, but as the businesses move on to higher technology markets, they always face the risk of losing their traditional markets (Digital Convergence Initiative Report, 2005). When a television production house takes on to promotion of media products over the web, there is always the risk of its traditional customer base discarding television viewing altogether and switching over to the web, especially with Web 2. 0 technologies making the web a much more convenient and user-friendly place look for media products.
Convergence is therefore bringing technologies and products together on to a single platform for uniform delivery across the globe. The global village will be as much a child of convergence and convergence will be a crucial element of the global society.
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