topical media & game development
In many stores there is a multimedia section.
In some stores you will see B-movies being announced
as multimedia topper
In other stores, the multimedia sections has a large offering
of computer peripherals, ranging from DVD-RW drives to webcams and
TV on PC hardware.
Elsewhere you may buy authoring packages to organize
your cell-phone photos, your family photo and
video album, to create your personal archive on DVD.
All this might make you wonder whether multimedia is
See figure (a) and (b), illustrating
our personal memex
But more seriously, what is the commercial impact multimedia
and in particular digital convergence may have?
And, perhaps equally important,
why should we be interested in this from, I must say, an academic perspective?
In this last section of the introductory chapter,
we will look at some popular press items
related to new media, mixed media (in particular
the merge of TV and internet) and mobile multimedia.
We will then briefly reflect on what significance
these issues have from our academic perspective.
As you may be read in the newspapers in the beginning of this
century, large investments
have been made (by both cable and telephone companies)
to improve the technological infrastructure
for the new media.
Simultaneously, joint ventures have arisen between content developers
and providers, as with the Dutch Endemol company.
Now, what does the popular press have to say about
all these developments.
Here is one comment, from a Dutch newspaper:
Peter Greven 23/3/2001 (Volkskrant)
new media sucks --
people like new technology.
they don't like new media.
The translation from Dutch is, admittedly, mine.
It says, in other words, that people like to receive
the old stuff on new gadgets, but that they are not willing
to pay for any new sort of services.
For example, when considering the smart
video recorder, that uses a disk cache for storing
MPEG coded versions of broadcasts, just think
of other gadgets and services that didn't make it or
that are encountering problems in being accepted.
Some famous examples from the past are
the videofoon, videotext, cd-i, and DCC.
Perhaps the reason for these failures is the trial-and-error
also referred to as the spaghetti method,
that is being followed in developing new media.
As characterized by Jan van Dijk, of a dutch university in the
east of the Netherlands (Twente), the spaghetti method
consists of throwing a plate against the wall, and see what
will stick to the wall.
In other words,
just throw your product on the market and see whether it will stick.
Perhaps that is not the right method to be followed.
But can you think of a better one?
In many cases 'the market', that is the people using a service,
do not behave as expected.
For example in Sweden, the upload of material
far exceeded download, which is contrary to the assumptions
TV meets the Web
At first sight it seems promising to develop mixed media.
As an example, a dutch agency announced services to
support the integration of TV and the Web,
promising the integration of
streaming media (audio and video), interactive gaming, virtual reality and 3D animation, interactive TV programming, interactive advertising, video on-demand, webcasting and multimedia
In 2000 they issued a report sketching
the European broadband landscape.
Quoting from this report:
The advent of broadband Internet access, which has been available in the US for some time but is only now beginning to make inroads into Europe, makes a whole range of new services possible.
As download speeds have increased and more bandwidth has become available, the possibility of delivering screen-based content such as films, television programs and music has moved a step closer to mass market usage.
With respect to the adoption of cable or DSL in Europe,
they observe that despite the fact that cable companies
have gained firm ground, there is an even larger number of conventional
telephone lines, around 180 million.
In contrast, there are only 15 million cable subscribers,
giving DSL a large potential audience.
Matthijs Leendertse, co-author of the report, observes:
Gaining competitive advantage and future revenue in Europe's broadband landscape will depend heavily on a company's ability to offer integrated services: access (fixed and wireless) and content.
It is virtually impossible at this point for one single company to offer these services on a pan-European level. This means that companies need to find partners to fill the gaps in their offerings.
Let me assure you, at the moment you will be reading this
the battle is still
Let's look at
another potential hype.
published a report (by Matt Bailey), entitled
Wireless Entertainment: What Is It Worth?, which introduces the
wireless web, and predicts that young media junkies
will demand music videos and animations, and listen to wirelessly
The intent of the report is to investigate
whether investments in the mobile entertainment
examines how providers of music and video services can benefit from the wireless delivery of multimedia. Using survey evidence, pricing information from new wireless networks and interviews with industry visionaries, the report analyzes supply and demand to build an economic and business model for mobile multimedia.
Apart from the need to invent some business model,
there are a number of strategic questions
to be answered in order to estimate the risk
of making investments in this direction.
Following Bailey, we may list questions such as:
- how quickly will wireless connectivity speeds improve?
- what is the demand for services that deliver music and video to wireless devices?
- how can suppliers of multimedia services monetize demand for wireless access?
- how much will it cost to stream multimedia content to wireless devices now and in 2006?
- are consumers willing to compromise quality for lower cost?
If you are interested whether anyone is willing
to take such risks and invest in mobile multimedia,
just look at what players were involved.
Alltel, AT&T Wireless, AtomShockwave, Cingular Wireless, Clear Channel, HitHive, Ifilm, Infinity, KDDI, Liquid Audio, LMIV, Mannesmann, MP3.com, MTV, NetCom, Myplay, Nortel Networks, NTT DoCoMo, Omnitel, Sprint, Telefonica, Telstra, Vitaminic, Verizon Wireless, Virgin Megastores, Vodafone, Voicestream.
Now make up your mind, and ask yourself the
question whether multimedia is worth
your (intellectual) investment.
|Vasulka Objects (1)||Vasulka Objects (2)|
the academic perspective
Being sensitive to hype is only too human.
So also academics may be fascinated by new trends.
and get distracted by rumors on the market.
Breaking loose from this fascination, we may ask ourselves what are the real issues,
and what makes multimedia interesting.
Let me start with answering the latter question first.
As an academic subject, multimedia is interesting
because it offers such an intriguing mix of subjects,
including multimedia technology, exploratory design
and scientific validation.
Commercially, it is safe to say that the volume
of entertainment related multimedia content,
including games, music and infotainment is substantial,
and hence its economic interest is indisputable.
But what are the real issues?
One of the examples of multimedia applications
I will present in the last chapter is an application
in the domain of cultural heritage.
For this domain we have developed so-called digital dossiers
containing a representation of the work(s)
of a particular artist as well as information that
characterizes the work in its historic and cultural context,
needed for the re-exposition or installation of the work.
Problems facing the developer of a digital dossier
cover the interaction of the user with the dossier,
the presentation of both textual and multimedia information,
and facilities for search and navigation.
And there are technical issues, such as which codecs to select
for the videos and how to manage
the content included in the dossier.
Developing a dossier is not as one might naively think
the creation of content only, but rather involves
designing the functionality of the application as well.
Generalizing from the domain of cultural heritage
to the area of infotainment and multimedia information systems,
where an integrated presentation of textual and multimedia
information must be achieved, we may boldly state
that designing the functionality of the application
is the most crucial issue, and as such of primary
All other topics, including multimedia technology,
software engineering, multimedia platform support and
information retrieval techniques,
may be regarded in some loose sense to
be subservient to the issue of design.
As the illustrations in the text testify,
another personal motivation for
being involved in multimedia comes from
the area of digital art.
And, with students I observe a similar interest
in the potential digital content authoring
offers as a vehicle for personal expression.
One of the artists of which I included material
in this book is Woody Vasulka,
who was a pioneer in the early days of video and computer art.
In an interview, held in 1985 with Rene Coelho,
the founder of Montevideo,
Vasulka explained his fascination with the scan processor and later the video
computer by stating that it allowed him
to invent the image.
Still, howver, as he said, in some sense traditional painting
acted as a visual reference system by which to judge
the images produced with the new technology.
Later in the interview, he observed that after some time
he became bored with the images produced this way,
and he started to feel the need to include more
narrative in his work.
His wife, Steina Vasulka, with whom he founded
the Kitchen, a gathering place for new media artists
in New York in the 1970s, remarked that in the early
phase she was struck by the fact that
the material was so friendly,
that is how easy it was to express your ideas.
These words suffice to emphasize the importance
of the motivation you might get out of the material,
to be susceptible to as Brancusi phrases it
the rethorics of the material, even when you are an academic.
|(a) personal events||(b) gadgets|
example(s) -- personal memex
Just imagine that your would store all
your photographs, SMS messages, emails,
and in addition to that record your
physiological condition, using body-wearable sensors.
These data can then be uploaded to your PC,
and later to a mass storage server,
so that they can be used in your medical dossier,
to improve your performance in your favorite
sport, or to augment your memory when
recollecting stories about your holidays
Impossible? Not at all,
Disk space will be cheap.
Your body may act as a network to connect
the body wearable devices,
and, after all, most of the gadgets
do already exist!
Besides, the idea is not new.
See section 2.2
for early visions of the memex.
research directions -- the information society
There is no doubt about it, we live in an information society.
But do we know what an information society is?
In [History] (p. 187), the functions of the media
are summarized as
functions of media
information, education, entertainment
So, perhaps, we could better state that we live in a
So far, in the latter part of the previous century, television
has dominated our lives, and observe that
(following Ernie Kovack, cited from [History]):
television is a medium 'because it is neither rare nor well done'
Back to the main issues, what is an information society?
According to [History]:
the new term 'information society' gave form to a cluster of hitherto more loosely related aspects of
communication -- knowledge, news, literature, entertainment, all exchanged through different media and different
media materials -- paper, ink, canvas, paint, celluloid, cinema, radio, television and computers.
From the 1960s onwards, all messages, public and private, verbal and visual, began to be considered as 'data',
information that could be transmitted, collected, recorded, whatever their point of origin, most effective through
So, from the varieties of perspectives we have discerned,
including technological perspectives, societal perspectives
and psychological perspectives,
we must investigate the problem of communication:
That is, simply, who says what to whom in what channel with what effect?!
The remainder of the book will, however, will treat these
issues mainly from a technological perspective.
In the chapters that follow, we will enquire after
the technological assumptions that make
an information society possible.
- what -- content
- who -- control
- whom -- audience (how many)
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