May 30, 2007
It's 1939 All Over Again
I'll credit Bill Bryson for stimulating this entry and providing some of the "factoids".
For many people, the 1939 New York World's Fair was their introduction to television.
Whenever new media technologies appear it is inevitable that: 1) they are compared to existing technologies they appear to have the potential to compete with or replace, and 2) the new technology emulates an existing technology (although not necessarily the one that is threatens to replace).
Some felt motion pictures threatened theatre. However, it initially emulated photography with the earliest movies being moving images of ordinary life activities such as street scenes. It wasn't until a bit later that movies emulated theatre in terms of subject matter: make-up and exaggerated gestures (apparently it wasn't apparent that movies brought the audience up-close to the actors and overacting wasn't necessary). Eventually filmmakers discovered they could move the camera, edit their film, and other techniques unique to the medium that we take for granted today.
Television was a perceived threat to radio. Although the New York Times reported that television would never be a serious threat to radio because it required a change in behavior; unlike radio, people had to sit in front of it and keep their eyes on the screen.
Like film before it, the initial television programs were of people doing ordinary things (talking, smoking, laughing). Many radio programs were turned into television programs. The first television commercial appeared in 1941 and was 60 seconds of watching a Bulova watch tick. In many ways television became radio with pictures.
If we fast forward to the explosion of video on the internet and impending explosion on mobile devices, its not uncommon to hear one industry pundit proclaim television is dead, and another poo poo the thought of watching a movie on an iPod or other small screen device. The reality probably lies somewhere in the middle. Although, those under 20 or who live with someone under 20 can probably see distinct changes in how/where media is being consumed and also who is creating the media being consumed.
While where/how we consume "television" is changing, it is still for the most part a passive experience. While interactive television isn't a new term or concept, much of its poor adoption has been due to the poor user experience a television set offers for interactivity. The computer, handheld devices, applications like the Adobe Media Player, and appliances like Apple TV open a whole new world of "lean forward" experiences that might finally deliver on the promise of interactive television or what some might call Television 2.0 (which seems to mean different things to different people).