Over the last week a couple of news articles caught my eye with respect to the distribution of video across the Internet. In the past few articles I have written I have primarily focused on the aspect of what the network operators might be looking at as a real impact due to video becoming a dominant use of the connectivity infrastructure.
Take, for a specific example, the cell phone providers as they struggle to build out/upgrade the necessary infrastructure so they can supply LiveTV to their users as just one way we can see the push to accommodate user demand for this application.
The same holds true for cable or DSL as we move towards an all HDTV video standard and the user does not want to wait for …Buffering…Buffering…Buffering…Buffering… content to be viewable or have their viewing experience interrupted as they are just starting to enjoy themselves – not that it has ever happened to me or anything.
While all of that is certainly true and important to our discussions there is a slightly deeper impact that seems to be crawling out into the light, one that is going to profoundly impact the way our society moves forward, one that will change the way we learn and communicate. There is a time in the not too distant future where we will no longer have to settle for average.
What do I specifically mean when I say that we will no longer have to settle for average?
If we were to look at any given profession we would find that the overwhelming majority of time we are dealing with the average performance – as they say DUH, that is the definition of average. However, what happens when we have a communications based society where only the very best see the mass distribution of their work. I am not talking about the very best in the sense of people, even thought that will undoubtedly have an impact but rather only the cream of the crop ever making the mainstream distribution channels. What happens to this society when only the most inspired lectures be granted the right to be distributed across the Internet? Even more important, how do we define the best? Will there be a user feedback section where if 99% of the viewers leave excellent ratings will the next group of people only view that one particular video out of all the choices?
If we were to use the example of an on-line class on any given subject we could envision a scenario where many professors would record their course and release it for viewing. I would suggest that as time progresses the students that watched the course would then rate the content for ease of understanding, charisma and organization among other criteria. Even though we would have several excellent people all trying to present this course material the one or perhaps two that were most effective (as rated by the students) would eventually become the “standard” until someone else managed to produce a “better” video assuming they could overcome the momentum built up from several thousands positive feedback ratings on the standard.
The implication is that professionally produced content with an eye toward capturing the audience’s attention and conveying the message will at some point displace the rest of the people in the field that are involved in providing the same subject material. At that point there will be only one option left for the content providers that are deemed less than the best of category and that would be for them to release their material into the public domain. This also creates an interesting problem because if there is a parity in the quality of the material the viewing audience will almost always gravitate toward the free content (or advertising supported content, as long as it doesn’t degrade from the viewing experience) leaving less of a paying audience for the previous provider.
What does this say if we apply this scenario to the education industry? Are we moving towards a society that doesn’t need hundreds of thousands of educators? Will we at some point reach a time where only a few very professional content producers will manufacturer every lecture we will need to see to continually keep up with our education? Will we reach a point where teachers will be reduced to content writers and the face on the screen will only read the content possibly without even fully comprehending what is being said?
Even more important, what will be the overall effect on a society that only sees one perspective or one presentation of any given subject? Could this happen in such a technological future as we might possibly foresee or will this very mechanism allow for the rapid distribution of content and since we now have an almost instantaneous communications infrastructure to get the message across we will now have the ability to comment and produce even better content to displace the previous content?
To be honest with you, I don’t know. At the same time I do see a time in the not too distant future where the mechanism of how we learn (or exchange our information, news and entertainment) will morph into a very different stream. As TV shows like The Daily Show start to displace the Evening News one has to wonder if education, entertainment and news will all become one as we move forward.
I do know that no longer will we have to settle for an average day by the average speaker as being acceptable and I, for one, welcome that change.