Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Old media New Media 2 - The one's that changed the game

The Balance of Payment crisis in the 80's forced the Indian government to introduce several reforms opening up the economy and placing the country on the 'globalization' map. The 'Licence Raj' partly ended and several industries got a boost. The Information Technology and the Communication Technology got a further boost with the appointment of Mr. Sam Pitroda. The yellow coloured STD PCO's that dot every corner of the roadside around the country are because of Mr. Pitroda's vision.

Apart from the parallel evolution of technologies in computers, Internet, cameras and mobile phones which converted the audiences into producers, three major 'events' are also responsible for the way we distribute digital content and communicate with each other in India.

The first one was in 1990-91 when Gulshan Kumar, through his T-Series produced and sold audio cassettes at a fraction of the price at which they were generally sold. If I remember right, music cassettes used to cost anywhere between Rs.100 - 150; Gulshan Kumar turned the industry on its head by selling the audio cassettes of his film Aashiqui for just Rs.25/-. Everyone could now afford to buy legal and non-pirated music!

When Reliance said 'Karlo Duniya Mutthhi Mein' in the later part of 1990's, making incoming calls free while offering mobiles at Rs.500, it forced the industry to lower rates and ultimately offer free incoming calls. I am sure I wouldn't have been able to afford to pay for incoming calls.

The third big one was Moser Baer, which changed the game again when they brought out video DVDs at a price of Rs.34 when they were selling at a minimum 150 bucks. And they have good titles too!

I am waiting for the next big one, the Aakash Tablet. I have mentioned this in my earlier posts too. This one is causing a lot of heartburn to millions who have already 'bought' it. "Inteha ho gayi, intezar ki".

To the manufacturers and Mr.Kapil Sibal I say this- We have the inclination and the patience, you have the time; but all of us have used up most of it. So hurry. Please. At least for the millions of students.

Note for my students: This one I have typed between Borivali and Dadar, again in a criwded train between 7.10 and now, 7.50 a.m. So when will you send me a link to your blog? The one which you type and upload while travelling?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Old Media New Media 1

This is in continuation with my earlier post on new and emerging media technologies.

New and emerging technologies have changed the way we consume and produce content. The technology has become advanced, cheaper and accesible to us, the common public. This has to be looked at from several angles.  

I bought my first computer in 1992 for Rs.35000/-. Many will be surprised by the configuration. It was a 40386 processor, meaning it had a processing power of 386 MHz, much lesser than many mobile phones available today. The computer had a whopping 120MB (Yes, no typo here. Its MB and not GB) and 4 MB of RAM! On that computer I could easily use CorelDraw and PageMaker for my DTP work. It was the best PC in the neighbourhood.  

I also remember making my first video using a PC with a 533 MHz processor and 512 MB RAM. I can vouch for the fact that the video can hold its own against any video I have made recently. The only real difference is that it took very long to render the video the. It took about 24 hrs to render that 5 min video with all sorts of SFX. It could take 24 mins now.   Today too, a PC costs about the same if not lesser, but you could get a processing power of 3GHz, 500 GB HDD and 3GB RAM. You get advanced software to create fascinating images and videos.  

Why just computers, if you have a reasonably priced mobile phone, you still get more processing power than my first computer. Take for example this photograph I have clicked today as I was walking towards the Raj Bhavan's gate after a meeting. The sky was grey so there was very little colour. I clicked the photograph and then edited it with the inbuilt photo editor in my phone. I cropped it, increased the saturation and tweaked the contrast a bit. And viola! I have a superb photograph. This photo editor is a standard Android App. You also have the Photoshop App for Android available for free!

The point is, I would not have been able to do this so quickly on my older computer and probably would have taken longer even on my present one, because I would first have to start up Photoshop or some other picture editor, do the edit and then upload it. This one, I could do literally in a minute or two using my  mobile phone, barring the time taken to type this post. I am in a crowded train, travelling back home as I am typing this.

Ok, I reached Borivali while typing this and the battery is down to a few seconds, almost ridiculing my post on new technology. Will have to charge it to post this. See the irony of it all. But still.....

One for the new media technologies!

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Media = Digital Media = 'Social' Media?

Is 'New Media' always digital? Is it really 'social'?

Well, in contemporary times, probably yes. But then, wasn't print a new medium when it was invented?  And radio, and then television? With every 'new' medium, there have been social, political and economic changes, because we have been exposed to different thoughts, ideas and challenges with each of them. With every new medium, there have been changes in how we receive, use and disseminate information.

The difference between the 'older' new media and the newer ones is that the content is now stored in a binary form. It is now digital, rather than analogue. Instead of storing data on tapes and records, we now store data in microchips. Instead of data being 'fixed' it is now in a state of flux. This enables content to be converted from one form to another easily and equally easily distributed allowing trans-mediality.

Apart from the way content is stored, even the way in which it is produced has changed. Because the equipment required to produce content was expensive, only large organizations or people with deep pockets could even think of producing content. All that has changed with digitization of the processes. Today, one can produce a film on a shoe-string budget, make prints and distribute copies at very low costs, record an audio and play it without costly equipment. The audiences, once passive receivers of content have now become producers of content themselves.

The next few years are bound to be interesting. With cloud computing and crowd sourcing it is going to be easier than ever to produce content. The degree of convergence provided by the Internet and mobile phones are proportional to the degree of divergence they provide. The audiences are being increasingly redefined along with the producers.

The devices used for production are getting smaller and cheaper, with even the economically and socially backward marginalized members of the society becoming capable of producing as well as distributing content.

Is this phase going to bring about social and political changes? Will the centralized system of information dissemination going to be really challenged? Are these changes going to make the power centre answerable?

Is there going to be a 'New Media Revolution'?