Posts Tagged ‘Television’

The Convergence of Convenience

We are, undeniably, living in an age of convergence. A convergence of ideas, cultures and technology which transcends even the most well defined boundaries. Practicality is the name of the game in the present environment where time is of the essence and every minute wasted is translated into money lost. In other words, time has evolved into a sort of a financial aspect which corporates keep tabs on owing to the cut throat competition. If your device takes more time than your rival’s to process a task, it is considered redundant and is substituted. There is no room for complacency because the minute you develop a piece of software or hardware, your rival will have developed a more efficient one. Hence the process of evolution is continuous and the consumer is left with a plethora of choices for his every need. Whether that’s a boon or a bane is a subject of debate. That technology today caters to almost every human need is a fact that needn’t be argued upon; yet there is always that longing for that elusive piece of the tech puzzle that would represent the ultimate convergence of human conveniences.

The humble Mobile Phone has gone a long way since it’s first, almost prehistoric, form. It no longer is just a device to make calls and send messages. Current mobile phones do so much more. No longer do you need a separate mp3 player or a camera or even a laptop, because the mobile phone of today is a convergence of all these technologies into just one, highly mobile and efficient device. Applications and software for smartphones have various utilities which further reduce the need for separate hardware. An array of operating systems are now being implemented on mobile phones and the dominance of Symbian Java is under threat by OS’s such as Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Linux, MeeGo, Maemo etc. The Android OS developed by Google features multitasking and is capable of running virtual operating systems, which is surely a great feature for developers and geeks alike. The 4G standards aim at providing the user with a data rate of 100 Mbit/s while the client physically moves at high speeds relative to the station, and 1 Gbit/s while client and station are in relatively fixed positions. This means that streaming of HDTV programming, video chat, MMS etc. will all be seamlessly available to the user on the move, with ease.

Laptops, which were once seen as the ultimate replacement for its bulky counterpart – the Desktop, is now under threat by Netbooks. Optimized for low cost and low weight, they are an ideal companion for the businessman on the move providing him with everything from business applications, Internet on the move, to entertainment; all with great battery life. Another competitor in this area is the Tablet PC. It is a laptop PC equipped with a stylus and a touchscreen which aims at providing a more-mobile and highly functional alternative to the laptop. It provides the user the choice of operating system that he prefers which further gives it an edge over similar devices. Yet the power of the Laptop is its saving grace. A high end laptop can easily compete with a Desktop PC and deliver the same if not better user experience in gaming, software development, animation etc.

Derivatives of the Tablet PC are PDA’s and eBook readers that are so in vogue these days. Even though they do not provide a choice of OS for the user, and are quite rigid in their application, these devices are battling for a chunk of the market share among computing devices. eBook readers are optimized for reading books in the digital format. A huge library of eBooks available online complements these devices. The recently introduced Apple iPad is the perfect example. It’s an eBook reader equipped with bluetooth, WiFi and 3G, truly representing a convergence of technologies. It’s competitors, the Adam tablet, HP Slate, Amazon Kindle etc. are great alternatives with better features at a similar and sometimes even less cost.

Among this revolution of mobile gadgetry there is a dark horse that is still putting up a fight. The Television is not far behind in implementing the latest technologies and integrating itself with various other devices. Notwithstanding it’s bulky nature, the latest HDTV’s, 3DTV’s, Plasma, LED and LCD televisions are still competing in the home entertainment market. The quality of picture and sound delivered by these televisions is currently unmatched by any laptop. Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a great example of one technology adapting itself to another. IPTV is a system through which internet television services are delivered over the internet and broadband Internet access networks, instead of being delivered through traditional radio frequency broadcast, or cable television. Coupled with complementary Satellite TV technology, the IPTV provides a new level of interactive services to the user with a huge range of channels to choose from every part of the world and features of live television, time-shifted programming, and video on demand delivered right to the users living room.

VeriChip's implantable RFID device

The next level of live, boundless, wireless human interaction with technology is the Microchip. A human microchip implant is an integrated circuit device or RFID transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being. An implant typically contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information. No longer would you need to carry a wallet containing money or a number of credit cards for shopping. The microchip would contain all information of your bank accounts and this would be used for all transactions. A device that actually resides in you and becomes a part of you. A true representation of convergence indeed.

But with it comes the hazards of the compromise of privacy. We have already granted access to our personal details, likes, dislikes to major websites through social networking and other means knowingly or otherwise. Imagine the near future where governments have  made microchip implants compulsory on grounds of keeping a continuous eye on its citizens. Coupled with data gathered from your Internet activity, every little  private information of every person would be available and then stored in databases following which every move of yours would be watched. An uncomfortable proposition indeed.

We stand at the cusp of a technological revolution. A revolution which in itself is evolving through our search for that decisive technology which would quench our eternal thirst for convenience. Let us hope though that this revolution sets us free instead of making us slaves to our own creations.


The Science of Manipulation: The Mass Media Hoax

Mass media in the current society shapes everything. Right from what products you use to what your perception of global events is. Techniques of sensationalization, creation of hysteria, mass propaganda are the most common tools used by the media to influence the public. Ratings are everything in today’s money driven media industry, and interests of the public are rarely taken into consideration. The media is perfectly capable of converting the most simplest of statements into ones that amaze, astonish and puzzle the audience. Frankly, would you watch a news piece which just states plain facts and data or one which flashes it at you through colourful graphics, animation and other techniques of the sort? That is exactly what the media expects from you. So what this all comes down to is that the mass media, around the world, knowingly or unknowingly has, for decades, shaped, controlled and manipulated the human mind into unconsciously accepting everything that is presented. What implication does it have on the audience? Simply that they, without questioning or investigating or as much as logically thinking about the theory presented, readily accept it with a notion that since it’s on television, it must be true.

When and how have we allowed this this to happen? Doesn’t science tell us that theories require extensive study, research, test and application before they can be proven and accepted? By theories we do not just imply scientific theory either. “A theory is a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.” Now, based on this definition alone, how much of what we see on television is actual fact? Do we take for granted that news agencies do extensive research into every piece of news they collect, taking into account millions of individualistic opinions that exist? That the conclusions arrived at have been properly examined by uncorrupted agencies of investigation? How can we be sure? Well, the simple answer in the context of the modern trends of news reporting is that: You don’t need to. We are constantly fed such ideals of blindly accepting what our 42″ modern day messiah of “truth”, tells us.

Another dark weapon that the media shamelessly uses is Extensive Stereotyping. Everything from a race, culture, tradition, religion, language, to a nation are stereotyped. The media can lead you to develop an opinion about practically anything on the planet with a few visual images. That is their power of manipulation.

Study the following images and visualize the things that come to your mind. I’m going to name the series of images as: The United States in a nutshell.

To a lay person who has no present opinion about the United States, the series of images represented above will certainly have an impact on the way he perceives the social structure of the US. He would see it as a culturally devoid society of homeless people, where extensive drug use and immoral practices are prevalent. He clearly hasn’t seen the other side of the story, simply because I chose not to show it to him! Have I not manipulated his thinking? Assuming the identical role of almost all media houses, I have forced my way of thinking and my perception of the United States over the minds of my audiences. The very audiences who are accustomed to receiving fashion, lifestyle tips and rely solely on me for all their recreational needs. This just makes my job so much more easier, doesn’t it? No longer do I have to prove myself because I know that no one is going to hold me accountable.

We have to understand that the media ultimately shows us what it wants to show us. Not necessarily what the actuality might be. The next time the media comes up with a ready made, tailored-for-you conclusion at your doorstep, you’d do well to delve into the subject, gather all the relevant information and then support or refute the said conclusion. The freedom that democracy provides you with exists for a reason. You are as free as you perceive yourself to be. Look at the wider picture, the broader cross section of the present media-moulded belief system and question your freedom.Without such an aspiration, you will remain an open box into which anything and everything could be stuffed.

A Reality Check

It seems like ages ago now, but looking back I still remember how we used to rack our brains in front of our television sets, discussing possible answers and playing the game along with the contestants on the show. It was the time when Quiz shows like Bournvita Quiz Contest, Kaun Banega Crorepati etc. ruled the primetime show slots on television networks. Derek O’ Brien was a household name and everyone would back their school team to land a spot on the show. But then TV channels apparently felt that these shows weren’t attracting “enough” audiences and TRP’s weren’t high enough, I guess, because of the lack of controversies, cheating, use of expletives, and skin showing. Hence came upon us a new era of  Reality Shows, which aimed at the larger pool of audiences and with the help of whom the TRP’s skyrocketed to heights channels never dreamed of.

Shows like Fear Factor, Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachaao, Sach Ka Saamna, Big Boss, Bingo, Swayamvars etc. are now the rage. While one involves performing daring stunts and eating protein rich insects, the other is about a bunch of  out-of-work celebrities all huddled up in a house while the audience spies on them through strategically placed cameras. Frankly, the audience’s intellect is taking a huge beating through these shows. Children now want to do the stunts depicted at home while the adults vote for their least favourite celeb to be kicked out of the show. Many dance shows and singing competitions have also cropped up in the name of reality shows. While they may be a useful platform for people to showcase their talents, one cannot ignore the fact that these shows are causing premature mental depression in children who cannot deal with the emotional pressures of being voted out or criticized by the judges. Then there are the so called adventure shows like Roadies. Two bald guys decide whether you’ve got the talent to participate in the show and once you’re selected there starts an unending saga of back-biting, abusing, and plotting against other participants; and yeah there are a few tasks here and there too, just for the sake of it. The worst of the lot though, are the Swayamvar shows. It started with Rakhi Sawant who apparently would marry the winner of the show after she decided which one of the men was the most “suitable” (read: rich) for her. Then it was the turn of Rahul Mahajan to pick from a bevy of girls who lined up for him. Ask the girls and they’d say that they would do anything to win, all because they represent the “Modern Generation” who weren’t held back by silly rules of society. Clearly their culture and family values mean nothing to them and they have probably lost the respect of millions watching the show. Which self respecting man/woman would participate in these shows? It just shows to what extent people would go to be seen on tv.  Granted there are a few shows which actually bother about nurturing talent and bringing it to the notice of the public, but most of the other shows are just a sham aimed at wasting peoples time and money and ultimately only serving the cause of the celebrities who participate in them.

The worst part though is that the general public are actually accepting these shows which only encourages them to continue playing with the audiences. No one seems to be bothered about the slowly falling standards of Indian television, and so long as the people lap up these shows, the channels will only be too happy to keep feeding us with such garbage.