Culture is future » Innovation and digital

09.10.2012

Article - More and more or already too much ?

18 free channels, 500 channels on my satellite package, a blockbuster I cannot miss, 2 hours of free communication per day on my new Smartphone, 3 numbers with unlimited calls, a pile of magazines, 2 free daily newspapers and one I pay for – but not everyday – an unlimited broadband connection, 800 songs and 80 podcasts on my MP3 reader; 35 downloaded movies including 4 in high-definition I did not watch, a video games console for the youngest child, 4 mail boxes including one entirely dedicated to spams, a blog which is almost up to date, the touched up photos of the last holidays, a Messenger account, many real friends on Facebook, as many relations on LinkedIn, a new relationship on Meetic, some RSS flow to follow the news, 150 DVDs which doze, 200 CDs in the dust, and 5 adverts in my mail box (non virtual) if, by chance, I had not had the message. But, first and foremost, the last season of my favorite series to watch immediately. Next year, I promise, I start reading again. And a social life!

 

 How to find our way around in this abundance of services and technologies? How to adapt to these innovations supposed to make our everyday life easier, divert us, inform us?


Invented in 1969 but open to everyone since only 17 years, Internet has established itself as the reference, massively used but unknown in its functioning. Every word seems overworked when we talk about it : revolution, upheaval, unprecedented innovation, time accelerator, tool of knowledge, entertainment platform, factotum, abundance, free expression, creation, opening up, access to information but also swindling, eye of Moscow, addiction, bubbles surface, copy-paste, disinformation, liberty killer tool, destruction of values …

Every one goes on the web and thinks he creates a reserves space, his email address, his Facebook page or his blog. We read press articles, commentaries, we watch videos, professional or posted by users, we communicate, and we download movies, music, without really knowing who is offering those services.  Internet users feel like they are the first beneficiaries of the possibilities offered by internet. They are right, but they are not the only ones to benefit them. The Web is not a global village without owners, a desert island with an abundance of tasty fruits we just need to collect, a natural space where everyone does what he wants, when he wants, without being spotted. Behind every service, behind every advert, behind every offer, there are economic actors. There is a gap between the simplicity of the use of internet and the complexity of the technical, economic and regulating challenges.

 

Internet is not magic, just like the other parts of the economy. He relies on the users’ contributions in a free logic but also on different sources of financing: online research relying on the marketing of sponsored links, email services financed by advertising, subscription offers, software sale …


We also find traditional professions of “editors and producers of content”, big contributors of the web action : music, cinema, television, press, edition. Confronted to a new world, they must adapt. These professions now have to rethink the role of the intermediaries (advertising control but also agents, copyright managing companies, distributors of physical supports). They must rethink the contracts between authors and production firms and integrate a diffusion strategy on different supports. Rethink the competition and establish the evolution of the simultaneous consumption of several medias and the reflex of free consumption. And this in a tense economic context where the consumer-internet user-citizen does not want to dramatically increase his expenditure.

The actors invent, try and organize the distribution of their contents in the digital world. That is why there is an abundance of new offers and the incessant call of web entrepreneurs for the development of new uses by internet users, only condition to ensure the permanence – but in which term? – of a service or an offer. Because the uses decide in fine on the success of the initiatives of startups and of communication giants that want to establish themselves on this all media support, that is Internet. This tectonics of media and communication groups, of internet startups and of the uses raise many questions. About the use of personal data by the new geniuses of online communication. About the ability of competition to guarantee a diversity of the offer of content, which constitutes the initial promise of the web. And about the ability of the public authorities to integrate those rapid changes in a global logic of regulation.

Internet created new divides, concerning the access to the network or the ability to handle one’s digital life. Those required the mobilization of the public authorities to give everyone the possibility to access every content, without discrimination. The risk of an explosion of internet due to different incompatible software systems, also required the unprecedented mobilization of the regulating organs of the network, which work behind the scenes but efficiently in order to make the web planet easily accessible from your browser. Because that is why internet is magic: we can connect with a Windows PC, a MacOs from Apple, a smartphone, a multimedia device and the system is operational. But questions about the conditions of evolution of the network, its languages and its infrastructures remain unsolved.

Internet can only be understood in its global dimension. With the public authorities and the regulating organs, the map of the internet powers reveals the major role of all the actors of the web. With the strategies of the communication groups, the challenges of audience, the financing of the circulation of content like the way the internet users get hold of the new services, a new ecosystem is emerging.

Who will decide on the future of internet? Who will own internet? You, communication groups, technical intermediaries, medias, public authorities? New borders are emerging today and will decide on what internet will be in twenty or thirty years, contrary to the short term visions. A decoding is required. We can all bring solutions.

 

Laure Kaltenbach and Alexandre Joux, co-authors of Nouvelles frontières du Net, qui se cache derrière Internet ? –Editions First, 2010.