July 25, 2007
Misconceptions of the Rate of Technological Change

Ostensibly, some observers might say this blog is "about" new technologies, changes in the media industries, new ways for users and fans to interact with one another and "the powers that be" and brand managers of the world. I've even said that myself many times. But the work C3 does often always focuses on just the opposite message, the misconception that change is going to come about really rapidly.

It can't be repeated often enough: change takes time. When we look at where we are now compared to where we are 10 years ago, it seems a major difference. The number of people who have reliable Internet connections in the past decade has mushroomed. Yet, I hear others talking about how we might all be wirelessly connected in five years, and I think about the technological bubbles many people live in. The length of time it takes for technology to move from early adopters to the public at large, the difficulty of infrastructure reliability on a national basis, the digital divide that is too often ignored, and a variety of other factors can't be forgotten.

I talked about these issues with television industry researcher Bruce Leichtman in my interview with him here on the blog last month.

He wrote:

One of the nice things about living here in New Hampshire is that life is a little more "normal." In New York or L.A., people are in a cocoon, and they think that everyone else is like them, but they are not. You often hear executives talking about themselves or their families as examples, but they don't realize how out of the mainstream they are. People just don't get that. Whether you are the president of a company or the reporter at a paper, everyone thinks they are mainstream, but no one IS the mainstream. That's why you do research.

Some of these sentiments were echoed in the words of David Edery recently. Edery, who used to work here at MIT, remains affiliated with us and publishes a lot of interesting work on his blog, Game Tycoon. Most recently, he wrote a piece entitled Console Demise? Don't Hold Your Breath.

David writes, "Having thought about it, I just can't come to the same conclusion. Consoles aren't going anywhere in the next ten+ years or so (beyond which I can't claim to understand what the market will look like. There's too much cultural and technological uncertainty.)"

While I will let you go to David's site for the full argument, I think it's an important reminder that one technology does not automatically topple another and that systems have become widespread for a reason, such as the persisting importance of game consoles. It's important not to fall into the Black Box Fallacy Henry Jenkins writes about in Convergence Culture.