Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Tyranny of the Media Boxes

One of the ideals of user-centered media, as I see it, is to free us from a tyranny of the boxes. Users want to have their media content accessible from whatever box suits their current need -- as new home media centers, gateways, and adapters now seek to facilitate. Content publishers also want to maximize the ways consumers can use their content (subject to reasonable payment).

But the distributors of media (especially TV) are wedded to platforms that deliver content only to specific viewing boxes (TVs with closed set-top boxes). Cable and satellite operators exploit their closed boxes to build walled gardens that limit what and how we view. They like the idea of interactivity, but only when they have full control over it.

Coactive media technology is oriented to the idea that users should be able to use whatever box they like, at any time. Sometimes we want to lean back to view a TV from across the room (the "ten foot interface"), but sometimes we want to lean forward at a PC (the "two foot interface"). Similarly, when we interact with content related to what is on TV, we may want to lean back with the TV or lean forward with the PC. Even the people building PC-based media centers seem to think we want all media-related tasks to be done via the "ten foot interface."

I want a second screen to use with my TV, with the full power of a PC -- for program listings and information, to schedule my DVR, etc. Not all of the time, but some of the time. I already have the screen (a wireless laptop)--why can't I decide when to use it? Advanced versions of CoTV will enable me to decide what box to use when for TV-related tasks. ...Do you want your CoTV?

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