Sunday, May 03, 2015

Increasing Queens

Dr. Thornburg (Laureate Education, 2014a; Laureate Education, 2014b) presents increasing returns and Red Queens as two forces that influence the adoption and distribution of technology. The former reference the idea that, if undisturbed, a technology that is leading the market will increasingly lead the market, while a technology that is losing share, will increasingly loose more share. The later refers to the idea of two technologies existing in relative balance “running” as fast as they can to keep up with each other’s developments and innovations. The competition between DVDs and on-demand video can be expressed in these forces.

Increasing returns

Legal on-demand video started small as it was constrained by the limitations of internet bandwidth. However, as home capacities increased, the door to this technology opened wide. Prior to that, DVDs and Blu-Ray media held the market, whether it was rentals or purchases. Even though streaming quality started lower DVD, it was much more convenient than driving to a rental stored to get a video.
Now, as services like Vudu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime bring streaming to near Blu-ray quality, renting physical media has nearly disappeared. Stores like Blockbuster have all but closed their doors. This is a case of increasing returns. Because, even though the quality is not quite up to the standard as the physical media, the on-demand video is more convenient and portable across multiple devices. Its reach continues to expand, while the ability to rent physical media continues to decrease. I have not bought a new DVD in years, but I have converted or purchased dozens to instant and streaming video through Vudu and Amazon Instant Video. 

Red Queens

These queens are continually running as fast as possible next to each other in order to stand still. They may leave others behind, but the two queens keep a very close pace. There may have been a time when DVD and On-Demand video were red queens, but that is no longer the case. DVD/BluRay media is not changing or enhancing to keep up with Instant Video. On the other hand, the on-demand video services are increasingly making it more convenient to receive scalable, higher quality video libraries on multiple devices. Now, the Red Queens are the various on-demand services. Each trying to gain an advantage over the other. Except, instead of just video quality and library, they have now entered the production game. Both Amazon and Netflix have begun producing their own serial shows to increase audience interest and drive up their market advantage.


Several weeks ago, I made a post about McLuhan’s tetrad. Looking at these two technologies, there are clear similarities, but also some significant differences. DVDs brought consumers a new way to collect and watch movies that was small, lightweight, higher capacity, and much higher quality than its predecessors were. It quickly made VHS obsolete except for personal recording. (Although, that disappeared with the advent of video hard-drive based digital recording devices like TiVO.) Just like the first radio and TV, DVDs brought back ideas from the past of being able to share stories and entertainment with the family in the comfort of one’s home. When taken to the extreme, you get what has replaced it: on-demand video.

Microsoft Hololens
On-demand video introduced an ability to carry thousands of movies with you on laptops, mobile phones, Smart TVs, and gaming consoles. Services like Vudu allow you to own the digital rights to movies across five or more devices. It is only a matter of time before it makes DVD and BluRay obsolete. Similar to above, it brings back the same desire to watch and be entertained, except it adds the flexibility of being free from your home, power cords, and couches to do so. You could now watch a movie on the beach if you like. When pushed to the extreme, streaming video will become device independent. Streaming directly into our minds through embedded chips that combine with nano-technology to allow us to “see” the movie as if we were watching it on the largest of screens, even when there is none there.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: Increasing returns [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2014b). David Thornburg: Red queens [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Module 4 - Disrupting the norm

A disruptive innovation is one that dramatically shifts the existing evolutionary path of one or more technologies in a significant way (Laureate Education, 2014). In other words, the regularly pace of development is thrown all higgledy-piggledy because something completely unexpected comes to roost in the barn. Think Tetris to video games, or Tesla’s batteries to solar power, or even Jar-Jar Binks to Star Wars. Each of these things forever and irrevocably altered their environments, and not always in good ways.
Sometimes, items of technology that seem as if they will be disruptive when they come onto the stage turn out to be not much more than a blip on the radar. For example, consider the potential of SixthSense Technology. This seemingly miraculously cost effective innovation entered the stage from the mind of one man, Pranav Mistry. Admittedly, when I first watched his Ted Talk in 2009, I was still new to my research into educational technology and thrilled at the possibility of interacting with my digital self without clunky IO devices like keyboards, mice, or smartphones. This one device could replace everything from my phone, to my camera, to my laptop, and my Nintendo Wii.
More than that, it seemed a triumph for the little guy. Persevering with an invention that was cost-effective for the masses and that any moderately interested do-it-yourselfer could build. Socially, this could begin to level the playing field between the “haves” and “have-nots.” This was not a $1,500 lease for Google Glass; it was awesome technology for the masses at $350 a pop! It could create a more seamless and natural interaction with my digital world. The best part … I could carry it with me easily, hands-free, wherever I go. In education, the possibility of students using these devices to interact with textbooks, or collaboratively paint on the wall is exciting. Walking up to a classmate and having it instantly recognize their face and splash a label on their shirt could make sorting out social cliques a piece of virtual cake, preventing embarrassing situations where someone from the AV club tries to ask out a cheer-leader. (Of course, that would eliminate most all of Disney’s tween and high school movie collection, but I’m sure they would think of something.)
Ok, maybe those last two are a bit of a jest. However, they emphasize a key point about SixthSense technology. For all of its potential, there are many significant drawbacks, which, in my opinion, have led to its more-or-less complete lack of advancement or adoption since that Ted Talk six years ago. First, it is nearly impossible to use while moving. A significant advantage of our current smartphones is that their physicality allows them to be used and handled easily while in motion. Second, while dialing from the palm of your hand is interesting, it also seems prone to over-sensitivity and positional glitches. Again, the current form factor works very well because of its consistency and ease. Finally, and this is a big one, it needs a wall, or other stationary object upon which to project in order to function. I imagine entire storefronts, malls, and parks having integrated “standing zones” where you can stop to use your SixthSense. Instead of people walking around and staring at their phones, they will be standing around staring at walls. It has potential, but in its current, six-year old form, it has severe usage restrictions that I feel have contributed to its lack of evolution and adoption.

So, to predict how many year I believe the SixthSense has left before another emerging technology or disruptive innovation replaces it, I have to answer a negative six. I can see where some people may feel it is a disruptive innovation. However, I believe it is more of a one-hit wonder, destined to follow in the footsteps of A-Ha or Flock of Seagulls. 

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014). David Thornburg: Disruptive technologies [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Mistry, P. (2010). About. Retrieved from

TED India. (Producer). (2009). The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology [Video file]. Retrieved from

Monday, April 06, 2015

Module 3 - Rhymes, Rhymes ... Some of the time

Rhyming, to rhyme. In the literal, according to Merriam-Webster (2015), a rhyme consists of “one or two or more words or phrases that end in the same sounds.” While accurate, it doesn't quite bring forth the concept … the feeling of a consistent, persistent, and surprising echo of what has come before. A repetition that invokes the past; both near and distant. It is often said that history repeats itself. Within the context of an individual, or a country, or our collective human path this axiom seems to prove itself … dare I say … repeatedly?

As nearly a universally repetitious constant, it is no surprise that within technology we can find some of the most poignantly distant rhymes. Dr. Thornburg (Laureate Education, 2014a) refers to this technological poetry as one of the driving forces behind the emergence of new ideas and inventions. It is this idea that if you listen closely to those things on the leading edge of our technological development, you will hear an echo of the distant past. This concept falls in line with McLuhan’s rekindling quadrant (Laureate Education, 2014b), and is my focus for this post.

Let us travel back in time 39,900 years ago to this:
CreditKinez Riza from
Art. Some of the first ever discovered. The ability to express, in some way, that which otherwise remains obscure and unspoken. From these humble beginnings artists the world over have used whatever tools they could to produce their works. The most common method of modern times is certainly pen-to-paper or brush-to-canvas. Fast-forward and enter the age of computers and listen as old school artists lament at the loss of holding a pen to paper, while computer artists stretch the boundaries of what is possible by ditching hand-to-paper in favor of mouse-to-screen.

Now, fast-forward to the Cintiq:

“The edge-to-edge glass envelops an expansive 27” working surface with no visual disruptions. It’s a seamless creative experience with space for everything except limits.”
“The Pro Pen offers ultra-fine precision through 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition and a comfortable ergonomic design. A selection of interchangeable nibs provides a range of different feels and possibilities.”
The Cintiq is an experience that pulls together the feel and functionality of pen-to-paper with the extraordinary flexibility of mouse-to-screen. It even allows you to rotate the page as you did when you were a kid, looking for that perfect angle for the next stroke in your refrigerator masterpiece. However, it combines that with the now common pinch and expand gestures to allow the artist to zoom in to their heart’s content to create detail more fine than da Vinci could have imagined.

The Cintiq is thousands of years newer than those outlines of hands on a wall … and yet, it seems much much fewer, when expression is the master’s call.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: Six forces that drive emerging technologies [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2014b). David Thornburg: Rhymes of history [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Merriamn-Webster (2015). Rhyming – Definition and more. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from
Wacom. (2015). CINTIQ. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from
Wilford, J. N. (10/8/2014). Cave paintings in Indonesia may be among the oldest known. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from