Televised Internet

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
2 August, 2016
Editorial: 18
Fecha de publicación original: 7 mayo, 1996

Date of publication: 07/05/1996. Editorial 018.

Every man likes his own things best

Internet is on the brink of a population explosion which would make the world’s serious over-population problem pale into insignificance. Digital demographers move in murky waters when trying to decide on approximate internaut population figures. But, considering what has happened to the number of host computers on the Internet, which has gone from 4.8 million to 9.4 million in a year, it would not be outrageous to predict that something similar is happening to the numerical progression of users. Perhaps in this case the growth rate is even higher, because of the particular dynamic of Internet, for a quantitative increase brings along with it a qualitative improvement and this in turn acts as a powerful magnet which attracts more and more people to joining the Internet population. (see Editorial 012: Born with an idea).

Nevertheless, more and more people are predicting that the definitive population explosion of Internet will come about when it enters the living rooms of homes all over the world. The marriage between PC and TV will be the event which seals the consecration of this new digital means of communication. Prophets and entrepreneurs, analysts and philosophers, unhesitatingly point to this union as marking the definitive leap into the digital society. Perhaps. But things are not that clear. The road, not only to the creation of the new hybrid (PC-TV), but to its enthronement within the home to the point where it will occupy the place which corresponds to the television now, is not that direct. The first is a complex technical problem, the solution for which is only just beginning to emerge. The latter is a social question with insufficient precedents for us to imagine how it could be resolved, although we have the ample experience of television, the first cultural artifact that has managed to turn the oral family circle into an audiovisual semi-circle.

Receiving Internet through the TV poses difficulties which although apparently ridiculous have a serious side. We watch TV with a particular attitude, in a particular place in the home, seated in a particular position, accompanied or not by certain particular people, and who at times have nothing at all to do with the “profession of internaut”. Surfing the net remains an essentially individual exercise. It also implies a certain predisposition to work, although one may do this simply for pleasure ending up on the most entertaining pages of the net. We cannot rule out the possibility of collective services which will allow for group navigation, but they don’t exist yet and, if and when they make an appearance, they would form a very small part of the global offer on the net. On the other hand, the battle for the remote control — in this case, the tool designed for surfing on the televised Internet — could become a great source of discord, as millions of families addicted to zapping throughout the world already know.

Fortunately, if I may say so, the irruption of Internet into the living room won’t happen all of a sudden. Before this ‘menacing’ event is upon us, we will have a testing ground to train us for the profound modifications which digital technology is preparing to introduce into the family environment. The laboratory will be the digital TV and the progressive development of its innate interactive characteristics. Dozens (or hundreds, or thousands, according to apologists of digital data compression) of channels will reach our receivers shortly, many of them including the “internal” offer of several simultaneous programmes which we can choose by merely pressing the buttons on the remote control. This would be enough to allow us to tighten up domestic relations, verify the mood of each of the members of the family, establish new rules for negotiation within the family and outline new priorities based on age, income, seniority, cultural hierarchy, generational projection, etc. The survivors of this battle (but above all those who triumph) will already carry in their minds the seeds for the great mutation: the domestic internaut, a being whose physical characteristics, let alone his mental ones, cannot even be guessed at.

Translation: Bridget King.