In my previous entry, I pointed out that the current distinction between a TV and a “computer” is becomingly increasingly arbitrary and irrelevant. TV, the old medium, is transforming into content. An explosion of “digital surfaces” everywhere--on cell phones, cameras, desks, appliances, airplane seats, and billboards, and even mirrors—is just the beginning of Marshal McLuhan’s profound observation that as our communications evolve, the old medium becomes the new content.
Lest you should think that we have just about hit the limit of how many different screens, displays or digital surfaces you can be surrounded by, brace yourself for “digital paint” and “digital paper”! Based on what I'm privilege to see in research labs for the past few years, the introduction of this technology into the marketplace can’t be far off. If you are not familiar with this concept, imagine a substance at the molecular level where each molecule is a tiny sphere where one half of its surface is black and the other half white. Each black and white sphere can easily be controlled by electrical input so that either the white or the black side is facing up. Now simply mix this substance into paint or wood pulp or plastic and you suddenly have the ability to make ANY surface digital and capable of displaying ANY image you’d like with almost infinite resolution.
You can see the possibilities. Imagine binding a few pages of digital paper together to create truly digital books! Oh, and note that the images on this digital paper can move so suddenly that you can be watching “TV (the content) in a book.” Just throw in some other colors with those black and white molecular spheres and we’ve got color screens literally EVERYWHERE! An equally frightening and exciting vision for most of us, I suspect.
To add even more to your degree of excitement—and fright—the surfaces will include “proximity detectors” that know it is YOU who is nearest to them so they can display highly customized content based on what you are “broadcasting” or what the system behind the surface knows about you.
I strongly recommend that we stop using these terms of TV and television to refer to a device or a medium and understand instead that this previous medium has now transformed into content (see Fortune magazine’s article “TV is Dying? Long Live TV!”) While we are at it, let’s reconsider terms such as “computer” or “computer screen”. These too will soon be antiquities that future generations will find “cute” and “quaint”. Instead, let’s understand that McLuhan had it just right with his comment that the old medium becomes the new content.
My BIG question is this: “What content do you want and where and when do you want it?” Those of you who have read or listened to me previously know that I am passionately committed to:
- A lifelong vision of mass customization and ultimately, personalization of content, context, competencies.
- A future where every person on the planet is able to have deeply personalized learning experiences daily.
So the challenge (and a grand one it is!) is how do we get what I call the Snowflake Effect: just the right stuff to just the right person(s) at just the right time in just the right way on just the right medium (and likely a few other “just rights”).
More to follow as always.