chapter  26
Convergence
Pages 4

Digital code is the technological basis for media convergence, enshrined in NicolasNegroponte’s (1995) phrase, ‘from atoms to bits’, in which he recognised thetransformative power of converting words, sounds and images into bits of electrically stored information. The potential of digitally converged media technologies has been an object of widespread attention for over a decade and has been most specifically focused upon the convergence of broadcast television and the networked computer. The possibility of merging the domestic television and PC became a battle between the TV companies, who were content rich but did not have the digital delivery technology in place, and the Internet Service Providers, who had the digital means of transmission but not the content. In the 1990s the TV/PC convergence was largely seen as being based upon the optical fibre cable TV network, which could also be used to receive fast connections to the Internet. This was, in fact, the dream ticket envisaged in the AOL-Time Warner merger, since at the time the latter controlled twenty per cent of the US cable TV market. However, we need to remind ourselves that there is much more at stake in convergence of television and the Internet than technology. Television is both a medium of communication and a technical transmission and receiving system, which is to stress that television is a cultural medium, with developed institutions of programming and control and forms for the production of content. The domestic television receiver was developed specifically to receive that content. The Internet, on the other hand, like the telephone, developed as a transmission system without any institutionally produced fixed content. It is the World Wide Web, which has developed HTML pages with graphics, images and texts, that can be said to be the content of the Internet. The Internet is an electronic network designed to transmit code to computers that contain software programs, which can convert the technical code into human-readable documents. In all likelihood the future convergence of the TV and the Internet will require some other kind of domestic electronic device, or appliance, for receiving in digital form the content of both historical forms of television and the hyperlinked pages of the WWW.