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Technological Convergence

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Technological convergence is when technologies currently in use are combined or improved to form newer technologies. The internet is one example of technological convergence. It has brought together the radio, games, books, television and much more. In the past, each entertainment medium had to be played on a specific device. Video displayed on a television through some type of video player, music came through a tape deck or Compact Disc (CD) player, and video games were played through a console of some sort.

Technological convergence has resulted in devices that not only interact with the media they are primarily designed to handle, but also with a number of other formats. Digitalization and convergence allows people to do these entertainment activities from the palm of their hand via a Smartphone, iPad, iTouch, or eReader, and schools such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Abilene Christian University have started projects that provide students with equipment to access the college databases anywhere within campus grounds. The convergence of technology has the potential to simplify life’s activities, but caution must be used because making things in life to easy could produce catastrophe. The animated movie WALL-E, produced by Pixar, depicts what could happen if convergence goes too far. These advancements have touched almost every aspect of modern living. Along with the positive effects of convergence come social implications, as well as, improvements to education and the medical field.

There are many people who have been credited with the invention and improvements of the radio. However, Lee De Forest’s work resulted in amplitude-modulated (AM) radio. (about.com, n.d.). Because the radio is a combination of the telegraph and the telephone, convergence, although not yet discovered or named, was present and effected the invention of the radio. (about.com, n.d.). Early models of the radio did not transmit voice over air. These machines were only capable of sending signals. The first sound of music heard was sent down a telephone wire and in 1921 people heard radio broadcast just as it is today. (didyouknow.com, n.d.).

Before the creation of video games, people played board games like, checkers and chess. Adults used playing cards to play games like poker, while children used jacks and their imagination. In 1967 Ralph Baer, a German television engineer, and his coworkers designed the first gaming console. They named it “the brown box” because it was just what the name described it to be, a brown box with video capability. This game console originally had only one game called chase. It was much like a game of tag that was played on a television. It pictured two small squares, controlled by the user with a controller that chased each other around the television screen. In the following years, Magnavox would produce a newer console better then the first called the Odyssey in 1972, but in 1975 a man named Nolan Bushnell designed yet another gaming console called, Atari, that would place gaming consoles in people’s homes.

Convergence continued to evolve the gaming console for the next eight years. In 1983, the gaming world crashed because of the sublicensing of games and programs. The crash made it hard for this industry to recover until Japan introduced the Famicon, known as the Nintendo in the United States, in 1985. (Time.com, n.d.). Stores that previously marketed gaming consoles, such as Sears, were very cautious about the marketability of the new home gaming system. The Nintendo breathed life back into the gaming world and convergence brought smaller consoles like the Game boy, Game boy Advanced and Nintendo DS, as well as, more graphically intense systems like the Super NES, the Playstaion (1, 2, and 3), and the Xbox. Today games are not only played on consoles, but are also played on the desktop and laptop computers, tablet computers and smartphones.

Convergence has presented the television sector with different challenges and produced many improvements. The television was first introduced with a picture that was monochromatic (black and white picture) and had only a few channels. Signals that are broadcast were once analog and did require cable or satellite. It was not uncommon to see antennas, nicknamed rabbit ears, with aluminum foil wrapped around the tips. The television allowed citizens of the 1950’s and 1960’s to see news footage of the civil rights movement that was previously reported through newspapers and radio stations. (citelighter.com, n.d.). People began to see the facts instead of imagine them after reading a story. The older televisions were very large and heavy. Convergence is very obvious in the design of the television. Many of these televisions have morphed from a large, heavy and cumbersome to thin and so lightweight that they can be mounted on a wall or placed over a fireplace. The picture is so clear that you almost feel like you are in the picture. Technology has become so advanced that anyone who owns a smartphone is able to watch television shows via their mobile phone.

As technology advances, it brings with it social implications. The older generation would say that young people are less social, but that statement is untrue because people today are more active on social networking sites like Facebook. Social networking sites are the cause of failed romantic relationships, long distance romantic relationships, new friendships and sworn enemies. The ability to communicate through text message has had what some would consider a negative social effect because people would rather text someone then have a conversation at the bus stop. Communicating in this manner removes the personalization or feeling from the conversation and this increases the chance of miscommunication. The biggest social impact occurred during the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and the 1960’s.

United States citizens had read about war for decades. But when they started seeing newsreel footage of dead, maimed, and wounded American soldiers every night on TV as a result of the Vietnam War, the majority of the country soon turned against the war. (Cybercollege.com. 2012.) The American people wanted change and the end to what many thought to be an unnecessary fight. Unfortunately, the disapproval of the war and the unhappiness with the government’s actions were projected onto the soldiers who were returning from war. Instead of cheering crowds like we see today, these men endured hatred. No one was there to welcome these men home. There are different implications for today’s individual.

Bullying has always been a part of growing up, but today’s bullying does not happen in the hallways or on the walk home from school. It happens on the internet and over the cellular phone. This type of bullying has been named Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. (ncpa.org, n.d.) Teachers and parents are at a loss and there is much difficulty controlling this new form of violence. There are many websites and guides on the internet offering advice for parents, teachers and students.

Digital convergence seems like a blessing for college students and professors. At its best, convergence makes it easier to locate and spread information. Educators across the nation are therefore exploring what role convergence hardware—in particular, iPhone and iTouch—might play in post-secondary education. The question is, “Will convergence be helpful or harmful?” To find the answer to this question, schools such as Abilene Christian University, Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and MIT have started a test program. ACU will be the first university to issue iPhones to incoming freshmen. Students will be able to download class schedules, course materials, lecture podcasts, and a number of other educational resources with accessibility to the school network wirelessly from any point on campus. (Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, n.d.). The reactions to this study have been both mostly positive, but there are still a few sceptics. Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, ACU provost, states how he is excited to provide incoming students with new tools and equipment, but also because he feels that this study s changing the learning environment.

However, Courtney Toomey, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Loyalan, the student newspaper for Loyola Maramount University, writes, “I don’t have anything against Apple products, but this seems like another chunk of propaganda accommodating the glamorous and overly oiled arrival of the Digital Era we’ve already slipped into. Every semester students spend a ridiculous amount of money for books and supplies (and we don’t even get one book for free!). Then there are other significant necessities, like housing and meal plans. True, you can never put a price on your education, but at least universities can help us with the massive loads of loans and school fees, instead of adding others by stabbing us with more digital propaganda that will entertain us but empty out our wallet.” (Dartmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, n.d.). The question of who is correct still remains and only time will tell us if convergence in education is healthy.

How unhealthy could convergence possibly be? Does convergence contribute to obesity and the lack of physical activity? These are some of the concerns that are being looked into by doctors and scientists. The average child, between the ages of 2-11, watches 20 hours of television a week. Statistics show that a child who watches more than 10 hours of television a week is likely to suffer academically and physically. (cybercollege.com, n.d.). Children and adults today are spending more time on the internet and watching television then they are playing outside and getting exercise. This combined with a poor diet due to a busy parental schedule has contributed to the obesity epidemic. To help combat this growing problem, exercise facilities have workout equipment with televisions attached to them.

The hope is to motivate individuals to get up and get active, because with televisions attached to the exercise equipment people can no longer use the excuse that they will miss their favorite series. The medical field has been affected by convergence in other ways. For example, when a solider lost a limb during World War II, the prothstetic was made of a moulded plastic limb with straps to hold it on. Today, a prothstetic can be made of titanium, which is lightweight, or have nerve sensing technology that makes the limb move robotically. During the World War II era, a soldier who had lost a limb was generally discharged medically and lived their life out as disabled, but today soldiers who are injured in war continue to serve our country and live their lives as if they were never injured. Scientists have even begun to find cures for diseases and have lengthened the human life span.

There are dangers associated with the convergence of technology. For example, the animated Pixar film, WALL-E. This film depicts the possible outcome if convergence goes too far. The world is destroyed and earth is no longer a liveable environment, so the human race lives in a simulated city in a bubble. People become extremely unhealthy. All they do is lie around on portable machine and live life in a virtual world. Robots cater to their every need making life sedentary while robots cleans up the mess and attempts to restore life to the planet earth. Corporations like Apple, Facebook, Wikiopedia and Google have changed the perception of communication.

A conversation is now had through text messages and chatting forums, instead of in person. As a result, miscommunication is more likely because the “feeling” heard in a voice is removed. While technological convergence gives consumers the convenience of having many devices all in one, saving on both size and cost, there is an initial tradeoff in quality. When companies introduce new multi-technology formats, the various technologies it is comprised of are usually at a slightly lower standard than on independent devices. Usually within a year or two, however, this disparate quality is reduced and dedicated devices may become obsolete. (Wisegeek.com, n.d.).

In conclusion, the convergence of technology appears to have made life easier by making the world’s information more accessible through the radio, the television and the internet. People no longer need several pieces of hardware to communicate or be entertained. People all over the world can now attend college without ever stepping foot onto a traditional campus. Schools, doctors, scientists and many more are conducting studies to determine the effect on the student and the patient. However, it is very important that we remain cautious because making life to easy will most certainly produce problems. Technology is predicted to surpass humans, but only time will tell if convergence is harmful or helpful.


About.com. (n.d.). Invention of the Radio. Retrieved from http://inventors.about.com/od/rstartinventions/a/radio.htm Cybercollege.com. (2012). The Social Impact of Television. Retrieved from http://www.cybercollege.com/frtv/frtv030.htm Dartmouth.edu. (n.d.). Convergence Technology: Empowering Us or Controlling Us?. Retrieved from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writ8/index.php/perspectives/convergence-technology Didyouknow.org. (n.d.). The History of Radio. Retrieved from http://didyouknow.org/history/radiohistory/ National Crime Prevention Association. (n.d.). Cyberbullying. Retrieved from http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying Television Curated Facts. (n.d.). Jessica Fields. Retrieved from http://www.citelighter.com/technology/technology/knowledgecards/television

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