Digital Convergence

Minitiurization is creeping into everything, and with it, electronics has gained an insatiable urge for digital convergence, whereby we provide more and more functionality on a single device. Its not been so long ago that the basic land line telephone has given way to the cellular handpiece, slowly going to shrink to a thumbnail version of itself.

Its not just a phone anymore. We can use it to store music and files, emails, browse the web, instant message, keep our appointments, calculate mortgage payments, word process, build spreadsheets, play arcade games, take notes, store addresses, and act as an alarm clock (amongst other annoyances such as hundreds of ring tones). In fact these instruments are not even decent cell phones anymore. Half the time there is no service, which is why one needs all those hundreds of other features, to camouflage the fact that it just doesnt do what it is basically meant to do!

This is the big failing of digital convergence. It moves us from an instrument of reasonable economy and performance to one with poor basic functionality. Since the implementation of convergence has failed so completely, we end up carrying many multifunction devices, all of which fail to perform any one single function in an adequate manner. This probably explains why land lines persist still.

We are a nation of distracted people, due in no small measure to living in our electronic storm. All the gadgets, none of which work adequately, are driving most to distraction. Hence, we are doing “more” and yet remain as dissatisfied as ever. Even when we avail of the basic functionality of any electronic medium, the additional myriad function beckon incessantly, forcing us to pause and take in some of them for at least a little while, if not more. With land lines, after making a call, we did not need to also tap into the instant messenger and email. Every little additional time-consuming detail, no matter how insignificant, deleteriously extracts its piece of time, leaving in the end, nothing but a rushed, unaccomplished feeling.

Its all a waste of time, money and energy. When was the last time you used your computer to send one email, or check a movie time, only to also read all the email, respond to pop-ups, check the news, mail someone on an off thought, and end up shopping online? Sounds like something you did only yesterday? And usually 3-4 times a week? Sure, admit it, you are a technoslave. Fess up, you are unhappy about all this, but are unable to resist it.

The way I see it – there will be a polarization. Some of us will realize whats happening, and make a strong effort to resist the grasp of e-mindlessness. Others with less self-discipline will dive right in and swallow it up. One way to avoid the trap is to use instruments that are simple and tailored to the task. Ever used Google for search? Sure – and did you end up shopping or emailing after that? – Probably not. Google is set up for simplicity and makes no attempt to distract. Do the same thing on Yahoo and you will get sucked into all sorts of other sidetracks.

Another example, use Linux for work, and there is small chance of getting led astray. No beckoning popups, no multimedia fanfare, no viruses to keep working off. Windows is designed for the e-mindless, and there will always be a big user base for this. At the other end of the spectrum, will be those that want a computer for what it does, not for the social interaction. This is where the Linux boxes will come in handy.

Hence, lesson to myself: KISS = keep. it. simple. sanjiv. Pick gadgets to do one thing only. Use for that purpose only. Do not misuse. Keep the number of things to do small and simple, and they will be of high quality. Fail to do this and you will be just tired and unaccomplished even after running in response to loads of stimuli. Let that phone ring, especially if it has a custom ring tone.


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