Future and Emerging Technologies

Obsolete Technology: Overhead Transparency Projector

Emerging Technology: Multimedia Projector


Red Queens and Increasing Returns

Where did you go to find a movie based on a Philip K. Dick book? Did you rent or purchase a DVD, or did you view it digitally on your computer using Netflix or a similar vendor of video-on-demand?

Last blog, I mentioned the futuristic technology found on the Minority Report.  I viewed that movie on Netflix.  Netflix was the easiest method to view the movie because it was immediately viewable on my television through my PlayStation 3 gaming system.  Netflix is also available through my Roku box, tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktop.  Going to a video store to rent a DVD—though it is down the street where I live—is inconvenient when compared to the immediate access through a video-on-demand (VOD) services like Netflix.

Is the current competition between DVDs and video-on-demand an example of increasing returns or Red Queens? Justify your response with sound reasoning and specific examples.

Thornburg (2008) noted that Red Queens are ideas that are constantly improving to maintain their strategic competitiveness.  In this case, DVDs are not improving their quality.  In fact, DVDs are capped in their quality (480p) and bitrate.  Netflix offers some content in the new 4K (2160p) market, and most content are available in 1080p, though this depends on the availability of high-speed Internet.  Netflix is improving its services while DVDs are not maintaining its competitive edge.  The idea of Red Queens is that both technologies remain competitive with each other.netflix-logo

The competition between DVDs and VOD is an example of increasing returns and not of Red Queens.  Arthur (1996) posited that increasing returns occurs when the markets tilt in favor of the idea that gets ahead.  VOD services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Crackle, Crunchroll, and Redbox Instant have improved their quality of service by reducing load times and increasing their data compression methods to offer higher quality viewing.  DVD stores like Blockbuster are closing shop because VOD services have edged forward (Moss, 2013; Stelter, 2013).  VOD companies are dominating the market and driving DVDs out is a prime example of increasing returns.

On a side note, Blu-ray discs are also on their way out as VOD quality improves.  Blu-ray discs currently offer superior video and audio quality when compared to VOD services; however, Blu-ray discs cannot play on tablets and Roku-like devices that VOD services are found on.

Where do you think DVDs and video-on-demand are on the four criteria of McLuhan’s tetrad?

Based on McLuhan’s tetrad, VOD reverses DVDs.  DVDs are made obsolete by VOD because VOD is convenient, can be played on any device, and monthly costs make this a cheaper alternative to collecting and storing DVDs.


Arthur, W. B. (1996). Increasing returns and the new world of business. Harvard Business Review74(4), 100−109.

Moss, C. (2013). Blockbuster is officially closing its retain stores after 28 years.  Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/blockbuster-is-closing-forever-2013-11

Stelter, B. (2013). Internet kills the video store.  The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/07/business/media/internet-kills-the-video-store.html?_r=0

Thornburg, D. (2008). Red Queens, butterflies, and strange attractors: Imperfect lenses into emergent technologies. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.


Second Life

Do you like the life you are living?  No?!  Try Second Life.  Second Life is a virtual and networked world where anything is possible.  Real people are able to join Second Life where they are able to live out their virtual lives together.  Users unhappy with the way they look can take on a character that looks like their ideal self.  People are able to build their virtual homes the way they want.  If you do not like your current weather, you are able to virtually move to another environment.  Second Life is the perfect (or un-perfect) world, exactly the way you want it to be.  Rosedale (2008) noted that a virtual environment is ideal for the creativity process because of the reduced costs in creating things.

Dr. Thornburg noted that a disruptive technology is a new technology, which is like an old technology, but it is enhanced and a replacement of the old technology (Laureate Education, 2008).  Second Life is that type of disruptive technology.  Well, what is the old technology being replaced?  Life itself.  The user is able to build anything anywhere in the name of creativity and exploration.



Surrogates, starting Bruce Willis, pitched the idea of people living safely at homes while a perfect robotic representation perused the world, which is similar in idea to Second Life.  Surrogates is a movie of people living in a utopian world behind a sensory system that is attached to robots.  Unlike Second Life, the movie is limited to laws of physics whereas Second Life allows people the freedom to defy physics.  View the trailer of Surrogates.

In terms of education, Rosedale (2008) noted that a virtual world allows people to communicate through 3D pictures.  Pictures are more memorable than using words (Rosedale, 2008).  Learning material can be presented in words and with pictures where the users are free to explore the content like a virtual fieldtrip.  Second Life also has the potential to replace fieldtrips for schools.  Instead of visiting a museum, students can attend it virtually and a their own pacing.

Are you a Second Life user?  Leave a comment, tell us how and why you use it!


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008).Emerging and future technology: Disruptive technologies. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Rosedale, P. (2008). Philip Rosedale on Second Life [Video]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ted.com/talks/the_inspiration_of_second_life.html.