What Comes After Digital?
Digital media is merely a footnote in the continuing journey we take part in everyday, brought to you by the Information Revolution.
Where that journey will take us depends on factors related to what "digital" created, which is compact and mobile media. Without digital, we wouldn't be able to access our cloud-based services to stream media with the smallest devices and no wires. What comes after digital will be increasingly more sophisticated tools to share media, and the format will not matter as much as the content because quality content will supersede the medium in which it's delivered.
The technological improvements this revolution has brought is truly realized with the far superior commodities we have today that allow us to enjoy our digital music and movies; in the days when recording images and sounds was still a new process, did we ever imagine what we have now? Crisp, high-definition images of movies display on our pocket-sized smartphones and music is easily shared and instantly available with an internet connection.
The newest devices are made to multitask (think 3G or 4G cellphones that allow you to talk and surf the web simultaneously) and new programs allow you to access media and data through the web (like Spotify, Netflix, and Google Drive) with very few strings attached and less money. Consuming media has become so easy, the purveyors will ultimately drive for better content and more of it.
It's important to note that detractors may believe the medium plays a role in improving the quality of the media. Think of Blu-ray DVD players, and paying to subscribe to HBO. Then consider the multi-use gadgets that easily play Blu-ray and the decreasing numbers of cable TV subscribers. Cable TV is a paid-for service because it brings the masses quality television, right? I don't think so.
Cable-cutters and cable-nevers are terms coined to refer to those people that choose to watch free content on the internet, or they may pay for services and movies, over paying for cable. I am sure that these people aren't sulking in front of their computer monitors, wishing they had enough money to pay for cable TV. Cable TV used to be the only way to watch episodes of your favorite TV show, but now there's Hulu and Amazon that allow you to pick and choose what content is good enough for you to pay for.
Digital media on internet is more than cat pictures and streaming movies and music, but the entertainment factor of today’s pop culture staples really drive the invention needed to bring us to a new level of media. Our digital media is our culture, however, and this culture ultimately belongs to the young people that who drive sales, drive traffic, come up with the internet memes, and drive popularity in the various niche areas on the web, and in media, too.
Today's media depends on people clicking and sharing stories or links with mass appeal on social platforms, and these social platforms have given rise to a host of other online tools that rely on the same elements of appeal to support community-building. "Crowdsourcing" is now a verb widely recognized for it's impact in helping bring community projects to life in a short amount of time. One of the bigger crowdsourcing tools is Kickstarter, and their fundraising model is akin to finding many small investors to bring a start-up project to life in a limited time frame. Artists who fund their recording costs through Kickstarter frequently give album copies to donors of a certain level.
Tools for engagement are popping up everywhere, making it easier for schools and governments to share ideas and gauge popularity. Community engagement requires some element of fun to entice users and get them to keep coming back. The Millard Public School District in Omaha, N.E., uses its website as a platform for users to share ideas and comments, and "contributor" stats are visibly displayed with a points-system and rewards available to frequent contributors. It’s clear to see that the real-world tools that digital media offers will continue to improve as it delivers real-time results and engages youth culture.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than half of all adults owned a smartphone in 2012 and a majority of those people accessed the internet through their smartphones. Mobile apps have enabled cell phone networks to easily load digital media onto smartphones without the delay or slow connections or large packets of data slowing down the process.
Having the ability to easily access and use digital media for sophisticated means of communication means that the digital playing field is becoming more diverse and more democratic.
Diversity breeds creativity, and as more and more people adopt new technology there will be more reasons to discover and invent the newest tools to improve and support our daily life.