.. termediate users, such as service providers (retailers, information providers, banks, and publishers) who could be persuaded to share in the technology based vision were generally involved in a partnership and exclusive manner. However there is a problem facing developers of these network systems such as interactive television. While the technology can be made to work in the lab, these systems depend on building a critical mass of users (e.g. Rogers 1995 p.
313, Schneider 1991) among many others), and on the content and uses of the system. These non-technical elements are much more difficult and expensive to develop from scratch, and to a large extent out of the control of developers, especially when user participation is voluntary.(Note 3) One way to get round this, is to appropriate or modify an existing and established set of content, technologies and uses and users, and try and dominate the market, or improve that service or technology or extend its use to new users. The idea behind interactive television can be seen as an attempt to appropriate the mass market of television users and the existing infrastructure of television sets in homes. With the rise of the Internet and the Web as mass market interactive technologies and systems, it would seem an obvious choice for i-TV developers to try and use this as a resource for creating i-TV. In many ways it reduces uncertainty and costs associated with designing a system from scratch.
However, following this path this completely changes the innovation environment and process. Previous projects were dominated, if not completely controlled, by a small smaller of industrial and government players. The innovation process could be analysed as the interaction between corporate actors, and the individuals working in them. However, the Internet and the Web have evolved and continue to develop in a very different manner. End users and a multitude of intermediate user firms and technology firms have been responsible their development.
Many different uses have been established and a huge variety of content exists. There is incredible dynamism in the innovation process, with competition between many technology companies and network service providers. This alternative innovation environment needs a different approach to managing innovation, and the marketing of interactive television. It also requires an analytic approach that can account for the large numbers of actors, especially the end users in shaping the technology, content and its uses. 1.2 The Web and Television an uncertain marriage There is no guarantee that a marriage of television and the Internet would be a happy and prosperous one. There is major uncertainty over the relevance of Web-style interactivity to the use of television. Most simply it is the following: the television is a collectively consumed medium, viewed’passively’ and from a distance, sitting in a comfortable chair.
In contrast, the Web and computer-based interactive products demand a high level of engagement and interaction with the content, and are used by individuals sitting close to a computer screen. These are thus incompatible uses, technologies and content. While there are strong arguments for this position, it would be naive to accept it without further investigation, especially in the light of existing early-adopter uptake of Web on TV products, and other trials of interactive television. Another factor has also complicated the vision of interactive television. There is now an alternative to the TV as the terminal to the home, the PC. I-TV developers may get a free user network and content, but with it comes competition from the PC, the expectations of existing users, and uses and content developed around the PC not the TV.
Many people have both television and computers at home. Does it make sense to develop the television as an interactive terminal, even if there is still a huge number of PC non-owners or users who might use it. These uncertainties, and the on-going process of innovation that accompanies the working out of the answer between the market or users, and the various players of the supply industries, is an important example of complex socio-technical change that needs addressed. 2 The Struggle To Make Television Interactive Interactive television should not be defined as a particular technical or information system : it is a term that has been appropriated and rejected by many of the players trying to change television, and could be applied to many widely different systems. I define interactive television as bringing possibilities of interactive multimedia technology to Television.
It is therefore crucial to understand Television to understand what interactive television might be. Television is not just a technical system or a series of programmes. It must be considered as a major business, and placed it in a wider technical and social context. Television is also a mass market and cross-society phenomenon, almost everyone watches TV, and it is the sheer reach of the medium that makes the integration of new technology into Television a major issue. Television is central to most people’s domestic life, and to our cultural, social, political and consumer awareness. In other words, ‘television is everyday life’ (Silverstone 1994).
Most people in the developed world, and increasingly in developing countries, rely on television as a primary source of global news, of entertainment, of political awareness, product and cultural knowledge, and a resource to construct and reflect self-identity. It is also embedded in the cultural and political (Williams 1990 (first pub. 1975)): national and now global culture would be very different and may not exist without television in its current form. Television is also an important industry, a huge money earner, and a controversial business that challenges political and cultural norms as is becomes more commercial and international. Interactive television may involve changing television in one or all its aspects.
Changes in technology that are worth their investment will certainly run in parallel with changes in the industry, use, content and regulation. The social shaping approach indicates that attempts to create interactive television systems are the result of the interaction of these factors, including commercial interests, competing products, regulation, developing user needs etc (MacKenzie and Wajcman 1985; Williams and Edge 1996), as well as the invention of new technology. Successful i-TV projects will be the ones that take advantage of the embedded nature of technology, however much the most technically sophisticated or creatively daring ones may inspire us. 2.1 A brief history of i-TV Many attempts have been made to develop ‘interactive’ television (Carey 1996). These have been undertaken around particular poles of attraction that provided the motivation for experimentation and change sometimes the technology has been the attraction, sometimes the content, and sometimes the users and consumers. These poles of attraction have generally only been of concern for small groups of technology and infrastructure companies and, on occasion governments wanting to develop industry or infrastructure.
The earliest TV systems were two-way communications devices; after the broadcasting model was established, systems such as QUBE in the 1970s used cable systems to provide interactive services involving home audiences, but failed to offer sufficient return on investment (Carey, 1996 #184). The 1980s saw the development of videotext, either broadcast or via a telephone modem, around a model of information searching and browsing. In the 1990s many expensive proprietary interactive television projects were set up, or at least publicised, by technology and network companies anxious to realise long standing science fiction dreams, bolster share prices and generate new revenue streams. Although many of these projects may have ‘failed’, they gave birth to huge numbers of spin-off sons and daughters: media and technology products and formats, business opportunities, engineering and business knowledge and experienced personnel. In addition, much was learned from these trials and services, not least that the services, content and the audience/users are the key factors and these need more that just vast amounts of cash to develop.
In the last years of the 1990s, the Internet, and more particularly, World Wide Web content, have emerged to offer a way of providing many i-TV services more easily and cheaply than some of the more technology heavy and commercially integrated systems. In the same way as earlier technologies were grasped upon to provide interactive television, the Web and Internet became one of the poles of attraction for system and business development.