Red Queens and Increasing Returns
I own a copy of Philip K. Dick’s book, Total Recall on my Kindle and rented Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall (1990) film from Red Box a few years ago. I have also watched Schwarzenegger’s version multiple times on cable TV. Interestingly, Dick (2012) stated that the Total Recall story was originally published under the title “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” during 1966. I see this movie as a classic, and now that streaming videos are currently popular, I thought the film must be available on all streaming video services.
Movie Hunt: Rent or purchase DVD versus viewing digitally
Therefore, during Module 4 where students in this course were required to find a movie based on a Philip K. Dick book, I immediately opened up Netflix and performed a search. To my horror, Total Recall was not available! I tried my paid-for-Hulu service and received the same results, not available. However, when I tried Google Play, I saw that the new version of Total Recall was available. I was tempted to purchase the new version, not only because the movie was intriguing, but also because I would be able to immediately view it from any of my digital devices. Moreover, I will not be using up my storage space in that the movie would be safely stored on Google’s cloud. I ended up viewing Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall (1990) film in parts on YouTube during module 4.
Thornburg explained that Red Queens are two technologies that are in fierce competition with each other in order to gain an advantage over their competition by meeting new needs and becoming better (Thornburg, 2008c). According to the Red Queens’ concept, to gain advantage over their competitors, technological designers, must let their innovations go at least twice as fast as their counterparts.
I agree with Thornburg (2008c) that users are the beneficiaries of Red Queens events as seen with Netscape and Microsoft for the web browser wars. Users ended up receiving web browsers for free. I recall during the past when the use of Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTNs) were expensive. Speaking across neighboring towns with a different area code would be very expensive, until Voice over IP (VoIP) emerged and created a fierce battle of Red Queens between both technologies. Currently, most of our phone services are Internet based and allow users to call nationwide at an inexpensive flat rate.
Example of Red Queens
Reflecting on my own experiences concerning the need to have videos/films delivered immediately, I would say that video-on-demand is now a worthy opponent to DVDs which can be seen as an example of Red Queens. One clear indication that this is an example of Red Queens is the idea that users are now able to view many videos for free, for example, there is a free version of Hulu which allows endless streaming. Also, YouTube is a well known free streaming service which allows users to stream videos both upstream and downstream. Furthermore, DVDs are now sold for very low prices, for example, at my local supermarket movies, DVDs are being sold for as low as three movies for five dollars. I own hundreds of DVDs, however, most of them can be found on my streaming services such as my Netflix and Hulu accounts. In fact, video-on-demand/streaming service owners are most likely gaining advantage over DVDs suppliers.
Users are seeking immediacy and convenience. Personally speaking, most of the times whenever I need to view a video, I need to view it immediately and not to wait for it to come in the mail or to trek to a store to rent or purchase it. Moreover, I like the idea of not having to store my movies on a physical shelf; I prefer to have them stored on a streaming service cloud where I can have access to all my items anytime, anyplace and on any device.
In Light of the Four Criteria of McLuhan’s Tetrad
In order to effectively evaluate the battle of the Red Queens – DVDs and video-on-demand, I will make an assessment using the four criteria of McLuhan’s tetrad. Based on my own experience (as well as the experience of the people around me and online), video-on-demand/streaming services seems to be an emerging innovation which brought about Red Queens battle with DVD technologies. Some of these streaming services are slightly different from each other, for example, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime; however they work together as clusters to obsolete DVD technologies.
Interestingly, DVDs had replaced VHSs in the past and now it seems to be in the process of being replaced by cloud-based video-on-demand/streaming services. Similarly, video-on-demand/streaming services might be replaced by holographic video streaming in the future. The usefulness of video-on-demand/streaming services is helping their designers to gain advantage over their competitors. The main usefulness of video-on-demand is that it improves speed of access to video/movies. This is very important, especially in education, where learners today are used to having access to all forms of information immediately. See Figure 1 for an image of the four criteria of McLuhan’s tetrad in relationship to DVDs and video-on-demand competing as Red Queens in the video/movie industry.
Emerging Technology Tetrad: video-on-demand
Enhances: video-on-demand improves speed of access to videos/movies.
Reverses: holographic video streaming might replace video-on-demand in the future.
Retrieve/Rekindles: Video-on-demand brings back spontaneous story telling of the past.
Obsoletes: video-on-demand might lead to the abandonment of DVDs.
Dick, P. K. (2012). Total Recall (Kindle Locations 12-13). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
Thornburg, D. (2008c). Red Queens, butterflies, and strange attractors: Imperfect lenses into emergent technologies. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.