Following our EU project review in May, the most recent NoTube project meeting last month was a good time to reflect a little on what we’ve done so far and what we should do next, especially given the speed with which TV and the Web are converging outside the project.
Prior to the formal meeting, a group of us met informally in the inspiring surroundings of Istanbul for some interesting conversations about our predictions for the future of TV and challenges and ideas for the rest of the NoTube project.
We talked about the seamless continuity of devices in future, made possible with new devices such as pico projectors – tiny portable projectors – that will “liberate the display from the device” and enable TV ‘on a big screen’ to be accessed anywhere. The future integration of embedded projectors in connected devices such as smartphones and tablet computers will enable any suitable surface to be turned into a second screen which groups of people can watch together.
Accelerated by the success of the iPad and its suitability for use in the home for leisure and entertainment, as demonstrated recently by the various dual screen experiences designed for the World Cup such as ITV Live , we expect second, or third, screens will continue to enhance the TV experience by pushing additional content to users and providing complementary activities. This will leave the TV screen itself uncluttered. As MIT researcher Marie-Jose Montpetit said recently: “You’re going to interact with the content on your TV, but with another device.” However, with increased adoption of Web-connected TVs such as GoogleTV, we also wait to see whether the second screen will eventually be replaced by all-encompassing single-screen solutions.
We expect that, as well as there being lots more of it, video content will become more interactive and interfaces more playful, with games becoming the primary way that people will interact with devices. For example, MTV recently turned TV watching into a gaming experience by inviting viewers to participate in competitive chat during episodes of the reality show The Hills. As well as being more engaging, such interactive media is presumably harder to copy, so that “downloading a pirate copy later just won’t be the same as participating in the show as it goes out”.
Should I believe it?
One particularly interesting prediction is that the future will be ‘watching, not reading'; that with ubiquitous video content people will use video to explain things, instead of text. Following on from the central idea that ‘conversation is king’, this led to a discussion about danbri’s ideas for ‘smart’ conversations around video content that would instigate high-quality debate and encourage good communities to propagate alternative views by checking facts and pointing to deep-links to specific parts of video content as evidence. Sites such as Channel 4’s Factcheck with Cathy Newman which “goes behind the spin to dig out the truth and separate political fact from fiction” and Debatepedia, “the wikipedia of pros and cons to clarify public debates and improve decision-making globally”, are already leading the way here. Further, Debategraph, has been experimenting with various news organisations to create debate ‘maps’ – visualisations of domains of knowledge from multiple perspectives – such as The Independent’s map of the Crisis in Gaza, and CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour’s agenda for a new global conversation.
We’ve also noticed the trend for arguing via YouTube comments (for example the journalist Peter Hadfield writes in The Guardian about how his YouTube channel is converting climate change sceptics), and that the ‘like’ button in Facebook can sometimes be problematic. For example, Facebook users who wanted to curb the rumours of a pub ban on England football shirts in May had no way of indicating that they disagreed with the statements being circulated. Similarly, Martin Belam notes how inappropriate the Facebook ‘like’ button is for certain types of news stories. Although Facebook also have the ‘recommend’ button, as danbri pointed out, the issue is quite a subtle one in the modelling; sometimes you’re talking about the thing the page is about (liking a movie) sometimes about the document but not the thing the document is about (recommending an article about some awful thing). The Facebook example suggests to us that there is clearly more work to be done around carefully structuring conversations.
So, one focus of work over the next year in NoTube is likely to be around useful, rich, link-centred data to specific points in a video, for example around news stories, political debates, or dramas (for discussing plot lines and characters). One technical challenge here will be addressing the problem of how the metadata stays attached to the specific piece of video content.
Given our prediction for the increased use of social media in TV, and that Twitter and other micro-blogging tools such as identi.ca are already often used as a mechanism for posing ideas and engaging and responding to them, we also expect to see social micro-blogging featuring in future NoTube demos. And with Twitter Annotations coming soon, enabling the addition of metadata about a tweet or the user who posted it, it should be easier to track threaded discussions around topics.
I, for one, left the discussion feeling heartened to think that the convergence of TV and the Web could evolve in such a way that it might improve standards of informed debate and truth-seeking for everyone.