democratization of technology

Those of you who happened to catch the business section of the NYTimes this morning might have seen this article on the new "Cubic" phone that's being marketed as "the first global mobile phone." a cellphone without bordes Although in theory you can make calls from your AT&T or T-Mobile phone using the same kind of international network, the rate by the minute is sky-high (which I had the pleasure to find out abroad last semester).

The Cubic comes with lots of cool features that make it possible for more people to be able to talk to their friends overseas, the best of which is its 50-90% lower price per minute than any other international plan. Although it is an internet phone and suffers a delay and more dropped calls than most, it's a step in a good direction. If it were up to me, I'd say the next step would be to make calls between the Cubic and other internet sources free, sort of like a mobile version of Skype for which you'd only have to pay the price of the phone or if you want to call someone not on the network. In any case, cutting the price of international calls by 90% will definitely cut down even more borders on a global scale.

Another Times technology tidbit that caught my eye this morning was the revamped Photoshop Elements & Premier Elements, Adobe's amateur versions of the much pricier professional software.
photoshop elements While the new Elements are only $149 for the pair, the "pro" versions come in at $649 and $799 respectively. Although it's nice that Adobe releases kiddie versions of their software at much more affordable prices, something about this still majorly bums me out. I think here Manovich's notion comes into play: even in the age of user-generated content "professionals" must strive to remain on top as the producers of the newest, freshest stuff. But maybe that only remains true because most users just don't have access to the same professional-grade applications. So in a way, "professionals" are only remaining on top as they are the ones maintaining the discrepancy.

Plus they get paid to do it, which could be an incentive. I'm just saying.

Anyway, I think that the general trend for technological innovation over time has been its democratization, or at least democratization within the progress of individual media categories after they are invented. Perhaps this is along the lines of McLuhan's "reversal of the overheated medium," which despite all its obvious flaws is still something I'm interested in because I see the same pattern in Ong's progression from orality to literacy.

Hopefully both cellphones and Adobe software will follow along the same lines.

Here's the the thoughts I had reading your ideas on Adobe's baby Photoshop. My initial reaction: Strange how information based services work. It bet it costs them perhaps pennies more to produce the professional version. Ont op of that considering development, advertising, packaging, redesign etc., it is much more expensive for them than the professional PS. Yet it makes economic sense for them to make it and sell it. I just find it interesting to think of things on this level. They make more money, by spending more money, to make their product worse, so they can sell it for less money.

Second Reaction: Manovich is spot on. And Adobe knows it. Manovich has been twisted, they aren't striving to make better, more out of reach products to retain the professional divide, they have actually stepped backward and created out of thin air an entirely new hierarchy that makes their flagship program more elite by providing only an artificial lower rung.

On the democratization of media. I "found" CS 3 on the web in many small parts, lets call them torrents. Interestingly I have a good friend who is a graphic arts major. She needed the program, and I offered to "find" it for her so she didn't have to pay exorbitant prices. She bought it because she is a "professional." The hierarchies of professionalism and amateur are in my mind often ones of appearance, declaration, and economics, than of ability or capability.

a couple of years ago, one of my friends was telling me how he'd bought final cut pro. when i pointed out that he could have just "found" it for free, he said that, because he wanted to become a professional, he felt it that he had to get it legitimately. to me, this largely grows out of a deep antipathy in hollywood for "finding" things for free on the internet, but it still speaks to what you mention above.

at the same time, i don't agree with your assertion that the amateur version of photoshop is "worse" than the professional one. yes, it surely affords you fewer capabilities, but how many of those capabilities would an amateur really want? when our tutorial in photoshop comes around, i don't expect to be disappointed by how quickly i master everything that version has to offer.

To be clear I have never used the "amateur" version and I doubt we will be for class either, and I am very curious to know what features are different.

What I was trying to say wasn't that the amateur version wouldn't be more convenient for a number of users. I was simply expressing amazement that they could increase the cachet of their "professional" simply by introducing a program that at the very least just has fewer features, and so is worse in that sense.

I guess my conclusions was that it is interesting a company can separate amateur and professional not by introducing new capabilities, but by delivering a product with less. It's not a judgement call; it certainly makes sense for the consumer, on top of the company. It will be convenient for a lot of people. I just thought it was interesting how hierarchies can work seemingly retroactively.