Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 14, 201311:12 AM

The New Convergence

This is not about media convergence. It's about something bigger.

Things change. Things change so fast that sometimes, it's hard to see it. We tend to think about our businesses and our lives in terms of keeping up with change. This creates a metal imagery of a mouse running on a wheel, doesn't it? At some point you're just chasing your own tail. Instead of worrying about how much the world is changing, why not focus on the things that have changed?

A new paradigm.

In both of my business books (Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete), the case it laid out for just how much technology, innovation and connectivity has changed business (yes, it's much more than just the media and marketing sides of things). In both books, I discuss how anyone from any city now has access to a global audience. Because of this, the concept of opening up a local retail outlet seems counterintuitive. Why sell to a small segment of people in a local town, in the hopes that they will walk into your store, when the Internet grants you access to a global customer base that allows you to sell (and stay open) even when you're asleep? Well, it turns out that there's a new convergence in town. It's not about how media converge (TV becoming connected screens or newspapers and their digital siblings). This is about a new world where the physical meets digital and the digital meets physical.

It's powerful. It's big.

Think about what Jack Dorsey is doing with Square. He's taking mobile connectivity and adding in a layer of the physical to turn ever smartphone and tablet into a merchant account. His vision statement is clear (and genius): "no more cash registers." This new business blends the digital and physical. LEGO offers the Digital Box in all of their stores. These interactive screens allow consumers to hold up the physical box in front of this digital box, which then creates a three-dimensional augmented reality build of what's inside the box. This form of utilitarianism marketing blends the digital and physical seamlessly.

We're seeing it everywhere.

Laugh at people wearing Google Glasses all you want (they're now being called "glassholes". The ability to change the paradigm of how we interact with technology (moving from holding, hands and fingers to using your eyes and voice to engage with content) is another nascent example of how digital is meeting physical and vice-versa. All wearable technology (think Nike Fuelband or Jawbone's Up) beautifully illustrate this major movement and what the present (and future) of business holds. Robotics, 3D printing push the idea of physical meeting digital and digital meeting physical to the very brink.

It's still early days.  

Ultimately, it is fascinating to see media and marketers adjust to the digitization of industry. It's still fascinating. It still fascinates me (and I'm hopeful that it fascinates you as well). What is even more fascinating is this brand new breed of startups and entrepreneurs who are truly moving The Internet of Things into a viable business model. One that is more than just profitable, but one that is setting the stage for what will be the next industrial revolution. Former Wired Magazine editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson, makes a very compelling case for it in his latest book, Makers (which is an incredible book, if you're looking for something to read this summer). New technology seems weird when it is first introduced. It feels raw. It feels nerdy. It feels like it's only suitable for a small and affluent niche. While this may be true, we are in the era of exponential growth when it comes to technology and adoption by the mass audience (consider this: the iPad didn't exist four years ago). The new convergence of digital meeting physical and physical meeting digital in a seamless and easy-to-use and adopt fashion has brought us to this magical moment when technology has removed the technology from technology. For my dollar, media convergence suddenly got a whole lot less exciting when compared to the new convergence of our digital and physical lives.

What do you think?   

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Joseph Ratliff
    Mitch Joel

    I think we also remember that just because a particular type of technology is new, doesn't automatically mean it will be accepted in the end either.

    (laser-disc player anyone?)

    In terms of wearable tech, I think there will be certain pieces that won't make it, either because the novelty wears off (lack of real, practical usefulness) or because something else fills the practical need better than the current piece of wearable tech.

    We're going to be putting on a "fashion show" of sorts in the coming decades, and the winning pieces of tech will not only look good, but will "do" good as well.

  • Posted by Jeffrey Taylor
    Mitch Joel

    I am pondering a related question around the notion that the paradigm of convergence could indeed be a way to better imagine how we build cities and manage their associated problems. Rather than having silo solutions chugging away to improve things, perhaps the this paradigm of working will assist? It seems to have worked with media and is progressing well with the science coming together to fing new research models why not planning, transport, housing, welfare, crime?

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