Abstract: Everything Wired Must Converge

10 08 2008

Christopher Elliott’s article “Everything Wired Must Converge,” is outdated, and not just because the article was published in the Journal of Business Strategy in November 1997. Referencing CompuServe and Prodigy as converged networks that are “beginning to behave like the public Internet,” and introducing VPNs as a new technology also date the article and contrast the technological landscapes of 1997 to today.

However, the article was ahead of its time, identifying network convergence as a turning point for business efficiency and online social interaction alike. Yochai Benkler expanded on the importance and magnitude of network convergence in “The Wealth of Networks,” published nearly a decade later.

Elliott ‘s expert sources in the article also forecast the “Supernet” – a hybrid of what we consider intranets today that would be “faster, safer and more pervasive than today’s Internet.” Article sources say security is the only impediment between the Internet connectivity of the day and the “Supernet.” Today, the Supernet as described in the article, has not yet manifested, but business’ adoption of network convergence vehicles such as intranets, extranets and VPNs has expanded. Consumers have not adopted these vehicles, but features of the preexisting closed networks (Prodigy, primitive AOL) have spun off to primary mediums for this audience: Instant messaging and forums are now mainstream communication tools. More importantly, the maturation of networks and this direction toward a Supernet is enabling access and content creation for all.

This idea of increased access and content creation, namely by individuals, is the driver behind Scott Gant’s book, “We’re All Journalists Now.” He argues that converged networks are skewing the media landscape and threatening some of the rights and privileges (shield laws) traditional media previously enjoyed. As the importance of blogging as a source of news and opinion grows in terms of quality, readership and thought-leadership, courts will have an increasingly difficult time deciphering what news sources should be granted confidentiality and privacy. If these privileges are withheld, a downward domino affect could occur: Journalists will have less access to sources and thus have less to report, resulting in a less informed public.

Often we think about converged networks, as presented by Elliott and Benkler, as positive evolutions, but, as Gant points out, the mostly positive affect of converged networks on media has repercussions, too.