Chromecast – Barbarians at the gate
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last five minutes (in Internet time), you probably know about Google’s Chromecast.
Chromecast is a $35 HDMI dongle that hangs off the back of your TV set. It allows you to stream YouTube, Netflix, and just about anything you can view in your Chrome browser to your TV. This is nothing new. A modern TV with wireless can do the same thing.
I am not going to review the Chromecast – there are already hundreds or thousands of those.
But I am going to tell you what I thought about when I hooked mine up.
A television is an end device. By this I mean that a traditional television set has been a specialized device that only certain content can appear on. In the old days, about five or so years ago, you had to be someone special to get content to a television. You had to be a “Network” (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc) or a cable provider delivering content such as AMC, CNN, CNBC, and so on. To have content on a television, you had to have millions of dollars. Development of television programs was done by professionals and it cost millions of dollars to produce and distribute.
The same was true with books. In the old days, before self-publishing and easy global distribution on Amazon.com if you picked up a book you kinda knew that someone (the author(s)) probably spent a year of so researching and writing the content. There was a tacit assumption of professionalism. We had corporate entities called “publishers” that filtered the good from the bad.
What about radio? The physical end device called a “radio” was like a television end device. To be heard on a traditional radio station meant that you had hundreds of thousands of dollars and the value of the content was somehow commensurate with the cost of the broadcast capability.
Assembly of the Hordes
Anyone can offer an e-book on Amazon and get global distribution. And anyone can put a video on YouTube and get global distribution. If you listen to “radio” as Internet streams you know that anyone can be a broadcast radio station with global distribution. The cost of the global distribution of content is approaching $0.
What has changed, is that there is no longer a vetting process for what we have traditionally understood as books, radio, and television – and lets add journalism to this as well. The Wall Street Journal web site can appear in a tab in your browser next to any blogger on the Internet.
So when I hooked up the Chromecast to my television I knew that the Barbarians were at the gate. My television end device is no longer a gatekeeper on the quality of content (with all respect to Newton Minow) and now a video of “a cat flushing a toilet” can appear on the same device as AMC’s Mad Men.
It may be an odd thing to say, but I think it’s true. The traditional role of radio, television, and books was to serve as a coherent guideposts for the culture. In a certain sense, before all this new media, we (the society and the culture) were “all on the same page”. We all watched, listened to, and read the same limited variety of content on the television end device, the radio end device, and books and newspapers guarded by publishers distributed on paper.
But now, these “filters of coherency” have been breached by modern technology. Content from everyone and everywhere washes over us like a tsunami on all devices.
With no gatekeepers there will be a chaos. And in chaos, people wander aimlessly.
At $35, Chromecast has breached the walls of my television set. The last bastion of protection is your own mind and decision-making. There will be no “cats flushing a toilet’ on my television anytime soon. Hope I can say the same about you when you hookup Chromecast to your TV.