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The Economics And Politics Of The New Media, Vol. 6 - 1999, No. 3

A Story Of Failed Technology: Deconstructing Interactive TV Networks

, pages: 87-100

Interactive TV is a medium providing the users with hundreds of video channels, on- demand delivery of programs, information services, on-line shopping, telebanking, etc. It is a seed-version of a comprehensive home communication medium. It is also a concrete, actual case of media convergence using developing information communication technology. It could also be a reference point to discuss the issue of telecommunications convergence. Interactive TV shows us how the telecommunications industry tries to expropriate information communication technologies according to their corporate visions. A large body of research measures interactive TV “a failure-success frame,” particularly in economic and technological terms. However, the failure-success of interactive TV is only half the story. Interactive TV is certainly a failed technology in terms of technology and business. But the question is more than just “wrong technology, wrong business plans, or wrong timing.” The problematic of interactive TV should go deeper than that. It should be reframed in the historical notion of cultural and political clashes between “the lateral mode” and “the vertical mode” in organising information communication technology in America. In short, the vertical mode of organising relates to a corporate- commercial move, whereas the lateral mode organising relates to an alternative-public move. The history of communication networks, whether broadcasting, telephone, cable, or even the Internet, in the US attests that it is a site of struggle between these two polarising ideals.

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