7.0379 Further R: Virtual Interactions (1/90)

Sat, 1 Jan 1994 21:12:36 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0379. Saturday, 1 Jan 1994.

Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1993 14:23:35 -0500 (EST)
From: guedon@ERE.UMontreal.CA (Guedon Jean-Claude)
Subject: Re: 7.0372 R: Virtual Interactions

> James McSwain mentioned Howard Rheingold's new book. I haven't
> read it, but I have read the Business Week review and I've heard
> Howard on the radio. I think he's right that people want to
> interact with other people. (That became evident from the
> French Minitel system and from the extremely popular chat lines
> on CompuServe and other services.) However, Howard Rheingold
> has little experience with the nets outside The WELL, a very
> elite net community that is active in the arts, environmental
> concerns, and other social causes.

I have read most of Rheingold's book and he displays a good knowledge
of a wide variety of nets, including Minitel. Knowing that latter
network rather well, I can testify to the general accuracy of most
of what he states and claims about it.
> Email or newsgroup reading involves a single interface program
> -- for any one person -- and is not too difficult to learn.
> The richness of personal interaction easily pays back the
> effort to learn this interface. It's harder to imagine
> people ordering pizzas and bank statements from disparate
> visual interfaces provided by individual service vendors.
> Yet that has to be the next step.
Again, this is not to be the next step. This has been available
on Minitel for the last seven or eight years. In this regard,
one must carefully distinguish between standardized function
keys such as those that Minitel provides, and the peculiar uses
of the same function keys (or combination thereof) within a given
service provider. On Minitel, there are about 17,000 services
available and each has its own peculiarities.

> I really think that Howard is missing the money angle.
> There's no money to be made in people talking to people,
> beyond basic communication charges.

Again, this is false. Minitel was launched because communication
took over as the main usage and a lot of money was (and is
still being) made in this fashion. Beside, communication is
now coupled with games, online shops and the like, so that the
chat line act a bit like a tv program: it attracts users
who pay about $12-$15.00/hr and who may move on to other
activities with greater added value than mere chat.

The large cash flows
> are in other services, and those services will evolve
> to the point that people are willing to pay for them
> and to learn to use the interfaces. Acceptance will be
> slow, but it will come.

Precisely, and that is why the chatlines are so crucial to
the launching of commercial CMC systems: they act like
a booster for a multi-stage rocket.

There will always be people talking
> to people, but there will also be reporters summarizing
> the discussions, authors selling their books, celebrity
> interviews, fee-based data services, and everything else
> that you find in other markets. Distribution costs are
> near zero, so only a small audience is needed for each
> service. We haven't worked out yet how to "draw a crowd"
> to a new service, but advertising will also finds its place.

Again, the Minitel example is clear: look at how Trois Suisses
or La Redoute, big mail-order houses, use Minitel. Sears consulted
with La Redoute, several years back. Sears is now involved with Prodigy
(but I won't go into that as I believe Prodigy to be fraught with some
bad growing pains, to say the least).

> The commercial infrastructure is developing; whether rapidly
> or slowly depends on your historical perspective.
> -- Ken Laws
> -------
I agree with the last statement, but being a historian by training,
I would argue that "telematics" is growing at a phenomenal pace.

Jean-Claude Guedon Tel. 514-343-6208
Professeur titulaire Fax: 514-343-2211
Departement de litterature comparee Surfaces
Universite de Montreal Tel. 514-343-5683
C.P. 6128, Succursale "A" Fax. 514-343-5684
Montreal, Qc H3C 3J7
Canada guedon@ere.umontreal.ca