Today... and Perhaps Tomorrow...

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    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
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                         July, 1996


Source : Review of International Co-operation Vol.89, No
1/1996, 14-16.

               Today . . .and Perhaps Tomorrow..  
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Moving from the spoken to the printed word with Gutenberg
before going "on air" with Marconi, the "information
revolution" is now transporting us to the "bit galaxy" where
information - texts, sounds and images - will instantaneously
circulate around the globe in the form of numerical
combinations of the digits zero and one. Consider the
following pre- and post-revolutionary sketches.

Even for someone with a comfortable standard of living in a
developed country, the possibility today of receiving,
transmitting and accessing different forms of information
(written, audio and visual) is technically limited by
geographic distance, time, diversity and quantity.

Faced with these constraints, our communication choices remain
relatively narrow. We can choose from a range of radio and
television channels via Hertzian waves. Telephone lines are
presently the only means for instantaneous communication
either by conversations or written fax messages. We can always
turn to the postal system, primarily for written materials,
assuming that the delay in delivery doesn't pose a problem.
With a trip to the nearby library, we can consult books,
tapes, videos and  CDs.

Most people must also leave home to shop, attend classes and
above all, to go to work. At this point, only those who work
independently have the option of staying at home. In some
places, students can "tele-learn" by tuning into the
appropriate channel and watching instead of interacting with
their teachers.

Tomorrow, those with the sufficient technical and financial
means will be able to "cable" their homes to the highways and
buy the appropriate multimedia equipment to radically change
their ability to communicate.

The information available will mesh words, sounds and images
(multimedia) making it possible, for example, to telephone
while seeing one another through videophone, and to "write"
spoken or audiovisual messages thanks to "electronic mail"
received seconds after being sent.

We will have almost unlimited sources of information available
nearly instantaneously (give or take the minimal transmission
time). "Consumers" will directly read, hear and see the
newspaper, a novel, a symphony, a television programme or a
film of their choosing. They will satisfy their curiosity by
consulting data banks, namely monumental encyclopedias storing
multimedia information that already exists or has been
recreated in a "virtual" environment.

Finally, this "interactive" communication will break down the
age-old barrier between "transmitters" and "receivers" so that
a completely dispersed group can work and learn simultaneously
as a team.

The possibilities are nearly infinite. However, that which we
can reasonably expect may be much more modest. Technology is
one thing, affording it is quite another.

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Infography: A Darmon (UNESCO Sources No.75, Dec. 1995 - Jan.
1996)

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