DVDs and Video-on-Demand: Red Queens or Increasing Returns (module 5)

Red Queens and Increasing Returns are terms used to describe economic competitiveness between technologies, businesses, stocks, etc.  The term Red Queens, a reference to the 1946 book Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol, is used to explain the phenomena that occurs when similar products are in direct competition with each other and must constantly put out “the next best thing” just to stay in business (Thornburg, 2013a).  For example, Lowes and Home Depot are two major hardware stores across the country that are in constant battle with one another to gain the upper hand in the market.  The problem is that no matter how hard they try they remain equal competitors.

The term Increasing Returns, on the other hand, is used to explain the process of one product becoming overwhelmingly more popular than the other to the point that one drives the other out of business (Laureate Education, 2014).  An example of increasing returns includes the rise of CDs over cassette tapes and 8-tracks.  As CDs gained popularity, cassettes and 8-track tapes became obsolete, so much so that one of the reoccurring jokes on Facebook refers to a picture of a pencil and a cassette tape and tells readers to “Share” if they know what the relationship is between the two (see picture below).

The current competition between DVDs and video on demand services would seem to be an example of the increasing returns phenomenon.  Most families across the US, and across the world, have at one point or another owned one, if not several, DVDs.  Some may even have a collection of several hundred DVDs that are now either on a shelf or neatly tucked away in a CD case collecting dust as they sit taking up space, rarely getting used.

As internet services are becoming more reliable, and increasing more available in rural areas, more people are turning to video on demand or digital downloads for their entertainment.  According to the Digital Entertainment Group (2014), 2013 sales of electronic sell-thru, subscription streaming, and video-on-demand rentals rose 47%, 32%, and 4.8%, respectively, for a combined overall increase of 23.9% in digital sales from 2012 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Watching the Trends. Percent increase or decrease in home entertainment sales from 2012 to 2013 (The Wall Street Journal, 2014).

At the same time, 2012 to 2013, the sales of physical DVDs (including Blu-ray and HD) dropped 8%.  Digital sales continued to increase while DVD sales decreased from 2013 to 2014 with digital sales being up a total of 16% and physical sales being down 10.9% (Digital Entertainment Group, 2015).

If these trends were to continue, it would be easy to believe that over the coming years digital media would eventually become the only means of home entertainment as physical media, such as DVDs, become obsolete.  However, analysts with several different magazines and reviews, including Forbes, Computer World, The Wall Street Journal, and BGR Media, suspect that DVDs will hold their own against the digital market making the DVD/VOD rival more of a Red Queens scenario, at least for now.  According to Dade Hayes of Forbes magazine (2014), there are six reasons why DVDs will remain a competitor.

  1. Physical discs are much more reliable forms of entertainment than streaming via the internet, particularly while traveling, and especially while traveling with children.
  2. Many of the major players in the media market are providing access to digital content with the purchase of a physical disc.
  3. Particular markets, such as workout videos and religious sermons, are more likely to sell if in physical format than digital. “It’s easier to sell an official championship team DVD at supermarkets, gas stations and other retail outlets, for example, than an official championship download” (Hayes, 2014, Specialization favors it).
  4. Neither HD nor digital content can contend with picture quality of Blu-ray DVDs.
  5. Due to both the confusion on how to manage online cloud storage and the cost associated with it, movie and TV series collectors will continue to buy physical discs rather than digital downloads.
  6. At least for now, people seem to be happy with what works right now. “Battered by recession and indifferent to aesthetics or the futuristic potential of cloud storage, [a lot of Americans] are happy to rent cheap discs from Redbox” (For a lot of Americans, it ain’t broke).

Similar arguments have been made by Mearian (2014), Siegal (2014), and Fritz who also adds that “the biggest change is people who would have rented a movie but now, unwilling to wait, are buying it instead” (2014).

McLuhan’s Laws of Media, originally created by Marshall McLuhan, is a series of laws or categories used to analyze emerging technologies.  Considering DVDs and video-on-demand technologies as they relate to the laws of media (extension, obsoletes, retrieves, and reverses) and home entertainment in general we can look at the categories each could be placed.  DVDs could be placed in either the extension or obsoletes category.  Especially with Blu-ray, DVDs have extended the at-home movie experience by enhancing both the picture and sound quality of movies that has yet to be rivaled.  DVDs can also be categorized as a technology that has obsoleted other technologies, such as VHS.  Video-on-demand, on the other hand, is the current future of home entertainment, but, if “pushed to the limit of its potential” (Thornburg, 2013b, p. 2), will open the doors to the next best thing that will eventually push on-demand services out the door.


Digital Entertainment Group. (2014). Year-end 2013 Home Entertainment Report. Retrieved from http://degonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/DEG-Year-End-2013-Home-Entertainment-Report.pdf

Digital Entertainment Group. (2015). 2014 Home Entertainment Spending Final. Retrieved from http://degonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014_-DEG-Home-Entertainment-Spending-Final-External_1-5-2015.pdf

Fritz, B. (2014, January 7). Sales of digital movies surge: Delaying availability of DVDs, rentals nudged consumers. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304887104579306440621142958

Hayes, D. (2013, July 8). Six reasons why DVDs still make money – and won’t die anytime soon. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dadehayes/2013/07/08/six-reasons-why-dvds-still-make-money-and-wont-die-anytime-soon/

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: Increasing Returns [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Mearian, L. (2014, May 2). Bye-bye, Blu-ray: Video-on-demand and streaming options are gaining on you. Retrieved from http://www.computerworld.com/article/2488931/data-center/bye-bye–blu-ray–video-on-demand-and-streaming-options-are-gaining-on-you.html

Siegal, J. (2014, January 8). Digital movie sales are on the rise as rentals fall off the charts. Retrieved from http://bgr.com/2014/01/08/digital-movie-sales-up-47-percent/

Thornburg, D. (2013a). Red queens, butterflies, and strange attractors: Imperfect lenses into emergent technologies. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.

Thornburg, D. (2013b). Emerging technologies and McLuhan’s laws of media. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.


Disruptive Technologies – Sixth Sense (Module 4)

Remember the movies Minority Report (2002), Iron Man 1, 2, and 3 (2008, 2010, 2013), or the television series Continuum (2012 to present)? Remember the technologies in them? Ever wonder what they have in common?

minority report1

Figure 1. Tom Cruise in Minority Report (2002).  Tom Cruise, playing Chief John Anderton, is using gloves with special sensors to manipulate a projected image of a future murder in order to determine a location and attempt to stop it from happening.

Each of the sci-fi gems, as well as a host of others, include a technology that many believe is still far from being realized, but, in fact, has already been developed…that is, the ability to project images or videos onto any surface and manipulate those projections with just a swipe of your hand.  The technology is called Sixth Sense.  It was developed by Pranav Mistry and was first demonstrated at a TED conference in India in 2009.

The SixthSense technology is comprised of a camera that acts as an “eye”, a projector that projects images onto any surface, and four colored sensors worn on the fingers.

‘SixthSense’ is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. By using a camera and a tiny projector mounted in a pendant like wearable device, ‘SixthSense’ sees what you see and visually augments any surfaces or objects we are interacting with. It projects information onto surfaces, walls, and physical objects around us, and lets us interact with the projected information through natural hand gestures, arm movements, or our interaction with the object itself. ‘SixthSense’ attempts to free information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus making the entire world your computer (Mistry, 2013a).


Figure 2. SixthSense Technology hardware. Pranav Mistry demonstrates the hardware involved in SixthSense, including the camera, projector, and color marker sensors (Mistry, 2013b).

According to Thornburg (Laureate Education, 2014), a disruptive technology is one that comes seemingly out of nowhere to serve a purpose more effectively and efficiently than one that has been on an evolutionary path to do so.  SixthSense technology can be described as a disruptive technology because it, if ever completely produced and distributed, could replace our current means of computing, communicating, taking pictures, gaming and learning. Instead of sitting in front of a computer, even a laptop that can be taken anywhere, Sixth Sense projects onto a wall, a piece of paper, or your even your hand so that your “computer” is literally anywhere you are. Pictures can be taken, not with a camera, but by just making a gesture of taking a picture by framing the fingers with colored sensors around the would-be picture.  Phone calls can be made by dialing the number on the palm of one’s hand, and things like book reviews, news articles, and videos can be found by holding up the cover of a book, newspaper, or image of movie so the camera can see it…say goodbye to Google searches, cell phones, tablets, and laptops!


Figure 3. Video news report plays on newspaper front page.  Mistry demonstrates the how SixthSense technology can recognize a newspaper headline and play related reports on the newspaper print without having to pull open a cell phone or computer (Mistry, 2013b).


Figure 4. Dial a number on your hand.  Mistry dials a phone number using the palm of his hand instead of having to search for his cell phone (Mistry, 2013b).

SixthSense technology has both great potential and possible social implications that could follow should it ever reach the market.  For one, education-wise, teachers and students could take the projectors along on field trips and instantly gain access to additional information regarding historical sites, art showcases, etc., that they are visiting. Finding books for book reports; researching news articles and stories for current events; and taking and sharing pictures for photography class will have a whole new added dimension of interest for students, especially if what they find can be shared with others anytime, anywhere.

Although the information can be gathered by connecting devices like computers and mobiles but they are restricted to the screen and there is no direct interaction between the tangible physical world and intangible digital world. This sixth sense technology provides us with the freedom of interacting with the digital world with hand gestures (SixthSense Technology, 2012, Why Choose SixthSense Technology?).

However, the “pinch and drag” feature that allows users to “pinch” a picture or text in the physical world and “drag” it to a computer screen like a “copy and paste” means teachers are going to have to be extra diligent about looking for plagiarism, especially when it comes to siting the sources of images.  This technology may also require the writers of the APA and MLA manuals to add a section on how to cite, reference, and format information found using SixthSense.


Figure 5. SixthSense displays photos anywhere. Mistry shows how SixthSense technology allows users to display and edit photos on any surface, including a wall (Mistry, 2013b).

At this point, Mistry has no intention of mass producing SixthSense.  Instead, he has posted instructions on what it takes to make SixthSense for yourself, including a link to download the software needed for free.  Until a major corporation or investor comes along to have someone mass produce the technology, it may be several years before the it reaches the majority of the population.  Only after SixthSense technology, or something similar, become an essential tool to our daily lives do I see it being replaced by “the next best thing”.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: Disruptive technologies [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Mistry, P. (2013a). SixthSense / WUW- Wear Ur World. Retrieved from  http://www.pranavmistry.com/

Mistry, P. (2013b). SixthSense: Integrating Information in the Real World. Retrieved from http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/

SixthSense Technology. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.engineersgarage.com/articles/sixth-sense-technology

TED India. (Producer). (2009). The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

Rhymes of History Technologies (Module 3)

Dr. Thornburg describes a rhyme of history technology as one that is essentially an upgrade to a technology or way of thinking from the past; something that has “rekindle[d] something from the very distant past” (Laureate Education, 2014).  One example of this type of technology is online publications and the ability to share the written word such as through blogs, wikis, and websites such as ebook.com or Amazon.com.  These web-based technologies have rekindled the idea of mass production of text for greater public consumption just as Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press.

Johannes Gutenberg is known as the creator of the movable type printing press in the 15th century.  Although others had designed their versions of the printing press, it wasn’t until Gutenberg that the printing press became an efficient and affordable method of mass producing printed texts for public consumption (Palermo, 2014). gutenberg-printing-press

Blogs were first termed as such in 1997 by Jorn Barger, though the first recognized blog was written three years earlier by college student, Justin Hall (Chapman, 2011).  By 1999 there were only a recorded 23 blogs on the internet, by 2006 there were a recorded 50 million blogs, and by the end of 2010 there were over 152 million active blogs on the internet (Chapman, 2011).  A similar trend has been seen with wikis, beginning in the early 1990s and growing to over several million.  Blogs and wikis allow individuals from all walks of life to become writers and editors, sharing their knowledge, opinions, and life events with the world.

Microsoft Word - web 2.0 logos.doc


Chapman, C. (2011, March 14). A brief history of blogging. Retrieved from http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/a-brief-history-of-blogging/

History of Wikis. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://wikis.wikia.com/wiki/History_of_wikis

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014). David Thornburg: Rhymes of history [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Palermo, E. (2014, February 25). Who invented the printing press?.  Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/43639-who-invented-the-printing-press.html

Tetrad of Online Learning (Module 2)

The notion of distance learning is not a new concept.  In fact, distance learning has actually been occurring since the early 1700s (Dumbauld, 2014), though some claim it wasn’t until 1840s, over a century later, when Isaac Pittman began teaching students shorthand by mailing homework assignment to students (Leeuwe, n.d.).  Over the years as newer technologies came into focus, distance learning transitioned from being mail via sent “pony express”, to radio broadcasts and telephone correspondence, to television, and eventually to online learning via internet capable devices.  As the available technologies continue to progress, the future of online learning could see such techniques as virtual reality science labs that could be completed at home, holographic field trips, or even, on a negative note, a decline in learning and schools all together as people are eventually able to download information straight from the internet to their brains!  Below is a tetrad, based on McLuhan’s Laws of Media (Thornburg, 2013) for online learning.



Dumbauld, B. (2014, July11). A brief history of online learning [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://www.straighterline.com/blog/brief-history-online-learning-infographic/

Leeuwe, M. (n.d.). e-Learning Fundamentals: History of e-Learning. Retrieved from http://www.leerbeleving.nl/wbts/1/history_of_elearning.html

Thornburg, D. (2013). Emerging technologies and McLuhan’s laws of media. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.

Identifying an Emerged Technology (module 1)

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Identifying an emerged technology is highly dependent on the definition used to describe whether a technology has emerged or is emerging.  While some describe an emerged technology for a particular community as one that has been introduced to the group and is perceived as emerged, regardless of actual time of development (Rogers, 2003; Laureate Education, 2014a); others make the claim that an emerged technology is one that has become affordable to all/most and has become a necessity to our daily lives (Laureate Education, 2014b).  One technology that has emerged by both definitions is that of online document sharing sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Facebook Groups, or Wikis.

images (1)

These tools are changing the ways students work together on projects and assignments, how assignments are submitted, and how students are being assessed.  These services allow for increased productivity, increased sharing of ideas, flexible access for students so they do not have to find times for them to meet in person, they save the school, students, parents, and teachers money from having to buy paper for printing, and they free up much needed physical space in overcrowded classrooms by eliminating the need for bulky file cabinets and printer stations (Top Ten Reviews, 2015; Chowdhury, 2009).

While online document sharing more and more popular in the classroom, there have been some challenges and pitfalls associated with their use.  Some of these challenges include:

  • Requires a internet connection to access documents and files.
  • The cost of some of the available programs and software may be substantial.  While there are free services, these usually come with a limited amount of storage space available and sometimes a limit to the number of collaborators working on the same project.
  • The misuse of some of these project management and document sharing services can complicate simple projects so users must understand appropriate uses for the software.
  • Not all services provide an adequate amount of security for their services putting your documents at risk of being hacked.
  • Not all services offer tracking details as to who has edited the documents.  This can be a particular challenge for teachers when it comes to assessing students, especially if equal collaboration between students is a requirement.
  • Asynchronous collaboration often takes more time than in synchronous or face to face environments.

Many of these challenges and pitfalls can be avoided if certain steps are followed.  First of all, make sure that the document sharing service chosen for use is appropriate to the students’, teachers’, and schools’ needs including cost, security, data storage, users, etc.  Next, be sure assignments requiring online collaboration are given adequate time for students to complete successfully.  Finally, be understanding of students’ ability to complete assignments in a timely manner if they are in areas where internet access may by limited, and provide opportunities for students to use the school’s internet if needed.


Australian Services Roundtable. (2015). Using Large Files and Sharing Documents. Retrieved from http://professionalservicesonline.com.au/module-9/

Carey, J. (2012, August 10). Dropbox: A Superb Classroom Tool. Retrieved from http://plpnetwork.com/2012/08/10/dropbox-a-superb-classroom-tool/

Chowdhury, R. (2009, September 29). 7 Reasons Your Business Needs Online Document Management Software. Retrieved from https://www.huddle.com/blog/online-document-management-software/

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014a). David Thornburg: What is emerging technology? [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014b). Elliot Soloway: Emerging vs. emerged technologies [Audio file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Stiglitz, J. (n.d.). Google Apps in Classrooms and Schools: 32 Ways to Use Google Apps. Retrieved from http://professionalservicesonline.com.au/module-9/

Top Ten Reviews. (2015). Top Ten Advantages of Using Online Storage Services. Retrieved from http://online-storage-service-review.toptenreviews.com/top-ten-advantages-of-using-online-storage-services.html

Motivating Students in a High School Online Math Course – Final Video

First of all, I want to apologize for the sound quality of this video.  The computer it was recorded on has a terrible microphone.

Also, there are some references that got left out of the video so I wanted to add them here.

All of the animations were made using GoAnimate.com

Geometer’s Sketchpad was used for the animated math graphics.  Each activity was a free download from http://sketchexchange.keypress.com/sketch/view/574/3d-invisibility-toolkit  and http://sketchexchange.keypress.com/sketch/view/577/3d-gallery

The photo of John Keller was borrowed from his website http://www.arcsmodel.com/

TI-NSpire. (2015). If a Tree Falls. Retrieved from http://education.ti.com/en/us/products/computer_software/ti-nspire-software/ti-nspire-and-ti-nspire-cas-teacher-software/tabs/overview

Wood, R. (2010, May 18). Tree Errors [YouTube video]. Retrieved https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCGAgDEm9Wo

Moving Toward Dynamic Technologies (module 5)

Static vs Dynamic Technologies - New Page

Concept Map was created at Lucidchart.com.  View the interactive map here.

Based on Moller’s “static-dynamic continuum”, I would place myself as being mostly in the middle or slightly towards the static side.  While I thoroughly enjoy using many of the dynamic technologies available for personal use, I have a hard time trying to figure out where to fit them into my classroom.  Especially now that I teach only online, I know I need to make a move towards using more dynamic technologies so I can keep my students engaged.  One way i plan to do this is to continue learning about the various technologies, but also to become a user of them.  Many of the course readings we have had this quarter have suggested that technologies only are not going to motivate and encourage learners, or provide a deeper level of understanding of the material.  To achieve these, the technologies have to actually be used!  Specific to the courses I teach, I would like to begin incorporating more technologies such as mathplayground.com, Geometer’s Sketchpad, MindMeister, Edmodo, and some wikis.


Moller, L. (2008). Static and dynamic technological tools. [Unpublished Paper].