The Virtual Revolution

Dr Aleks Krotoski


HOW have you spent your last three Saturday nights?

Out on the town?

Or sat at home, perhaps watching TV and going online?

If you’re in the UK, you may, like me, have seen the first three editions of BBC2’s fascinating The Virtual Revolution.

With the fourth and concluding episode to come this Saturday.

As the press information says:

“Twenty years on from the invention of the world wide web, the series takes stock of its profound impact – how, for better and for worse, the digital revolution is reshaping our lives.”

All presented by journalist and academic Dr Aleks Krotoski.

With just the right balance between red streaked hair, shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the information she needs to impart.

It’s a fine line to tread.

Some viewers will have detailed knowledge of the online world and the issues this series explores.

While others may still be struggling with all but the basic functions of their computer.

The series was an “open and collaborative production” developed with the help of web users and has broken new ground.

Reaching out from the old fashioned “broadcast” mode to further engage its audience.

It comes with its own Twitter hashtag – #bbcrevolution – which flashes up on screen after the opening titles.

So if you have your computer or web-enabled phone to hand, you can follow – live – what other viewers are saying.

Take part in the Twitter stream yourself, if you feel so inclined.

Plus read the real time comments and inside info from Dr Aleks – @aleksk – herself as she also gets involved in the stream.

A bit like watching the programme with the presenter sat beside you.

All, of course, possible before through online message boards, chat sites etc.

But so much more inclusive, interactive and instant via Twitter.

As Aleks reported just after the end titles on Saturday, the third episode – The Cost Of Free – divided the watching online audience.

Some said they had no idea how their privacy and identity were at risk on the web.

Others were much less worried by the possible future consequences of the information we give out about ourselves online.

The Virtual Revolution also comes with an involving and engaging website.

Sharing and expanding the series with extra material, such as uncut interviews.

The Virtual Revolution


Other broadcasters, notably ITV, have also seen the potential of online tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

And web services yet to be invented which may one day take their place.

Along with devices like Apple’s new iPad.

Or more importantly, what future versions of these products will deliver five years from now.

Together with the inevitable mainstream demand for web enabled televisions.

A TV used to mean a simple box in the corner of the room.

Future generations will regard our old viewing habits in much the same way as we look at 1930s photos of families huddled around the wireless.

Today’s world of digital, high definition, hard drive recorders and flat screens is just the start.

As television and the web continue to converge in ways we haven’t even thought of.

What happens, for example, if translation software develops to 100 per cent accuracy?

Giving us an immediate universal communication tool delivered via a method yet to be imagined.

With everyone able to watch, and interact with, a series of new global TV channels.

When the world wide web meets world wide television.

Of course there would still be cultural differences, preferences for content close to home and obvious time zone issues.

But also the potential for a truly connected world conversation, links and new ways of thinking while watching, say, the Olympics.

Not to mention the business opportunities that might create.

From Sunderland to Shanghai, there’s no stopping the virtual revolution.

*At the time of writing this, UK readers can access the first three programmes here.

*The final episode of The Virtual Revolution is on BBC2 at 8:15pm on Saturday.

The Virtual Revolution BBC Site

Aleks Krotoski Official Site

Follow Ian Wylie on Twitter

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