Symmetry and access

One of the main differences between media is with regards to symmetry of information exchanges, ranging from pure distribution such as classical broadcasting to total symmetry such as person-to-person communication media. The symmetrical or asymmetrical nature of media is reflected in the underlying network infrastructure. There is a strong inertia in that regard. The so-called return channels for interactive television are still designed with a bandwidth much lower than for down channels (though with technologies such as ADSL one comes closer to symmetry). One of the most interesting aspects of recent ICT applications has been to enable a continuum of positions, from active access to full publishing/posting. This has been theorised under the idea of a prosumer society, in which individuals would be at the same time producers and consumers of intangible products and services. Asymmetrical media are characterised by low access costs and very high publishing entry costs. Thus, they lock in durably, since new symmetrical media that appear are in competition (for people’s time and resources) with low (often zero) marginal cost media.

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