The Viridian Design Movement

From: Bruce Sterling []

Sent: Monday, December 02, 2002 8:18 PM

Subject: Viridian Note 00351: Decaying Media

Key concepts:
intellectual property, planned obsolescence,
DVDs, Viridian Embrace Decay Principle
Attention Conservation Notice:
It's really a "Dead Media Project" note disguised as a Viridian Note.


almost perfectly preserved as "new media" die off in droves. Go ahead, take all the dead media you like! Maybe you'd like to run the project!

Communication Arts magazine 9th Interactive Design Competition.

Wacky retro-tech casemods. Rush against the tide of obsolescence by making your computer resemble your Mom's toaster.

Weird old TV sets, all teched-up.

Rebuild an Apple I.,2125,56426,00.html

Ludicrous tattooing robot. Nice graphic, though.

Source: Ron Harris, Associated Press

Now you see it, now you don't!

By Ron Harris / Associated Press

Sunday, December 1, 2002

"SAN FRANCISCO – On a dismal, rainy day after watching Mel Gibson battle the English in 'Braveheart,' wouldn't it be nice to simply throw away the DVD instead of slogging the rental back to Blockbuster? (((I'd bet good money Ron Harris didn't write this blockheaded lede paragraph.)))

"Technology that makes DVDs self-destruct in a few hours or days has already been developed, raising the prospect of a world without late fees.

"In one recent promotion, Atlantic Records made a limited run of DVDs containing footage of the hip-hop group Nappy Roots that was viewable only for a few hours before the disc 'expired.' (((Has the group expired yet? Must we wait long?)))

"MGM Studios used self-destructing DVDs with music videos and trailers to promote the new James Bond movie, 'Die Another Day.' Movie critics were told the DVD would self-destruct in 36 hours – a nod to 007's gadget- providing character Q. (((I can imagine some serious alternative uses for auto-decaying storage media. For instance, pirates would find them very handy for destroying legal evidence against themselves.)))

"And self-expiring discs also showed up at MTV's recent Latin American awards show in Miami. ((("Los desaparecidos.")))

"But to reach consumers more broadly, any promising technology needs to make sound business sense. (((Dream on, pal – I'm on the Internet!))) In an entertainment industry where profits depend in part on multiple rentals and late fees, disposable discs represent a disruptive technology, and none of the big players have endorsed it publicly. (((The late-fee scam is a particularly ingenious way to profit off human fallibility.)))

"New York-based Flexplay, which ensured the timely deaths of these promotional DVDs, has yet to produce any full-length movies with the technology, in which chemical changes eventually render discs unusable."

Link: The Flexplay FAQ
(((Good for them: "Flexplay encourages all users to recycle their Flexplay DVDs. Flexplay is working with several organizations to establish post-consumer DVD recycling practices.")))

"Providence, R.I.-based SpectraDisc developed similar technology and has courted most of the major studios, but none has been willing to sign a production deal."

Spectra is also into some hairy ubicomp tagging stuff.

"'The decision process has been in stall mode now for at least a year and a half,' said SpectraDisc chief executive Nabil Lawandy. 'It's all in the hands of the content providers. They have the leverage along with distribution.' (((Boy, no wonder the tech is in "stall mode." Why, during the Dark Ages, the whole of Western Civilization was in "stall mode.")))

"Flexplay's chief executive, Alan Blaustein, agrees the science is ready to go, even if Hollywood is not." (((Well, that ought to solve Bill Joy's problems about "relinquishing technology" – just make Hollywood our technology czar across the board.))) Link:

"Another reason major studios could be wary is that Flexplay and SpectraDisc may not have resolved potential intellectual-property issues surrounding their patented technologies. (((Has anybody anywhere ever really "resolved" their "intellectual property issues"? I mean, without being totally dead and utterly forgotten?)))

"Both Flexplay and SpectraDisc add a chemical time- bomb to DVDs that begins ticking once the package is open and the discs are exposed to air. (((I have to like this, somehow. Think of all the consumer items that would improve with "chemical time bombs" that rendered them inoperative. Land mines, stale pharmaceuticals, political campaign posters....)))

"SpectraDisc applies an outer chemical layer to the disc that begins evaporating and changing in color as the expiration time nears. Flexplay integrates its chemicals into the inner layers of the disc. (((Aestheticize the rotting process.)))

"SpectraDisc DVDs turn blue. Flexplay discs also turn darker, becoming so opaque that the laser inside a DVD player no longer can read the disc. (((Burn a cool skull and crossbones into them as they rot.)))

"The technology can also work on music CDs and software CD-ROMs, according to SpectraDisc, but movies are the target, since consumers generally buy music and software to keep. (((Sez who? The music business thrives by selling the same music over and over in more "advanced" media, forcing people to junk vinyl records, tape cassettes, wire recording, wax cylinders, etc etc. Why not rationalize this process and force people to pay for all their music once a year?)))

"At Netflix, the online movie-rental service, self- destructing DVDs would be a natural fit – customers won't have to mail back discs after watching them. Founder and CEO Reed Hastings said Netflix will use whatever DVDs Hollywood decides to produce – but he doesn't see these among them.

Link: Netflix. Man, that's a lot of disks. Woah, Bollywood movies!

"'A cool technology doesn't amount to a hill of beans unless the studios decide to support it,' Hastings said. (((It may not amount to a hill of beans even then – see the miserable failure of DivX.))) Link:

"None of the major moviemakers contacted by The Associated Press – Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Vivendi Universal, MGM and The Walt Disney Co. – would comment on plans to make self-destructing movies. (((I promise you one thing: if Disney made them, they would never, ever call them "self-destructing movies.")))

"If such technology were to reach the market, it could force movie-rental houses to rethink their pricing. Blockbuster collects 15 percent to 20 percent of its revenue through late fees, said Ryan Jones, an analyst for The Yankee Group. (((I wonder how much they make from users who die with Blockbuster property in their possession.)))

"Nonetheless, Blockbuster says it'll bite if consumers

demand them – even if it means no more late fees.

"'Our goal isn't to make money through extended viewing fees,' said Karen Raskopf, a Blockbuster spokeswoman. 'Our goal is to satisfy customers with the movies they want in the format they want.' (((Oh for shame Karen. Oh what a lie.)))

Karen calls off the Blockbuster deal with Enron.
Yes, Enron.

"Raskopf said late fees were necessary when movies came only on video tape because they were expensive to buy. DVDs are cheaper for Blockbuster, so the company can consider disposables, she said. ((Besides, rental DVDS scratch up and get grimy so fast that they really bite as rental objects.)))

"While self-destructing DVDs would give content providers more control over distribution, it still wouldn't prevent illegal copying.

"'It only takes a half an hour to rip a DVD,' Jones said. (((The horror, the horror. It took me longer than that just to write this Viridian Note. And most of it was written by Ron Harris! Sorry Ron, but we call that "fair use" in the print biz. Besides, Viridian Notes vaporize right off people's screens in a matter of instants.)))

"The entertainment industry already has found other ways to limit distribution. (((It's getting good here. This is real tech decadence. Imagine explaining this to Vannevar Bush in 1945.)))

"Recording labels commonly send music critics promotional material laden with low-tech copy protection. For example, tapes of new songs are sometimes sent in portable players glued shut to prevent copying.'

Link: Yep, they glue 'em. They glue the headphones
in, too.

"Self-destructing DVDs would create considerable waste. A study conducted for Flexplay by environmental policy expert Jonathan Koomey found that if disposable DVDs made up 10 percent of all U.S. video rentals, an additional 350 million DVDs would be discarded, creating 5,600 metric tons of solid waste annually. The environmental impact would be mitigated somewhat by fewer cars making return trips to rental stores, Koomey suggested. (((Make 'em out of something that vaporizes entirely.)))

"SpectraDisc's self-destructing DVDs can be reused if a new coat of the play-limiting chemicals is reapplied, Lawandy said. Flexplay's discs can only be broken down and recycled as plastic waste."

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O

Go back to the Viridian Design home page.