Has the promise of converged devices been fulfilled, and do you want that?

    by Mark Glaser
    January 16, 2007

    For so many years, we’ve heard about the promise of convergence, the idea that various technological platforms and features will be built into multi-functional devices. So you’d have the cell phone and personal digital assistant in one handheld device. You’d have Internet surfing on your TV or you could watch TV on your computer. And while we’ve had the first and maybe even second generations of such converged devices as WebTV and the Treo, the third generation was in full display at the recent CES and MacWorld expos. Dan Fost of the San Francisco Chronicle boldly stated that “the long-awaited promise of digital convergence was fulfilled” at those shows. Do you agree that digital convergence is finally here? Do you think these devices are helping us to do more with less? And do you even want convergence to happen or do you prefer to have more devices that do one thing really well? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll include the best responses in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: cellphones comments pda technology
    • dwight hines

      As you can see by the fundamental problems discussed in the essay below. we are still having with open records in Florida, questions of convergence are not yet relevant, unless the increased access to local citizens via convergence is substantive enough to have political impact.

      Shallow Journalism
      Seventh Judicial Circuit (Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, and Volusia Counties)
      for the State of Florida,
      St. Augustine, Florida
      January 16, 2007
      Dwight Hines

      The State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit in Florida is Mr. John Tanner. Mr. Tanner was recently the target of a grand jury investigation directed by Mr. Harry Shorstein, the Florida State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit. Although the grand jury did not produce any criminal indictments of Mr. Tanner, it did write a summary of their findings that is currently under seal in the Circuit Court of Volusia County, Daytona Beach, Florida. Mr. Tanner has successfully argued, through his attorney, that the results of the grand jury investigation should be sealed forever and, worse, has argued successfully that all future motions in this case be sealed. The judge has agreed.

      It appears now that State Attorney Tanner, who was elected by the people, does not trust the people to evaluate information from a grand jury composed of people. It appears that State Attorney Tanner, who is the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, does not want to be governed by those parts of the Constitution of the State of Florida that guarantee the right of citizens to public information. I believe a fair interpretation because it is supported by other facts, like the rampant violations of Chapter 119, Fla. Stat. (2006), Florida Public Records law in the City of St. Augustine, the County of St. Johns, and the St. Johns County Mosquito Control Board that are not investigated or prosecuted by Mr. Tanner. These facts turn ugly when you realize that there are false affidavits filed in the Circuit Court in St. Johns County that swear the City of St. Augustine has purchased, and uses, computers unable to memorialize information and has computers that unable to print out information because the information is not �memorialized”.

      It might be time to note that the newly elected Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, has created an Office of Open Government to help the people find out about what the government of the State of Florida, and the local governments in Florida are doing, and to ensure compliance by local and state government with Florida Open Records laws. Ms. Pat Gleason, who wrote the book on Open Government in Florida, who has worked thousands of hours over the years conducting seminars, engaging in mediation between government agencies and private citizens to resolve conflicts on obtaining government records, and serving as General Counsel to then Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, will be Director of Cabinet Affairs. Joann Carrin, with experience in prosecuting organized crime, will be the Director of Open Government. If you believe that open government is essential to democracy, they are a dream team.

      Parallel to the announcement of an Office of Open Government by Governor Crist, nearly in time but completely in substance, was the determination by the United States Center for Medicare and Medicaid that they will be publishing hospitals� heart attack and heart failure mortality rates on the internet. The decision will impact not only hospitals and emergency care providers but on a hospital�s larger communities � all the potential and real consumers of their services. Not to be forgotten in this increasingly transparent soup we call healthy democracy, is the new California law that requires hospitals to report many of the adverse incidents that happen to patients. These are all reasons for celebration, if you trust the people to make good decisions when they have adequate information.

      There are more exciting events in the incredible amounts of new transparency in the United States � the release by the Federal government of tons of documents on December 31, 2006, that were classified 25 years ago. President Bush did not block the release of these records and deserves our respect for that decision. It has never been done before on such a scale by us or anyone else and it is a continuing process. Paranoids, eat your hearts out.

      The Securities and Exchange Commission rule now in effect that requires benefits paid to higher management be publicly disclosed if they are greater than ten thousand dollars in value per year is wonderful and will have a stabilizing effect on our financial system, increasing the robust confidence of investors for local governments that use Municipal Bonds to raise money. Imagine investing your money in places where they not only don�t report any vulnerabilities, but pay for country club memberships and other perks for their executives.

      There is little doubt now that a good part of the reasons for the poor level of compliance with the Florida Open Records Act in St. Johns County is due to the tone set by the leadership of Mr. Tanner � the constitution of Florida is fine and dandy, but don�t use the right to access public information against me or other government officials. Such an attitude and such behaviors in any elected official is unacceptable, but when committed by the highest law enforcement person in the Circuit, by a person who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the State of Florida, it is perverse.

      It is time for the Governor to appoint another special prosecutor, one charged with the specific tasks of investigating violations of the Florida Rules of Administration, Rule 1B-26.003 and violations of Chapter 119, Fla. Stat. (2006), as well as any perjury, abuse of office, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice that precedes, accompanies, or follows violations of Rule 1B and Chapter 119.

      While citizens wait for the appointment of a special prosecutor by Executive Order, it would be a good idea for private, ordinary citizens to file a motion in the Circuit Court in Volusia County to intervene in the current controversy between the two state attorneys, if they can not afford an attorney. I would accompany the motion to intervene with a motion for the court to unseal all documents produced by the grand jury, and to unseal any motions made by either side, or others thus far, and to forego sealing any other documents related to the present controversy. I would include in the second motion that any arguments on motions or hearings must be held in public, as the constitution requires, unless adequate public notice is given to all interested parties and individuals in the Seventh Judicial Circuit. However, I can not give legal advice so you would be wiser to write your local media and ask why they are not demanding the grand jury report be released.

      I don’t know why Mr. Tanner is fighting the publication of the grand jury report. Obviously, he did not commit any criminal acts because he was not indicted. Maybe he feels he will be embarrassed by his behaviors, like the sheriff in another county who was found to be charging lingerie for his mistress on the county charge card. Maybe he doesn�t want anyone to know that he might have told some of his assistants not to prosecute public records violations because they were not �real� crimes. Maybe, only maybe, Mr. Tanner told his employees not to prosecute his good supporters if they only committed perjury or obstruction of justice when they were failing to comply with those irritating public records requests. I hope those are not true, but what we know is true is that Mr. Tanner, with all his resources and access to the media to present his side and his interpretation of the facts, is afraid to trust the people to discern good information from bad, to tell fact from fiction. The fear of common people being too ignorant to judge their leaders, or themselves, does not feel good when it comes from someone who is in charge of a justice system in four counties that is based on openness and verdicts by juries.

      Ah yes, shallow journalism is when not a single newspaper or broadcast station has filed motions to unseal the records and to block sealing of records, but this coming March, during Sunshine Week, these traditional media people will write and speak effusively about the importance of a free press and the right of access to public information. This is so shallow it is painful and the people hurt the most are those who think and who believe that biased justice is the best we can do.

    • Convergence has been a buzzword that has been abused for too long. Just as hardware providers are churning out gadgets that are converged devices, you also have them creating specialist devices like Nokia’s n-series phones that are good at one thing like music, photography or video.

      In addition, when one sees the trend in web services away from convergence to best of breed single-function services like Google, flickr, del.icio.us, bloglines or digg: convergence looks less like a destination and more like the swing of a pendulum

      What convergence really means to many companies is the sound of all your consumer dollars converging on their pocket. There again its an aspiration rather than a destination that we’ve arrived at.

    • nostradamus

      I have deep concerns over the repercussions on our civil liberties. I really don’t think that this country, both its citizens and its government, are informed enough or honest enough to have a serious debate over what may happen to our society once our every word, thought, and whim is recorded and accessable on one single device.

      Now obviously I sound alarmist here, especially since these things won’t be able to record our thoughts (yet)…but definitely our words and our whims. Not to mention our calendars, phonebooks, GPS coordinates, etc.

      Way before the internet came out, in 1982, the National Security Agency tried to crack down on public encryption software, invented by three researchers at MIT named Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman. The government nearly stopped them from distributing their RSA software. Had they have been successful, we may never have had the capacity to encrypt our own messages and the government could theoretically access anything unless you were a super nerd.

      I think we’re about to go through another round of this, and its going to be a major struggle to ensure that we don’t have Orwellian ringtones on our phones.

      Do keep this conversation going if you think I am correct, or critique me if you think I’m way overblown and paranoid.

    • I miss the simple days, when you turned on the TV. And off. You spoke to a friend at dinner. And you heard one another’s voice, for the guests at the next table weren’t beeping, and ringing with the latest ring tones, and raising their voices above the RING&SHOUT FOR THE WORLD TO HEAR. I long for the days of yore where simplicity reigned, focus was accomplished with ease, and splicing one’s attention, the modern response to 21st Century’s Convergence – was never heard of. I believe our Attention Deficit Disorder and McDonald’s culture can be partly blamed on convergence. Personally, it’s not for focused–do one thing well at a time–me. As you might imagine, I can’t stand those news shows with a ticker tape running at the bottom of the screen, while the show is on. Where are my eyes and attention supposed to go? How much different information, and different possibilities for escaping the present moment, attacking all at once, can the modern human handle, maintaining mental health and healthy relationships?

      I venture to guess: Not much.

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