The Digital Media Manifesto
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 Last update: 2003/07/18


In spite of the wealth of Digital Media Technologies available today, society and business do not get the benefits they are entitled to. The Digital Media Project has the goal to enable creators, users and business players to get all the benefits they can from Digital Media Technologies. A global collaborative effort carried out via the Internet will produce a Digital Media Manifesto on which the Digital Media Project will be established as a not-for-profit organisation.


During millennia humans have exerted their inventiveness to increase their ability to communicate using new and increasingly more sophisticated technologies. The discovery of what is called Nyquist theorem 3/4 of a century ago can be taken as the start of a virtual and global project "Digital Media" designed to base all forms of communication on Digital Technologies. It was a virtual project because pieces of it only existed in the minds of scientists, businessmen and public authorities, but it was also a global project because scientists, businessmen and public authorities from all countries with sufficient control of technology shared the same goals and worked sometimes collaboratively and sometimes in competition to achieve them.

The technical foundation of the project was the representation of all signals with the unified language of binary digits (bits), instead of them being "ink", "acoustic wave ", "electromagnetic wave" etc. The different signals could be captured, stored and transmitted, but could also be processed, using machines capable of operating on bits according to instructions given by humans to eventually present (e.g. display) the different media.

Over the years a range of new disciplines were developed, first at the academic level, later to become subject of R&D efforts and eventually moving to industrial exploitation. Obviously, not all technologies required by the project were specifically designed having "Digital Media" in mind, but it is remarkable that all technology components needed by this virtual project were gradually developed and became available for exploitation.

Business and governments invested in Digital Media Technologies because they expected they would trigger a Digital Media Revolution with far-reaching effects:

  • Creators would have new ways to express themselves,
  • End users would attain new levels of satisfaction with manifold communication means, and
  • Business players would find new opportunities aplenty.

November 1992, when the first MPEG standard (MPEG-1) was approved, can be taken as the date Digital Media became a credible busiess proposition. After 10 years, the Digital Media Revolution that the vast array of Digital Media Technologies should have enabled is not happening and a sense of disillusionment is seeping in for all value network players and users because:

  • End users get few of the claimed benefits and only if they flout the rules,
  • Business players are finding none of the opportunities they were promised, and
  • Public authorities' desire to offer citizenship the benefits of technology is stalled.

This is in contrast with the outcome of other Digital Technologies that have created huge and profitable industries that did not even exist before. To name a few: Information Technology, Integrated Circuits and Digital Communication.

Since 1998 there has been a series of efforts aimed at removing the hurdles hindering the successful deployment of Digital Media by preserving the value of digital content in the interest of rights holders and end users: OPIMA, SDMI and MPEG-21. These are providing major foundational standards, but technologies, even assuming that all those necessary become available, will not be sufficient to guarantee that the Digital Media Revolution will indeed happen and the expected benefits achieved.

The stalemate in the deployment of Digital Media of the last 10 years shows that things, particularly those as complex as made possible by Digital Media Technologies, do not just "happen" because they encroach on a multiplicity of domains. What is needed is an action going beyond the current belief that, once technology exists, business flair will make things happen. We need a Digital Media Project (DMP), ideally the formalisation of the 75-year old virtual project "Digital Media". If we want to reap the benefits from the huge investments made, we must recognise that critical hurdles have to be identified, a master plan has to be created and activities have to be organised so that hurdles can be removed.

DMP is a major undertaking that will have to be managed by an appropriate organisation with the mission to "enable creators, users and business players to get all the benefits they can from Digital Media Technologies". The organisation should be not-for-profit - so that the results of the DMP retain a high standing - and open to all companies and organisations who support the said mission.

There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be done before the organisation managing the DMP can be established. Specifically, work is needed to produce:

  • an agreed rationale for the DMP;
  • a first list of issues that the DMP will address including the corresponding workplan and deliverables;
  • the charter of the organisation, including its structure and method of work.

Digital Media Manifesto (DMM) is the name given to the document containing the three items above. This is planned to be published on the 30th of September 2003, possibly after one physical meeting convened to wrap up the results of the collaborative work done using e-mail and the WWW.

The special nature of the collaborative effort leading to the DMM calls for some basic rules:

  1. Participation is open to those who share the goal to make creators, end users and business players benefit from the advantages of Digital Media Technologies;
  2. Participation will be at the individual (non-company) level;
  3. Participation does not engage joining the organisation that will manage the DMP;
  4. Work will be done in large part by e-mail save for a possible wrap-up meeting;
  5. The discussion list may be moderated if discussions become unproductive without such moderation.

The program of work for the drafting of the DMM is the following:

  1. Definition of Digital Media;
  2. Definition of the overall scope of the DMP;
  3. Selection of a wide range of representative business/use cases;
  4. Identification of the hurdles for each of these;
  5. Grouping of hurdles across the business/use cases considered;
  6. Identification of hurdles to be tackled directly by the DMP and of those that can be dealt with by other organisations;
  7. Definition of the work plan including milestones for each hurdle and deliverables;
  8. Draft of the charter of the organisation managing the DMP

To join the DMM send an e-mail. Read the Frequently Asked Questions.


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Copyright 2003