The Media Hype Over Technology



The replies to the question
“How’s business?” vary from people to people these days. If some say,
“I told you not to get into the Internet business. Now you can see how the
dotcoms have crashed!”; others respond, “All the dotcom guys are being
thrown out of business, what about you?” Some even tell me, “You must
be having little or no work these days, so how about doing my work for
rock-bottom rates?”

The list can go on. I can almost
read the expressions on people’s faces when they ask, “How’s
business?” There are thousands of people who believe that the Internet as a
business model is useless. They believe that the Web has lost all its powers and
Java and e-commerce are as extinct as the dinosaurs!

Who let dotcoms out?
 

In this very column, I have
always stressed the importance of the Internet as a powerful medium of
communication. Most people who have utilized the Net for their business purposes
are serious users of this medium. So their business never boomed with the dotcom
boom, neither did it crash with the dotcom bust. But it still funny when people
think that everything related to the Internet is now useless.

Yesterday’s kings of the
e-business world are being made to look like fools. The so-called Indian IT
professional who was supposed to rule the world and make India an IT Superpower,
is now the subject of cheap jokes and ridicule. But who is responsible for all
this mess?

In my opinion it is the media,
which created the unprecedented hype and people who believed in all that hype. I
still remember the media buildup that surrounded the Indiaworld deal and I also
remember the lonely voice of P S Deodhar questioning the logic behind the dotcom
valuations.

Journalists who were shouting
from rooftops about Azim Premji’s status as the ‘Tech Billionaire” are now
churning out headlines like “Tech Czars crash to earth”. I think Azim
Premji never thought of himself as the Tech Czar and neither has he crashed to
earth in the real sense. The Forbes list of billionaires arouses more of a media
frenzy in India than perhaps anywhere in the world. Indian media go crazy over
the list because it is easier to report such stuff with sensationalism.

Jesting with Java

And this disparagement is not
isolated to just personalities from the technological world. Even technology
itself has not been spared. Journalists who proclaimed Java to be the greatest
thing since the invention of microprocessors are today publishing exaggerated
reports about Java programmers being thrown out of the US.

To add insult to injury, they
illustrate their reports with photographs of war refugees riding on trucks and
buses in hundreds. The caption says – “Second batch of Java programmers
returning from the US”. It is not funny. It is a cheap display of
irresponsible journalism.

High on hype

One wonders if media has taken
over technology. Sometime back 3D animation was the in thing, with newspapers
and magazines heralding its future. Training institutes started mushrooming all
over the place and everyone wanted to be a 3D animator, by joining the courses
charging tens of thousands of rupees. Like the training institutes, Animation
Studios came up everywhere – all experts in 3D Animation and Special Effects.
But there was not enough work to be found locally and the quality of work at
these half-baked studios was not good enough for the overseas projects.

Then something bigger and better
broke on the scene. When the first bubble burst, another bubble called the World
Wide Web kept business going. The media worked overtime to build up the ‘Next
Big Hype’. Institutes came up with Web design courses of all sizes and costs.
Everyone dreamt about becoming a web designer! They were soon living in the
dotcom dreamland. Welcome to the land of the New Age Yuppies. The media (and
their partners like the analysts, the VCs, the entrepreneurs and others) had
created the Next Big Thing!

But what went wrong here was
that the focus and valuations shifted to eyeballs. The indices went sky high.
Then suddenly the bubble burst and idols that the media had raised on the
pedestal suddenly developed clay feet. Once again, instead of concentrating on
the power of the Internet technologies that developed during this period, the
media barons started hammering everything that they had themselves created.

Be all and end all

The way things are going, one
gets the feeling that the media has finally taken over technology. No technology
can be a great technology unless certified by the media! The people who go by
the media hype on technology are equally to be blamed for their misfortunes. A
little homework can keep you out of trouble.

If you think there won’t be
any ‘Next Big Thing’ after the Internet, you are wrong. This time it may be the
Biotech. I can already imagine the headlines splashing all over the national
dailies and business journals. ‘Infotech is Out, Biotech is In!’

Just a week ago, a friend told
me about a seminar on Biotech conducted by a company that is launching short
term Biotech training courses with fees running in tens of thousands. They claim
great job prospects all over the world. A large crowd of hopeful students and
parents attended the seminar. I was told that even some IT professionals were
there thinking of unlearning Infotech and learning Biotech. A bank is willing to
finance the training. Just enroll for the course, apply for loan and you are on
your way to the world’s most lucrative job opportunities.

Well, now the bell has started
tolling for Biotech!

Ashok Dongre is an advertising
and marketing professional, specializing in website design. You can contact him
via e-mail at dongre@usa.net

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