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Re: htmlai?

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 7 May 2001 00:39:32 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <200105062339.f46NdWB19881@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Jon Chetwynd wrote:

> An offline note promted me to query whether we are really leading the web,
> or have we determined that web means html/xml/ and never mind the other
> online media, unless we wish to grouse.

I can think of many reasons why they might want to concentrate on 

> Do we need to show how accessible the wai site is by providing evidence of
> accessible streaming media, and thereby demonstrate how possible these

I'm not sure that you are using streaming correctly here - in internet
terms it refers to some technical aspects of delivery that are not particularly
meaningful to end users, however, interpreting it rather liberally, I think
you need to demonstrate accessibility issues that do not come into
these categories:

- problems that pre-date the internet, e.g. issues that are also 
  present for broadcast radio and TV and live theatre and concerts;

- the fact that such material is generally only produced on a commercial

- the fact that delivery of such material is expensive, in terms of
  all of network, server, and user owned equipment costs;

- that are not aligned with commercial interests in such media.

In the first category, I can only think of one thing and that is the
difficulty of making such media, particularly audio media, a first
class part of the web.  The web is the links between resources, not the
resources themselves, and not the network of machines that transports
them.  One only has to listen to links from broadcast radio to internet
based resources to see an awkwardness there.

On the second issue, such media is expensive to produce and the artists
need to earn a living.  In addition, there are vested interests in the
existing distribution chains for films and audio.  Although W3C does
have a micropayments activity, micropayments are not yet a reality, so
most such media either advertises itself or advertises something else.
In both cases, the objective is to target people who can afford to pay
for the products.  Historically, artists have given free performances
in charitable causes, but the internet makes it difficult to implement
this form of positive discrimination.

Micropayments may remove some of the free promotional material.

The cost of delivery affects people who can't afford to keep up to date
with the latest hardware and people in poorer countries.  From a supplier
point of view, it favours a small repertoire, which can be stored close
to the market.

From the general commercial interests point of view, even before
the popularisation of the internet, cable TV companies, and people
like British Telecom, were investigating the provision of video
on demand.  The internet rather caught them off guard and took power
out of their hands temporarily.  They are beginning to regain control.
The characteristic of this sort of system is servers at the cable head
end, serving a local community, from a relatively small repertoire of
popular material.

Generally such organisations are not interested in an intellectual market
and operate in a one way communication fashion.  They are generally only
interested in supporting a mass market audience, which, I suspect, 
represents the sort of material of which you are talking.  That reduces
accessability of more intellectual material and of certain types of 
controversial material (they don't want to upset their advertisers).
In relation to BBC radio, the process has been termed dumbing down.

The one way nature of the communication is one in which streaming media
tend to particularly violate the original spirit of the internet.

> Would many more people find the wai message far more accessible if it was
> provided in a variety of formats?

I don't think it would be more accessible in different formats.  However,
it might reach more people if it were more successfully promoted in other
media (I'm thinking particularly of broadcast radio), however the nature
of such media, even when it doesn't suffer from the full dumbing down process,
means that there has to be a lot of oversimplication (e.g. a radio programme
on information privacy managed to claim that cookies were programs and
implied they actively spied - actually the interviewee gave a better 
description but failed to challenge when the interviewer summarised in 
this way - this was a programme on Radio 4 and aimed at an audience that
is relatively up market in broadcast terms).

Broadcast television might be even more effective, but the production
costs of television make it difficult to justify covering what the
editors would consider a very minority, and somewhat technical, subject.

The current strength of the "web" (and, in part, a consequence of it
being structured as a web) is that users have to go and pull information
from it, but that is a disadvantage when you want to push a message that
people are not eager to discover (and why so many commercial sites seek
ways of subverting its nature).
Received on Sunday, 6 May 2001 20:03:02 UTC

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