The Digital Ecosystem
There’s a new buzzword going around in our industry: ecosystem, as in the digital ecosystem. I just returned from the Photo Marketing Association’s annual trade show (PMA) in Orlando, Fla., and everyone was talking about the digital photo ecosystem. If an organic ecosystem is the collection of living things and their interaction within an environment, then the digital ecosystem is the functionality and interaction of digital products (consumer electronics) within an environment, such as a household.
This is really just another neat way of talking about convergence, but it makes a lot of sense to me. In nature, an ecosystem can thrive and grow, or it can die. The causes for failed ecosystems vary from natural disasters to man-made problems such as pollution or overdevelopment. Something, like trash or a bulldozer, gets in the way of one organism’s interaction with another, and one of them dies. I’m not a biologist, but I bet the signs of a successful ecosystem include thriving animals and sustainability. In the digital ecosystem of an average household, success is measured by consumer satisfaction and repeated, successful use of the products and services.
So what gets in the way of a successful digital ecosystem? It’s not trash and bulldozers; it’s consumer confusion, poorly implemented interfaces and the lack of interoperability. A digital ecosystem is healthy if people use it, live in it and make it part of their lives. Otherwise, it’s just a pile of gear that no one uses to it’s fullest, or at all. At PMA, exhibitors talked about the photo ecosystem as starting with the digital camera, but included printers, image editing software, photo sharing web services, imaging networking devices, scrapbook supplies and the accessories and media to make the products work.