Module 5: Red Queens And Increasing Returns

In Module 4, I chose to discuss the film Star Trek (2009) that dvd-vhsI purchased from iTunes to view with Apple TV. I used to buy movies on DVD and VHS tapes and use VHS tapes to record my shows. Since relocating overseas, I use streaming services like Apple TV and websites to watch and download movies. Long gone are the days of purchasing VHS tapes or DVDs.

Thornburg (2014e) compared the Betamax tape to the VHS tape as an example of increasing returns. However, the VHS tape came out ahead of Betamax, and although the VHS tape allowed us to tape our favorite programs, the DVD replaced the VHS tape.

Thornburg (2014e) also discussed the competition between DVDs and Video-On-Demand (VOD), which doesn’t appear to fit into either the red queens or increasing returns category but if I had to choose it would be increasing returns.

movie-devicesReviewing the history and progression, it appears justifiable for VOD to replace DVDs and Blue Rays in the States, however, overseas there seems to be a preference for streaming services and websites although Blue-Rays and DVDs far outperform streaming services (Ludlow, 2015).

Streaming is very convenient, and there is no need to store or stack anything like with DVDs. Additionally, thanks to Apple TV, the visual and audio quality has improved.  As streaming services continue to increase, it will become locked-in. Thornburg (2013) explained that the inferior QWERTY keyboard was locked in due to the human factor of habit which could easily happen with streaming services.


According to Thornburg (2013), McLuhan’s Law on enhancement was technology that amplified or extended the usefulness of the technology for the consumer.  In the States, streaming services provides a convenient cloud access to a wide variety of videos. Most streaming services incur a monthly cost, and some like Apple TV only charge for the purchase or rental of movies and television series.  On the other hand, VOD is also convenient for a monthly and/or per use cost. Since these two technologies co-exist together providing both users with satisfactory service, they meet the criteria for enhancement in McLuhan’s tetrad (Thornburg, 2013b).  When one fails to provide, the other one will be waiting to step in and take over.


Image 1 Retrieved from

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Image 3 Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014e). David Thornburg: Increasing returns [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014g). David Thornburg: Red queens [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Ludlow, D. (2015).  Blue-ray vs. streaming – which has the best quality?  Expert Reviews. Retrieved from

Thornburg, D. (2013). Red queens, butterflies, and strange attractors: Imperfect lenses into emergent technologies. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.

Thornburg, D. (2013b). Emerging technologies and McLuhan’s laws of media. Lake Barrington, IL: Thornburg Center for Space Exploration.


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