Mark Pesce

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Mark Pesce, Co-creator of VRML, internet TV advocate



Mark Pesce is an inventor, author and educator, best known for work that fused the World Wide Web with real-time 3D computer graphics; the result, known as VRML (for Virtual Reality Modeling Language) has become an international standard. The author of numerous articles on science, technology, media and the arts, Pesce has also written five books, including The Playful World: How Technology is Transforming Our Imagination (Random House, 2000) which presented a roadmap of key 21st century technologies. Pesce contends we are entering an ‘era of hyperdistribution’ that will radically change our media ecosystem. Central to this shift is the take-up of p2p filesharing software like BitTorrent that provides the first truly efficient digital media distribution platform based on the principles of swarming. Open Source Television (OSTV) is an early indicator of this ‘hyperdistribution’ era. OSTV enables users to bypass programming schedules, international time zones, over-regulation and oligopolies. Independent media producers are using the principles of OSTV to reintermediate the digital media value chain and go directly to consumers. This has the potential to transform broadcast television and give users access to a virtually unlimited amount of digitally produced content, accessed via the Internet. More recently Pesce has discussed the importance of articulated social networks as a means to socially filter increasing informational pressure and sort quality material based on recommendations from trusted sources. In 2003 Pesce was invited to review and redesign the curriculum at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, integrating new media practices into the school’s production-based methodology. He has remained with the school to oversee the implementation of his recommendations.


  3. Redefining Television, ‘Producing Interactive Television’ seminar, AFTRS Interactive Media, 10 May 2004.
  4. Open Source Television: Liberte! Facilite!! Egalite!!!, User Environments conference, Smart Internet Technology CRC, 14 July 2004.
  5. F*ck Big Media: Rolling Your Own Network, National Student Media conference, This Is Not Art, 3 October 2004.


Mark Pesce on building the alternative media network

Pesce proposal is specifically for a network which could also distribute similar programming, not all nodes doing different things.

"So how do you turn these little stations into a network? Well, there are two answers to this question. The first is fairly obvious: you put the transmitters close enough together that each station is a paired receiver/transmitter, and in so doing you create a mesh network of transmitters. The receiver picks up the signal and passes it along to the transmitter, which rebroadcasts it on the same frequency. This is somewhat analogous to how mobile networks work - you move from cell to cell and the signal follows you seamlessly - and is very well suited to densely populated urban districts, college campuses, public events, and so forth. The costs for each node in such a system are very low - probably less than fifty dollars for both the AM receiver and the transmitter….) Now it isn't possible to blanket an sparsely populated entire country…. In situations like this, Internet streaming comes to the rescue. Any signal which can be delivered via AM radio can also be delivered via the internet at dial-up speeds. The streaming signal output can put plugged into the AM transmitter, and, once again, you've got your network. In this way you can cover both the densely populated areas and the spaces in between them with one network.Now both of these proposals are more than just idle ideas - they're the heart of a new network - RADIO RHIZOME - which launched in Los Angeles."

Mark Pesce on the internet TV tuner and its disruptive effects on traditional broadcasting

“I do believe that it is appropriate to examine the politics of scarcity with respect to television broadcasting, and engineer a solution which effectively routes around the problem (to steal a phrase from John Gilmore), recapitulating the Britannica to Wikipedia process. As media consumers, we need to liberate ourselves from the anti-market forces of the free-to-air commercial networks, and, as creators and purveyors of audiovisual content, we need to free ourselves from the anti-market forces of commercial networks as programme distributors. In other words, we need to develop a comprehensive computational and emergent strategy to disintermediate the distributors of audiovisual media, directly connecting producers to consumers, and further, erasing the hard definition between producer and consumer, so that a producer’s product will only be identifiable by its inherent quality, in the eyes of the viewer, and not by the imprimatur of the distributor.., the pieces are in place for a radical reconfiguration of the technology of programme delivery to the TV viewer. Digital television, thought to be the endpoint of this revolution, was actually only its beginning, and while digital televisions are very useful as display monitors, their broadcast tuners with their sophisticated analog electronics will be completely obsolete once broadband supplants broadcast as the delivery medium. The digital TV is a great output device, but a lousy tuner, because the design of the device reinforces the psychology of spectrum scarcity. What we need, therefore, is a new device, which sits between the Internet, on one hand, and the digital television set, on the other, and acts as a new kind of tuner, thereby enabling a new, disintermediated distribution mechanism. The basic specification for this device is quite simple: it would be capable of locating, downloading and displaying audiovisual content, in any common format, on the viewer’s chosen display device. That display device doesn’t even need to be a digital television - it could be a PC. Or the soon-to-be-released PSP, the PlayStation Portable. Or a 3G cell phone. This intermediary device – the “Internet tuner," if you will – could be a hardware-based set-top box, or a piece of software running on a more general-purpose computing device – it doesn’t really matter…When the idea for the Internet tuner popped into my head… I presumed that I’d stumbled onto a completely novel idea. InI’ve discovered how wrong I was. Projects like the BBC Internet Media Player, MythTV on LINUX, Media Portal for Xbox and Windows, Video LAN Controller for Mac OS X, Windows and LINUX – the list goes on and on. Just four weeks ago TiVO announced that they’re going to release a software upgrade which will make their PVRs Internet-aware, so that they can locate and download Internet audiovisual content. These ideas are floating around the commercial software community, too, in products like Microsoft IPTV, and SnapStream’s Beyond TV. Many people are working toward the features of the Internet tuner, but none of them – to my knowledge – have brought these pieces together with an emphasis on the emergent qualities of the tuner as a tool for communication…the Internet tuner or something very much like it will do for audiovisual media what the Web did for print – make it immediately accessible from anywhere, at any time, for any reason. Because of the Web, libraries are transforming from repositories of knowledge into centers where people come to be pointed toward online repositories. The library is evolving into a physically constituted Google." (see also

The economics of netcasting, by Mark Pesce

“A broadcaster spends the same amount of money whether 10 people or 10 million are watching a broadcast, because the broadcast tower reaches all who want to tune into it. The economics for netcasting are quite different. Anyone can set up a server to send out ten simultaneous program streams - but it requires a million times the infrastructure and bandwidth to serve the same program to 10 million people. Or it used to. The BBC doesn't have the bandwidth to netcast its programming to all 66 million of its viewers. Fortunately it doesn't that kind of capability, because the BBC has cleverly designed the Flexible TV application to act as a node in a Peer-to-Peer network. Anyone using Flexible TV has access to the programs which have been downloaded by any other Flexible TV client, and can get those programs directly from them. All BBC need do is provide a single copy of a program into the network of P2P clients, and they handle the work themselves. More than this, because of the P2P technology used by the BBC (more on this in a moment) a Flexible TV user can get a little bit of the program from any number of other peers; rather than going through the process of downloading an entire program from one other peer, the Flexible TV client can ask a hundred other clients for small sections of the program, and download these hundred sections simultaneously. Not only does this decrease the amount of traffic that any clients has to handle, it also means that it produces a virtuous cycle: the more popular a program is, the more copies of it will exist in the network of peers, and therefore the more easily a peer can download it. In other words, the BBC has cracked the big problem which has prevented netcasting from taking off. In this system of "peercasting" the network is actually more efficient than a broadcast network, because more than one program can be provided simultaneously, and failure in any one point in the network doesn't bring the network down.

Some discussions on the future of television broadcasting:

(Dead URLs)

  1. a special report by Newsweek, at ;
  2. a report by Deloitte, at,1015,cid=80658&pre=Y&lid=1&new=I,00.html

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