The Krono’s Effect: Monopolizing Information

AT&T does not play any games when it comes to sustaining its position as an imperial, monopolistic force. This was painfully apparent after reading Wu’s book, The Master Switch, which situates the history of innovation, industry, and information technologies within the theoretical frameworks of the Krono’s effect. In Greek mythology, Kronos, the second ruler of the universe, continued eating his infantile children in an attempt to eliminate competition to remain in power; So, derives what Tim Wu calls “The Kronos Effect.”

“The Krono’s Effect: the efforts undertaken by a dominant company to consume its potential successors in their infancy” (Wu 25).

What is the most startling aspect of this book, for me, is the control over the flow of information and how this is playing out today. The market is narrowing to such a degree that very few companies are dominating, and they are continuing to attempt to shrink this gap. We see this with the proposal for AT&T to merge with Time Warner, which is still in the process of finalizing, having serious implications for how information is consumed and relayed. One company should not have the ability to move and control information. This places restrictions on what the consuming public knows and has access to, essentially restricting free speech. If this passes through the courts, AT&T will control television, film, sports, news, video games and mobile and Internet services.

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Image by PaletadeColores on Deviant Art

I imagine this like a game of pacman; where AT&T is chomping its way through the maze eating everything in sight before the ghosts get to him first. The ghosts being the disruptive innovation that Tim Wu is talking about. So the start of AT&T’s dominance began in 1909 when AT&T purchased Western Union; now controlling all long distance communication in the United States. The irony of this is that AT&T emerged as a company to stand in competition with Western Union. Subsequently, any innovation that stood in competition with AT&T, such as the magnetic tape answering machines in 1934, was concealed and left to the development of other countries. Now we live in a transnational market which has opened the door for corporations like AT&T to not only dominate the United States, but dominate the world. This is why I believe AT&T has a firm interest in buying Time Warner. It goes back to the history of the corporation which seems to be so ingrained in the fabric of the company. This form of vertical integration would give AT&T power over content production and distribution favoring their own content over the small group of competition that is there.

This really does not leave room for innovation. It requires the consumer and producer to work within the parameters of the corporate behemoth. There are many creatives who feel as though they are restricted by the corporate interests of the company they work for and why many, who I have spoken with, have opted for freelance work. Now, the merging of transnational corporations seems bleak, but investing in freelance work, local business and by voting in local elections, I believe these small step, in large numbers, can make a difference.

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