Author: Komlan E. Ezunkpe

Thornburg (2013a) uses the term “Red Queens and Increasing Returns” to explain competition and attraction in the context of future and emerging technologies. He uses the term Red Queens to describe the elements which are in play when two products are in close competition, and each continues to find a way to create something new to beat the other. The fluctuation of the market and technology are some forces in play in the event of Red Queens. For example, Kurt Eichenwald (2014) in an article details a legal war Apple and Samsung had held costing more than a billion dollars. This legal war began with the project that created the iPhone and the late Steve Jobs’s fury when Samsung, an Apple supplier, revealed a similar device.

Further, Thornburg (2014) uses the term “Increasing Returns” to explain what causes one product to become attractive than the other to the point that one pushes the other out of the market. The example of Video-on-Demand and DVDs illustrates “Increasing Returns;” it explains the growth of the market of Video-on-Demand over DVDs. Video-on-Demand is becoming so popular, and DVDs are becoming obsolete, and people prefer Video-on-Demand rather than DVDs. With this shift, one could think that in the coming years, Video-on-Demand will become people’s first choice over DVDs and will make DVDs obsolete.

Internet services is a product associated with Video-on-Demand. But the problem of reliability, stability and accessibility and cost of the Internet will make DVDs continue to be used. If a competition remains between these two products, DVDs and Video-on-demand, they will stay in the category of Red Queens for a long time. They will continue to be close competitors for many years.  Overall, McLuhan reminds us that what is new today will be obsolesced tomorrow. The reinvention of products will not stop. According to McLuhan’s Laws of Media including a Tetrad (enhances, obsolesces, retrieves and reverses), VHS became obsolete and replaced by DVDs. The same DVDs and Video-on-Demand will become obsolesce one day, but when they are pushed to their extremes, they will rekindle something of the pass under a new form.


Kurt Eichenwald (2014). Retrieved February 6, 2016 from http://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2014/06/apple-samsung-smartphone-patent-war

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.

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

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



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