The Digital Drivetrain
The automotive world's transition into the age of digital media


Lately our in class discussions have centered around the idea of media convergence; that as time passes all forms of media are converging together. Its hard to deny that everyone wants a piece of the new technology pie, but this also means that soon all of the new frontiers will converge into one master device or form of media. It has already begun to happen, whether it is Chevy putting facebook into their cars or Obama’s Twitter, the examples of media and cultures meshing together are all around us. Throughout the discussion I have asked myself one question; is this convergence of media really a good thing?

Still from Disney Pixar's Wall-e

One of my biggest fears is what will happen to person-to-person interactions. In class we were discussing how texting and facebooking has made talking on the phone slowly fade away. Many discussed how they hate to talk on the phone with another person and feel it is just awkward. As the technology gets more and more popular and inexpensive, younger and younger children are exposed to things like texting and facebook, and these kids are less and less exposed to talking on the phone. My younger cousins claim they will almost never  unless they are forced to do so, which scares me for one reason; will technology bring the end of social interactions?

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One of the major topics our class has discussed is the trend of participatory culture, simple put; media where the producer and the consumer are in much higher levels of interaction. As I discussed in my latest post, the automotive  industry has been one of the slowest groups to change into this new age of technology. One of the first areas where the automotive companies started to break into new media frontiers is with the use of social networking websites to market their products and get direct consumer recommendations.

One of the best examples of this twitter. I challenge any of you to think of a car brand and try to find one that does not currently have a twitter. Since twitter’s popularization in the early 2000’s, many companies have seen the benefits of joining the site. For example, The Ford Motor Company has opened up not only one twitter account but eight different twitter pages. Their purpose ranges from customer service to their racing teams and offers a significant amount of information to anyone interested in purchasing a Ford vehicle. On their general purpose twitter page anyone can tweet them a question about, say for example, a warranty on their vehicle and a Ford employee will tweet back the desired information. This is a powerful marketing tool because to post to Ford it requires you to follow them on twitter and before you know it a slurry of advertisements are coming right to your twitter home page. It isn’t just Ford on twitter though, I could not find a company which did not have a twitter page. Even the more obscure brands like Fiat or Mini Cooper were popping up in searches. Twitter is now an integral part of the automotive industry.

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The Superbowl. The clash between two football greats which promises to fascinate and glue every American to the television screen for two hours on a given Sunday in early February. This year, Superbowl XVL did not feature any teams I have an emotional tie to, so one of the biggest draws for me was the commercials. It’s sad, I know, but for many American’s the commercials were a large draw to watch the big game. After the game, there was one commercial which was generally forgotten about due to its lack of humor  but showed a new milestone in the modern automobile age.


This commercial which debuted new additions to the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan also showed a major step forward for automotive companies and their venture into new medias. The commercial showed a nervous man driving home after a date. He presses the Onstar button in his car and asks for his facebook status updates. The voice from the car reads: “Best first date. Ever.” He instantly smiles as commercial breaks into the Chevrolet spokesman giving details about the car.

This commercial represents the shift modern car companies have been undergoing in the past few years. When the rise of computers and new forms of social media first started popping up, many sectors of industry immediately embraced them and adapted to them, but the automotive industry has been quite slow compared to other industries. After several years of more or less ignoring these new technologies there has been a recent boom in the use of new technologies in order to sell, improve and adapt cars. The addition of Facebook to cars is a very new and interesting concept. It was an obvious next step, but many companies have been weary about combining social networking with a moving vehicle.

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