Just what is “multimedia”?
At one level, it simply refers to applications that manipulate, store, and/or present multiple kinds of media, such as text, video, relational data, sound, animation, etc.
Blob and continuous data.
More pragmatically, it refers to the introduction of blob and continuous forms of data into applications that traditionally manage simple data, like character strings and numbers.
What do images “mean”?
One reason this is actually very interesting is that blob data is often stored in a semantics-less fashion, usually as simple binary or character data. Common forms of blob data are images, such as photographs, screen captures, or diagrams.
The key issue is that blob data is difficult to interpret in an automated way. We can’t process it like we do numeric data and character data, which is typically processed in a completely automatic way with SQL.
SQL therefore lets us scale our apps up to the level of using vast amounts of data.
What does War and Peace “mean”?
Continuous data is even more challenging. It has a temporal aspect. Video, sound, and natural language are good examples. Again, they are very hard to process with software because their “meanings” can be extremely complex, subjective, and subtle.
And given that they can be very large, the problem can be overwhelming. How many pieces of video can a human download from a server, view and interpret interactively in real time?
How about super smart software?
Our best hope is using image processing, audio processing, and natural language interpretation software. But this stuff is extraordinarily complex in itself, and the user may have little idea as to how the software is performing its job. This leaves us open to potentially devastatingly wrong interpretations.
Back to “What is multimedia?”
In its most aggressive form, multimedia refers to the sophisticated integration of traditional, blob, and continuous data into integrated data forms that convey their own semantics, their own highly intricate meaning.