Wednesday, April 16, 2014

immediate access

the ipad is not inherently revolutionary. personal computers are over thirty years old. it's portability is not revolutionary either; laptops have been around for almost as long as desktops. wireless internet is even more than a decade old.

even the idea of an ipad is older than many of its users. when maya lin visited steve jobs at apple in the 80s, she asked why they didn't make such a product. and computer pioneer and apple mentor(?) alan kay proposed his "dynabook" in the early seventies.

the ipad is rather the capstone of the personal computing revolution, the summit nexus of so many pioneering technologies. it is better than any of its competition and it is all of them in one. it is a whole music library weighing the same as a sony discman and a few cds. it is lighter than a dvd player and can easily hold a whole season of a television series. it's about the size of a hardcover book while offering the contents of your entire bookshelf. it's more portable and accessible than any laptop ever was.

whether in libraries of print or the digital internet, the concept of near-limitless information is nothing new. but never has it been more immediately accessible. it not longer requires even the nuisance of having to go sit at a chair at a desk to use the internet. for many people, it is at our side if not already in our hands.

where much has been given, much is required.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

potential information

i'm working on my thesis work for my mfa here at school and, being me, i'm more comfortable and agile in writing that i am in directly creating work, so i'm taking time to write as much as i want then use that for the foundation to explore my work. and i'm writing here because i don't yet have any other space set up in which to write, and rather than making a new place, SgtH is already here and is a comfortable space for me. i will likely copy some of this work to another more formal space when i get one created, but for now, this is my favorite space.

i'm fascinated by my ipad. when it first came out, i thought it was the ultimate luxury item (it could be argued that apple only makes luxury items, but i'm not going to get into that here, because i'm not sure that's entirely accurate), nothing more than an oversized iphone (but without the phone.) once i got to actually use one for a little bit, i soon realized i wanted one. i bought my ipad with retina display the day they were released and since then have repeatedly marveled at it. while it obviously wasn't planned to be this way, it's fitting that the ipad (or, the ipad 2, to be more specific) was the last of the "insanely great" products that steve jobs introduced, as it seems be all that embodies apple.

it's large enough to be practical for reading, writing, drawing, and creating, but small enough to be inherently portable and instantly accessible. and it can easily carry more information than was ever in the library of alexandria or any other source of knowledge since then. setting aside even the infinite direct source of a world wide web browser like safari or chrome, the amount of information potentially available on an ipad is intimidating.

yes, the internet has had "all this information" available to us for free for over 20 years now. and libraries have have been doing that for centuries. but even in 2006, we had to be seated at a computer that was plugged into the wall. now, it's in our pockets and very often immediately in our hands. in my iBooks app alone, i have 75 books, the vast majority of which define "classics": mark twain, victor hugo, charles dickens, and their cronies. and they are all free downloads. perhaps they have been available on the internet for years, but reading a book on a computer screen is extremely prohibitive. now, the barnes & noble paperback classics editions for $8 are irrelevant; these books are free.
i could edge the percentage up a little higher by arguing for inclusion of dr. seuss's "the 500 hats of bartholomew cubbins" and even the storybook version of a charlie brown christmas, but i currently have only preview samples. in fact, i have only paid for two ibooks: breaking bad's "alchemy" (an enhanced book for the ipad) and a $3 collection of interviews about steve jobs, compiled into book form.

that is one app. i have at least four different news source apps--al jazeera, the bbc, cnn, and npr--as well as web content aggregators such as pulse and flipboard, which compile content based on topics i am interested in. i think have watched a few talks on my TED talks app, and while i have looked through iTunes U, offering courses from hundreds of universities (including my current school, texas a&m, although i didn't see my undergrad, byu), offering courses on things i find interesting like astronomy and the history of animation, i have yet to dive into any of the coursework i've picked out.
not to make things too stuffy, i've also got a row for reddit, the onion, cracked, and, sigh, even buzzfeed.

i have a camera, iphoto, photoshop elements (which is essentially iphoto), and photoshop touch for doing really serious work (i haven't done any yet.) autodesk's sketchbook pro and two dj mixing turntable apps, three apps to learn piano, and one app for stop animation. there are two apps to learn chinese and two more for me to practice my japanese (which i do speak, although the blue dots next to the apps remind me that i have never opened these.) i have two different sky maps apps for finding stars, planets, and constellations, and globes of both the moon and mars next to my google earth map.

in addition to my ibooks, i have a bible app that offers more versions of the bible than any lay person knew existed, the qur'an, and a library of latter-day saint scriptures. i have a 3-D model of the human skeleton plus models and photographs of human anatomy that i don't even know how extensive it is. and also a textbook app that allows me to cross-check the potency of mixing medications. i don't take any medications, but it was on the app store.
i paid $10 for a cookbook app promising how to cook eveything, yet a free app that collects and aggregates user-submitted recipes has proven much more helpful. i have at least four different clocks/timers/alarm clocks but never found an need for them (that's what phones are for), and can never decide which of my two weather apps to use, so i use them both.