Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Internet Now Mostly Composed of Fanboy Frothing for the Post-Literate iPad

COMPUTING!You people have lost your minds over the iPad: "Your grandma will embrace it. Your aunt will embrace. Your cousins. Your kids. Everyone who doesn't have a fucking clue about computers and don't want to learn and don't care. Everyone will jump into this new era of computing. Everyone." I can happily admit it is gorgeous. And yet. We are gaga for a thing with an application that delivers a New York Times front page that only displays four whole stories? A thing that's just like reading a book, a book with DRM encoding, so you don't actually own it, and also book that weighs 1.5 pounds. (The average "actual" book weighs 12 ounces.) A thing that's just like reading a magazine, so you can get Time magazine for $4.99, which is about 14 times the cost of a delivery subscription to the paper magazine. But those are all just quibbles, probably personal preferences. A real problem (apart from the "palpable contempt for the owner," manifested in many ways) is that the iPad is a device that's okay for consuming text, at least, but is designed to encourage you not to create at all.

My real objection to this development is that Apple has created a computing device that, for the first time in the brief history of computing devices, has as a design concept the need to actively resist the urges of people to make things.

The lack of a camera is a giant step backwards, for one thing: what people do now is document their lives and create images. This machine is for passive image-consumers.

Computers, you will recall, began their lives as machines for accomplishing tasks. (Calculating pi! Running spreadsheets!) Later, they became machines to assist in creative tasks as well. (Writing books, just like Carrie Bradshaw!) And now we have a computer-the future of computing, according to fan boys-that so significantly devalues the importance of creating text that it renders the entire device useless as anything but a consumption device.

This is not actually a computer! (Or: "iPad is more about experiencing media, and light sharing, than heavy-duty media production," as our pal Xeni put it.) Light sharing! This is a viewscreen, and I keep coming back to the future of humanity a la Wall-E: it's non-computing entertainment devices being touted as the future of computing in this manner that really worries me. Because what if they are the future? I mean, however will one type a little 402-word blog post in the future? One won't.

48 Comments / Post A Comment

kolk (#3,846)


HiredGoons (#603)

The fact that you put in the weight of an 'actual' book (IN THE METRIC SYSTEM) just gave me a hard on.

HiredGoons (#603)

but the SATC reference withered it.

Nothing kills boners faster than SATC .

Foxy (#2,703)

Passive image-consumption? This is also known as "reading". Most people nowadays don't really read and the fact that there is a keyboard in your face all the fucking time might be related. Does everyone really need their fingers immediately attached to a rapid input device at all times?

You're off your rocker dude. Dedicated consumption of media is a pretty good thing, and a little light sharing can't hurt.

Foxy (#2,703)

Seriously it's like saying that the invention of THE BOOK signals the end of WRITING.

HiredGoons (#603)

I think the issue is that it's a $500 book that does little else.

Also: *humor*

Urbania (#94)

Except you can share books. By passing them around or leaving them on a subway platform. I think it only bolster's Choire's argument to know that the thing can't lend media to other people.

La Cieca (#1,110)

I firmly believe that in the long run DRM hinders only slightly the casual sharing of media.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Voice to text recognition!

BadUncle (#153)

This thing is so ill-targeted. The real users of single-application, portable devices are businesses. The iPad should be used for inventory and management tasks – anything that's done on a clipboard, but ends up in a database.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Ha, where's the sexiness in THAT? Have you been to a semi-modern factory (or just seen the new HP commercials)? Or signed for a UPS delivery lately? That stuff already exists and it's very cool. But there's no premium you can charge a business for "sexiness" because business people tend to only want to pay for utility.

HiredGoons (#603)

That's what she said?

BadUncle (#153)

I'm telling you. Steve Jobs has reinvented the clipboard.

Gabe (#1,771)

Wait, though. I mean, people who want to create things aren't going to just not create anything anymore because of this toy. That seems grandiose. And the fact of the matter is that the large majority of people ARE passive consumers. And all for the better. Perhaps (certainly) it is a worldview created by a lifetime of privilege and outsized self-esteem-reinforcement, but I am of an Elitist Belief that a lot of people DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY. I'm not entirely convinced that the MySpace-brand of shirtless-self-portraiture-as-life-story is actually adding any value to the world, and if anything it might be detracting. There is a lot of noise these days.

I'm not saying the iPad shouldn't have a camera. A camera would be FINE. I am just saying, creativity always finds its level, and not everything has to be hotwired to a Tumblr account for people's lives to have meaning.

shaunr (#726)

When it's dinnertime, your comment will eat itself.

I mean, somebody's gotta listen to all these rappers.

Mac Justice (#4,261)

I feel like the "iPAD IS ONLY A MEDIA CONSUMPTION DEVICE FOR THE SOULLESS MASSES" starts as a decent critique, until you consider all the cool stuff people have been making on/with iPhones. Several New Yorker covers, for example, were made using the Brushes app. You can do sound editing, movie editing, so on. Half the announcement was spent discussing an Office style suite, for dang sake! No, you're not going to be making CGI masterpieces on it, but this is like complaining you can't make a novel on Twitter.

And besides, where were all these people being spontaneously creative before? Largely fucking around on Facebook like the vast majority of the internet population.

People who want to be creative with it can and do have the tools to do so. People who don't, won't. Any old damn computer is the same way. Should also be pointed out that using this thing is a heck of a lot more creative than watching a flat screen TV, or reading Infinite Jest.

heroofthebeach (#2,280)

But the whole point is the guy said that THIS IS ALL THERE'S GOING TO BE

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Fall down on your knees and worship Steve Jobs.

Neopythia (#353)

The ipad certainly has a place in the world as a consumption device etc. but that Gizmodo screed is laughably hostile. A good argument probably could be made for the evolution of file managment and UI, but that article isn't it.

I don't think I'd call locking files up in vertical application-based smokestacks an evolution in file management.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Settle down. This thing is fucked because it won't FIT anywhere.

BadUncle (#153)

What about a man purse?

LondonLee (#922)

Choire beat me to it but I can't believe someone at Gizmodo mistook this thing for a computer. Maybe I'm old (I am!) but I thought those were things you did actual work on. What is he, some kind of nOOb?

HiredGoons (#603)

'thing' = apropos.

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

Personally speaking I have always preferred computers to devices, which is the market Apple has been moving towards with the iPad. Over the next year some other tablets will come out which will be based more in traditional computer design and we will be able to dig into this debate for real. Im looking forward to it.

Ian Wehrman (#4,262)

This post was a shameless ploy for pageviews, wasn't it?

shaunr (#726)

[needs more Justin Bieber]

HiredGoons (#603)

…but can it Chatroulette?

BadUncle (#153)

or the far more stalkery

HiredGoons (#603)


Rod T (#33)

So essentially iPads are for submissives.

fek (#93)


joshc (#442)

Apple got fairly rich off of a passive computing device called the iPod. This is leaps and bounds more creative than that. And less expensive than other truly passive media creation devices that people spend thousands of dollars and miles of home theater cables on.

Nick Sweeney (#4,263)

You're thinking of 'making things' in strictly computing terms, Choire.

I can easily imagine technophobe parents and grandparents using iPads and being inspired to make real world, real life things, *because* it takes away so much of the whole 'computer' element of the interaction. Recipes, knitting patterns, plans for carpentry, schematics on that broken old truck.

My real objection to this development is that Apple has created a computing device that, for the first time in the brief history of computing devices, has as a design concept the need to actively resist the urges of people to make things.

So where do things like the XBox and PlayStation fall into that history of computing devices? Are they not computing devices, or do they somehow enable people to make things?

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

That depends on how you define "make things." If you're looking at people's drive toward agency, toward crafting their own narrative, toward the sense of having personally accomplished something, then of course video games were a revolution in harnessing that urge for entertainment.

If you're more of a purist and want to see PRODUCT and insist on UNIQUENESS that you can't get from a playthrough of a Mario title, then you should take modding into consideration.

HiredGoons (#603)

I hate that you're making me defend video games, the bane of my existence but WOW YOU'RE A DOWNER.

HiredGoons (#603)


Sorry. Totally didn't mean to put you in such an uncomfortable position. But also (more for Choire), if video games do somehow facilitate creativity (and why not?), since one of the uses of an iPad is as a video game, how is it a departure in the evolution of computing devices from video games?

HiredGoons (#603)

It's all right, I like uncomfortable positions.

Bob Booten (#4,062)

You and Cory Doctorow should get a room.

Onjay (#2,679)

Who needs a $650 block of plastic to be creative? You get the urge, bake a cake, draw a picture, write the Great American novel, get some clay and make a pot. Amazingly, there was a life before anyone knew what a blog was. Someone wants to read War and Peace on a tablet with fucking pretend page-turning, why should I care?

La Cieca (#1,110)

Well, but here's the thing. This is the first iteration of a new kind of device, and if the history of other Apple innovations is any indication, then future iPads are going to offer more possibilities than the current one.

Example: iTunes was originally all DRM all the time. That used to drive me crazy, because I would want to buy music and then sample and repurpose it, and in order to do that, I would have to burn the silly sound file to a CD, then rip the track to a wave file. But that DRM went away when other vendors started selling DRM-free music and the superbrains at Apple saw that there was money to be made in music without DRM.

Same idea when the iPhone first appeared. I remember thinking, "oh, wow, this is totally going to revolutionize the recording of live opera performances: no media, no microphones, and if security stops you, what are they going to do, take away your phone?" But in the first iteration or two, sound recording was hobbled, so recordings sounded like AM radio captured onto a cheap cassette deck. And then, over the next couple of years, the hobbling just kind of went away, and so now, I can wake up the morning after Rolando Villazon makes his comeback at the Vienna State Opera with a couple of perfectly decent sounding m4a files in my inbox documenting the whole event.

The point is, if there is a demand for creating text on the iPad, the build of the iPad will adapt over time so that you can create text on it. Similarly with whatever other use you're looking for, so long as enough other people are looking for that same use. (And the way that need is met may be in a way you don't imagine at the moment, e.g., there will be a way to watch internet video, but it won't necessarily involve Flash.)

In the meantime, you have a laptop and a smartphone as conduits for your creativity, and anybody who has the patience to jostle for position at the iMacs at the Apple Store can write a novel.

Flashman (#418)

The only thing that would make the iPad even more perfect and revolutionary, if that's even possible, would be if it had some sort of stand so it would stay at whatever angle you wanted it to on your lap without having to hold onto it. And perhaps this stand could fold shut over the screen as a sort of screen protector?
And since you have this stand thing already, maybe they could attach some sort of keyboard to it? Plus, having to move your hands all over the screen to do anything is kind of a lot of effort: it'd be cool if they invented some sort of pointer device so you could do all that with just moving a fingertip rather than your whole arm.
It'd be really cool too if they created some sort of plug or interface, so you could attach things to it, like maybe a digital camera or an external hard drive so you could download stuff and have extra storage if you needed it.
And maybe they could beef up the operating system a little, and make it so it could run computer programs you can do stuff with?
I think with those few slight tweaks Apple might really be onto something with this iPad concept.

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