Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The problem with complex gadgets

In this week’s Top 10 list from Time magazine, I found a surprise: that the magazine listed the complexity of Gmail as a problem, despite what Time describes as
“a reliability record, which remains sterling compared with most of the corporate e-mail systems it's been known to replace”
Time argues that today people are turning very rapidly from e-mail to such features as Twitter and Facebook.

To be honest, my experience of Twitter (rather brief) and Facebook suggests to me that what Nicholas Carr and Cory Doctorow said about the iPad and how its design was a model of consumerism because:
  1. the iPad is designed almost completely by the entertainment industry and telecommunications companies (who I admit can be terribly superficial
  2. even the most basic maintenance for the occasional rough child required professionals rather than ordinary people
  3. technology comes and goes and today’s iPad is not going to be of long-term value
  4. the way in which Apple have designed the applications makes it much more difficult to work with than an ordinary personal computer
  5. for many critics, the iPad was analogous to the CD-ROM which, with hindsight, taught me very little compared to print biographies and which at times made me laugh (for instance over who “Charlie Parker” was - to me the definitive “disambiguation” comes from reading simultaneously biographies of Miles Davis and Wally Hammond)
  6. “We don’t really care. It’s okay. We just wanted a book. We love you as you are” really sums up my attitudes towards library reading, something which Christian Ganaban says will not last much longer
Over the decade or so I have been a regular computer user, I have found that the Internet certainly has the power to control one without one gaining any understanding of how it works. I have been consistently baffled by how to operate a computer beyond that particular level of knowledge, yet always want to use it more and more, for more and more superficial purposes, at that very level.

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