Law in Contemporary Society
-- NonaFarahnik - 05 Apr 2010 My dad has never made the effort to be fluent in anything more than basic technology. When he wants music on his iPod he asks me or one of my siblings to do it for him. It is painful to watch him use his blackberry. He probably opens a web browser 4 or 5 times a year to google something (after calling and asking me how to get to google) and has no idea about what he is actually doing or what is actually happening when he interacts with the Internet. He also refuses to learn. At the same time, he is a compulsive tech-shopper who always wants the latest version of what he cannot use.

Tomorrow, he is buying the iPad. The one thing the iPad will do for my dad is to sell apps that will give him simple graphic interfaces so that he might actually use the Net in a way that is productive for him. (It will also of course give him the satisfaction of walking into Steve's glass box and holding the beautiful device in his hands, but we can talk about that with Arnold and Leff on another day).

For example, I don't think my dad has ever used yelp, but once he has the app and just has to press a button on his screen to get to a portal and type in a business's name, he will. iphone users have already enjoyed this experience for a few years now, but for me, it was never appreciably different than my browser based capabilities. Now that I realize how the ipad will change my dad's ability to garner information, I wonder if this form of Interneting matters.

I dimly remember having to type some sort of code to order my first computer to do things. Today, I just click on an icon. Is something like this happening to the world wide web?!

How do you (anyone) think that simple application-based Internet programs will change the way users use it?

Or my dad might just be a few decades too late and we can't learn much from his generation's Internet use.

-- NonaFarahnik - 08 Apr 2010

-- JohnSchwab - 06 Apr 2010 Nona, I tend to think your last sentence is correct. I remember reading somewhere after the unveiling of this "magical" device that it would be a great gadget for old people (which I interpreted to mean really old, not me-level old). To anyone who is intimidated by the web, I can see the appeal of a whole bunch of well-marked buttons that will instantly deliver applications without fear of landing on some scam website or not being able to find the service I want.

However, the entire notion of apps and the iPad seems limiting. On an aesthetic level, I wouldn't want a computer or TV desktop littered with thousands of little buttons. On a functional level, I don't see what I gain. Any website I use often can be immediately accessed in my bookmarks. And, of course, I can easily imagine the frustration of not having an approved app for a particular website I like to visit regularly. (I do realize that apps for games are a different proposition - what I'm focusing on here are apps as "portals" to internet functions).

My dislike/distrust of an app-based computing experience is particularly acute if the apps are used as an excuse to decrease the functionality and flexibility of the computing experience. This seems to be true of the iPad which, without the much of the flexibility of a laptop, isn't much more than a $500, 9 inch television (on which you can read books, of course). I think the iPads and its apps are mostly about control - Apple's control. In some ways, Apple has created a version of the "Fritz chip computer long desired by the major media companies. Of course, the big difference here is that Apple is the gatekeeper. The fact that this is being hailed as game-changing is, I think, mostly due to the incredible success of Apple's marketing machine. But that, as you say, is a discussion for another thread.

Nona, great topic. I was planning on bringing this up, but looking at it from a slightly different angle. I don't know if you read this article in the New York Times from the day that the iPad came out. There was one quote that stuck with me:

"It's beyond technology. It's a culture. It's a community," said Rey Gutierrez, a die-hard loyalist with a tattoo of the Apple logo on his left hand, who had waited outside the San Francisco Apple store since 4 a.m. "No other company can drop a device and generate this much energy. Every big brand is envious of what Apple can do."

Mr. Gutierrez certainly has a point. Apple has gotten to the point where they can sell items and the brand has such a strong influence that people don't even question whether they need it. Personally, I agree with John and think that this new form of computing subjects us to yet another gatekeeper. And I agree with John that part of the success of it is because Apple has been able to capture people like Mr. Gutierrez and get them to tattoo its brand logo on themselves.

If Apple continues to succeed with its marketing techniques and no competitors are able to successfully sell competing technologies, there is a good way that these technologies will change the way we use the internet, just as Word has changed the way that we create documents and Excel has changed the way that we create spreadsheets. I think this is bad. But everything has costs and benefits - sacrificing control over our internet usage likely will make it easier for a segment of the population to use the internet, just like having one dominant word processing software enabled a similar segment of the population to use word processing in ways they wouldn't have been able to otherwise.

-- DavidGoldin - 07 Apr 2010

Having never owned an Apple product, I can't really comment on the usability of the devices. (I don't have anything personal against Apple; I just like to play computer games and prefer my own mental iPod.) Eben had a comment in an interview from 2001 which I think provides the other side to the usability debate.

" In 1979, when I was working at IBM, I wrote an internal memo lambasting the Apple Lisa, which was Apple`s first attempt to adapt Xerox PARC technology, the graphical user interface, into a desktop PC. I was then working on the development of APL2, a nested array, algorithmic, symbolic language, and I was committed to the idea that what we were doing with computers was making languages that were better than natural languages for procedural thought. The idea was to do for whole ranges of human thinking what mathematics has been doing for thousands of years in the quantitative arrangement of knowledge, and to help people think in more precise and clear ways. What I saw in the Xerox PARC technology was the caveman interface, you point and you grunt. A massive winding down, regressing away from language, in order to address the technological nervousness of the user. Users wanted to be infantilized, to return to a pre-linguistic condition in the using of computers, and the Xerox PARC technology`s primary advantage was that it allowed users to address computers in a pre-linguistic way. This was to my mind a terribly socially retrograde thing to do, and I have not changed my mind about that. I lost that war in the early 1980s, went to law school, got a history PHD, did other things, because the fundamental turn in the technology - which we see represented in its most technologically degenerate form, which is Windows, the really crippled version. I mean, I use Xwindows every day on my free-software PCs; I have nothing against a windowing environment, but it's a windowing environment which is network transparent and which is based around the fact that inside every window there's some dialogue to have with some linguistic entity. "

Pointing and grunting indeed. --Nona

This is probably why the ipad works for her.

-- NonaFarahnik - 08 Apr 2010

Tim Wu has an interesting essay on the iPad up on Slate.


Wozniak's design was open and decentralized in ways that still define those concepts in the computing industries. The original Apple had a hood, and as with a car, the owner could open it up and get at the guts of the machine. Although it was a fully assembled device, not a kit like earlier PC products, Apple owners were encouraged to tinker with the innards of Wozniak's machine—to soup it up, make it faster, add features. There were slots to accommodate all sorts of peripheral devices, and it was built to run a variety of software. Wozniak's ethic of openness also extended to disclosing design specifications. In a 2006 talk at Columbia University, he put the point this way: "Everything we knew, you knew." To point out that this is no longer Apple's policy is to state the obvious.

While a computer you can modify might not sound so profound, Wozniak contemplated a nearly spiritual relationship between man and his machine. He held, simply, that machines should be open to their owners and that all power should reside in the user. That notion mattered most to geeks, but it expressed deeper ideas, too: a distrust of centralized power and a belief, embedded in silicon, that computers should be tools of freedom.

In 2006, when Wozniak gave his talk at Columbia, I asked him what happened with the Mac. You could open up the Apple II, and there were slots and so on, and anyone could write for it, I said. The Mac was way more closed. What happened?

"Oh," said Wozniak. "That was Steve. He wanted it that way." Apple's origins were pure Steve Wozniak, but the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad are the products of the company's other founder. Steve Jobs' ideas have always been in tension with Wozniak's brand of idealism and the founding principles of Apple. Jobs maintained the early, countercultural image that he and Wozniak created, but beginning with the Macintosh in the 1980s, and accelerating through the iPhone and climaxing with the iPad's release this month, he has taken Apple on a fundamentally different track, one that is, in fact, nearly the opposite of the Wozniak vision.

-- DevinMcDougall - 11 Apr 2010

I wouldn't consider myself very fluent in technology type things, so I'll try and keep this short. (Also, sorry for the nonlinear train of thought, I can't help being a little disjointed.)

I dunno that I buy the idea the iPad is going to help the technologically challenged group very much. If they've allowed things to get this far and not jumped on board yet, they're probably not going to get with it no matter how pretty/simple the machines get. I'd put my dad square in this category, and the truth is that kind of person has got their own way of getting information, so they're not truly hindered by not using the net.

The iPad seems to represent the essence of conspicuous consumption. It does nothing new, and to the tune of $500. Why do we put such a premium on things like this? If anyone reading this wants one, can you please give me some reasons? I'm honestly curious.

Unsolicited advice: save your money, buy some land, and grow something.

-- MichaelHilton - 23 Apr 2010

Michael - your point reminds me of this quote from a 70 year old women in an article that I read:

"I don't want nothing to do with computers," she declared. "I don't have one, I don't want to learn. No, sir. I'm going to do my scrapbooking and quilting."

Some people do not want to use computers, and no matter how easy they are, will stay away from them.

-- DavidGoldin - 23 Apr 2010

WHat about this 100 year old woman?

I see that, very nice. Do you think this will become a widespread phenomenon, with the technologically challenged buying iPads and benefiting from this new device, or do you figure it'll mostly be bought up by those seeking to demonstrate their status?

I still have to observe, I've never encountered anyone who expressed a deep-seated desire to use computers, but was just too intimidated by the technology. In my experience, most folks who don't use computers do not want to use computers, and simplifying things as far as the iPad has is not going to benefit anyone very much in the long run.

Here's a link to an article (on a very serious and well-respected site) I ran across today.

-- MichaelHilton - 25 Apr 2010



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r14 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:32:16 - IanSullivan
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