Tag Archives: society

Be silent; or what the iPad debate says about us

7 Apr

 The entire debate over the iPad is thoroughly fascinating.  Reactions to the device range from effusive praise to bitter disappointment.  Some think its the most important tablet to be introduced since a certain figure came down from the mountaintop.   Others think it’s merely a large iPod touch that misses functionality present in every computer made since 1993.   Apple’s own PR machine promises a “magical and revolutionary device,” that allows a user to “have the internet at their fingertips.”  A friend of mine remarked that he’s never before heard people express such strong views toward a device.  Indeed, the last time I heard such heated opinions was over the healthcare bill.  Wait, that was last week.

Ironically, the most insightful commentary on the iPad is about how it makes reading feel “serene” and that how it allows one to  “absorb,” to “listen, really listen, to what someone else has to say.”  Could the iPad, with its inability to multitask (which one reviewer  hails as a virtue), actually retrain us away from the constant comment and heated debate society we have become?  After all, if we begin using a device that makes it easy to absorb but hard to create, might that make us comment less? Or at least allow time for our passions to cool as we slowly tap away at the iPad’s built in keyboard?  If the iPad fails, will it be because few people really want to listen; that we prefer a society of comment over one of consumption?

Maybe the iPad’s actual features aren’t a commentary on us and maybe they won’t change how we behave, but doesn’t our love or hatred of a device speak volumes about the things we value?  Remember these are opinions are sparked about a machine, a machine that perhaps no more than 5% of the world’s population will ever use.  For some reason, the entire debate reminds me of what  Bobby Kennedy  famously said about GDP:

“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Read that quote a few times.  You’ll probably realize that there’s an app closely related to every one of the good (and bad) things that Kennedy references.  Fascinating indeed.

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