Archive for April, 2010


Ok, I’ll say something about the iPad

I don’t have an iPad, or any immediate plans to get one, but I have been reading the usual articles since it came out. I was reading The iPad in the Eyes of the Digerati and kinda freaked out when I saw the Gelernter piece because it made so little sense to me.

[…] future touch-screens will be designed to show you a slice of time, not (like the iPad) an old-fashioned slice of space.

Really? I mean lifestreams are cool and all, but are we really going to use a visual space to represent a temporal metaphor? Like Time Machine becomes our desktop?

Oh, so he was talking about himself.

One meme that’s annoyed me since the first time I heard it, is this apocalyptic idea that we’ll all stop being creative because we have a new consumption device.

Where to start on this? Ok, so books are consumption devices. Are they bad because they don’t invite you to tinker with them? Hm… maybe it’s more compelling to cite Atlantic’s What I Read to highlight that creative people spend a ton of time as information consumers. There seems to be a huge correlation between the people who read the most and the people who write the most.

I also found the Atlantic essays interesting because many of the authors block out their days into chunks (morning, at work, evenings, etc) and break down their behavior based on those chunks. Generally speaking, the evenings are when the long-form consumption happens, because people have time to focus and inclination to sit in one place. If an iPad is convenient during that time, it means they’ll consume more or better during that time… and then the next day can sit down at their keyboards and write.

I’ve actually been working on a kind of model based on Shirky’s idea that everyone is a media outlet. There are kind of the roles that each person plays, typically cycling from one state to another during the course of a day. Those states are Consume, Evaluate, and Produce. I even drew a pretty picture about how these states kind of bind a social network together into a kind of neural information processing network. It looks like this:

So you can use this model to look at viral spreading. It is related to the network structure (who listens to whom), and the probability, for any given agent, that, having consumed something, he or she will produce something related (whether it’s simply forwarding a link, referencing it in an original work, remixing it, or whatnot).

In other words, a device that improves consumption would lead to more production, which leads to more activity in the whole network, new connections being formed, and so on. Which is good for things like networked journalism.