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iPad, the Infernal Machine

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I think its hard to dispute that many are critical of the iPad because of its shortcomings. They are dissatisfied with the capabilities of the device, lament how far short of their expectations the device turned out to be, and foretell of its failure. I would like to suggest, however, that it is not the shortcomings of the iPad that deserve the harshest criticism, but rather its strengths. We should be less concerned with what it doesnt do well, than with what it does well. We have little to worry about if it turns out to be a failure, but a great deal to worry about should it become a success.

The reason is simple: the iPad signifies, incontrovertibly, a particular vision of lifestyle, culture, and human activity. Anyone who is enticed by the vision offered by the iPad, ask yourself, what do you see yourself doing when you are enjoying the iPad experience? Reading a magazine, perhaps? Or watching a movie, a TV show, a video clip online? Or maybe simply browsing the web. The iPad just might be able to make these experiences more enjoyable, more pleasurable, more effortless than ever before, and this vision makes the device enticing, intriguing, desirable. But what about sharing a message with your social network, contributing an opinion online, or writing a blog post? Sure, all that is possible since you can enter text with the virtual keyboard of the iPad. But those activities are probably not what first come to mind when you envision the iPad experience, because the virtual keyboard makes those activities more inconvenient, less efficient, less enjoyable on the iPad compared to devices with keyboards, if only slightly so for those experienced with virtual keyboards. Or what about writing a story, an essay, a poem? Well, those activities are probably best done with the iPad attached to its keyboard dock. But a tethered, deskbound iPad is not the iPad that you envision in these experiences, is it? No, freedom from the constraints of locations, of wires, of desks is an essential part of the iPad vision. The keyboard dock is a necessity, a vestigial appendage foisted upon the iPad by the demands of an old lifestyle; it has no place in the iPad vision. Or what about creating a sketch, a painting, a design? Sure, it could be done crudely with ones fingers on the iPad. But those activities are probably best saved for another device, another experience, when better tools could let you create something more precisely, more professionally.

It should not be difficult to see, then, what kind of vision is offered by the iPad. By making the consumption of all kinds of media more effortless and more pleasurable than previously possible, while at the same time making the production of all kinds of media more cumbersome and more out-of-reach, the iPad offers a vision of man as a passive consumer of content and of culture. It is a perfect example of one of those infernal machines that John Sousa worried would eliminate the artist in man. The machines would only need to tip the balance, and the natural tendency of man to pursue the easier path combined with the passage of time will do the rest. The more dominant devices such as the iPad become, the more difficult it becomes for the common man to produce anything cultural, the more culture becomes concentrated in a world of stars and idols, a world of professional cultural producers external to the world of common man, an otherworld. As mankind projects its inner creative abilities, its inner artist into this external world of professionals, the culture producer is alienated from man, culture is alienated from mankind. The iPad vision is fulfilled, man has become the passive consumer of culture, for the producer has left him and has become part of the otherworld.

More worryingly, the iPad vision is self-propagating, self-perpetuating. It seeks to draw producers and consumers into its world, but it does not open up its world to all. The bigger its world, the more attractive it becomes for others to enter it, for only by becoming a part of it can one enjoy its riches. And once this world reaches critical mass, once enough people and enough content is committed to this platform, it becomes immensely difficult to abandon it and move to something else. It no longer needs the support of those who shared the vision, for newcomers would have no choice but to accept the dominant platform and become a part of its world. The iPad vision becomes an iron cage for the culture of mankind. To paraphrase Max Weber, someone in this future would say the early adopters wanted to enjoy the iPad vision; we are forced to do so.

This vision of the future of man who has been alienated from the artist within him, who can be nothing more than a passive consumer of culture, is what we have to worry about should the iPad proves to be a success. To prevent this future, we must have the strength to resist our tendency to pursue the easier path. We must have the strength to only use machines that allow us to produce as easily as they allow us to consume, even if doing so makes our consumption of culture more difficult. We must do so for the artist to survive amongst mankind.
post #2 of 21
Dude, we get it; you don't like the iPad, so it MUST be bad!

I LOVE how folks can make such a judgement on a device that virtually NO ONE has actually had hands-on experience with for any amount of time!

Social networking with a virtual keyboard? I guess the masses of folks using Facebook & the like on their iPhones each & every day do not count

Drawing on the iPad to be a crude exercise? Well, if the following can be done on an iPhone, it would stand to reason that the increased screen size of the iPad would allow for even greater works







Obviously, these examples are all from the Brushes App website

How about we actually wait until we can get our hands on an iPad and use it for a length of time, and then make a judgement on whether or not this infernal machine is the road to our damnation?!?

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post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarein View Post

I think its hard...

Dude, have you held an Apple Aluminum Wireless Keyboard in your hands? Toss one in your bag with the iPad and STFU.
post #4 of 21
Did you use the complaint letter generator to make that long rant? lol
post #5 of 21
I am now dumber, having read most of this.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
From David Pogue's review:
Quote:
And the techies are right about another thing: the iPad is not a laptop. Its not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, its infinitely more convenient for consuming it books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on.

Not surprised.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarein View Post

From David Pogue's review:


Not surprised.

Uh huh. Pogue's take is kind of a long ways away from your apocalyptic vision of the iPad as the harbinger of the Fall of Man, though, donchya think?
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post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Uh huh. Pogue's take is kind of a long ways away from your apocalyptic vision of the iPad as the harbinger of the Fall of Man, though, donchya think?

Of course they are far different. He just stated the facts. I theorized about what the implications of those facts might be. My theory though depends on the fact he stated, so it's nice to see someone who has used the device confirm that detail. As to my theory, I don't expect anyone to agree that it's some sort of inevitability, I'm happy if it just gets people thinking. Surprisingly though, people have only attacked the factual claim so far, and not the theoretical implications of that claim, which in my opinion is the more interesting part.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarein View Post

Of course they are far different. He just stated the facts. I theorized about what the implications of those facts might be. My theory though depends on the fact he stated, so it's nice to see someone who has used the device confirm that detail. As to my theory, I don't expect anyone to agree that it's some sort of inevitability, I'm happy if it just gets people thinking. Surprisingly though, people have only attacked the factual claim so far, and not the theoretical implications of that claim, which in my opinion is the more interesting part.

Whoa, whoa. You're conflating a subjective "fact" with a pretty overreaching "theory" as if the former led credence to the latter, which it absolutely does not.

And note that if it did, then rebuking the "fact" (that the iPad is ill suited for content creation) pretty much leaves your "theory" with nothing to stand on-- so "attacking" the "fact" (which I think is overstating the case) would be the most expedient way to obviate your further claims. As you say, "you're theory depends on it", so if we disagree with the premise there's not much point in debating the colorful notions you spin from it.

See how that works? There's nothing in the premise that necessarily or even plausibly leads to the outcome you posit (which after all requires of the iPad the role of epochal shifter of values, which i don't think even Jobs is gunning for), but if the premise is wrong the whole thing falls apart anyway.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Whoa, whoa. You're conflating a subjective "fact" with a pretty overreaching "theory" as if the former led credence to the latter, which it absolutely does not.

And note that if it did, then rebuking the "fact" (that the iPad is ill suited for content creation) pretty much leaves your "theory" with nothing to stand on-- so "attacking" the "fact" (which I think is overstating the case) would be the most expedient way to obviate your further claims. As you say, "you're theory depends on it", so if we disagree with the premise there's not much point in debating the colorful notions you spin from it.

See how that works? There's nothing in the premise that necessarily or even plausibly leads to the outcome you posit (which after all requires of the iPad the role of epochal shifter of values, which i don't think even Jobs is gunning for), but if the premise is wrong the whole thing falls apart anyway.

I completely agree that attacking the factual basis is a very effective means of attacking my entire theory. I'm just saying that I think the theory is a more interesting part and might lead to a more interesting discussion. I am not, however, conflating the factual basis with the theory. The latter depends on the former, but the former does not imply the latter. I'm not sure how you got the impression that I'm making such a claim. My theory is that this fact leads to these outcomes. That's the idea I want to put forward, and for others to judge and dispute.
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarein View Post

I completely agree that attacking the factual basis is a very effective means of attacking my entire theory. I'm just saying that I think the theory is a more interesting part and might lead to a more interesting discussion. I am not, however, conflating the factual basis with the theory. The latter depends on the former, but the former does not imply the latter. I'm not sure how you got the impression that I'm making such a claim. My theory is that this fact leads to these outcomes. That's the idea I want to put forward, and for others to judge and dispute.

Fair enough, and the clarity of that response induces me to take a little more time with your extended thoughts-- but possibly not tonight.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #12 of 21
Correct me if I misunderstand, but isn't the basic premise behind your theory that mass consumption leads to a culture of indolence? If so, this has been predicted for decades at least, with every new technological advance in fact.
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post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarein View Post

I think its hard to dispute that many are critical of the iPad because of its shortcomings. They are dissatisfied with the capabilities of the device, lament how far short of their expectations the device turned out to be, and foretell of its failure...

<snip>

...We must do so for the artist to survive amongst mankind.


Holy Cow!

The iPad is for children and it's good enough to finger paint.

It's received a lot of flack for it's shortcomings, but for the intended market it's just wonderful.

When the kids get into teenage age, they can move up to a MacBook and learn how a the rest of the world uses computers in order to get a job.
post #14 of 21
Why must some of you see things as either/or ?

There's nothing that precludes a computer user from equally enjoying an iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad and Macbook/iMac.

Apple's designed the "system" so that it works well and they're "stewing" their Cloud strategy (MobileMe, Lala acquisition) to tie everything together.

Yes the iPad is primarily a content delivery device. That's Apple's intentions. The creation comes from light artwork or text input but it's a delivery platform.

Artists will still buy Mac OS X based machines with multicore processor for the heavy lifting yet now there's yet another viable product for playing back this content.
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post #15 of 21
I didn't get an answer to my question, so I must conclude that this just another example of the kind of techo-puritanism which at the root of much criticism of the iPad, if not Apple products in general for the last several decades. The roundheads are suspicious of joy. They don't have any, and they're dead set against anyone else having any either. Maybe it really is bad for me, but it's a chance I'm willing to take.
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post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpotOn View Post

Holy Cow!

The iPad is for children and it's good enough to finger paint.

It's received a lot of flack for it's shortcomings, but for the intended market it's just wonderful.

When the kids get into teenage age, they can move up to a MacBook and learn how a the rest of the world uses computers in order to get a job.

Fingerpainting!

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They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #17 of 21
With regards to the OP: this argument actually goes back to Greek rhetoricians such as Alcidamas, who argued that literacy was an impediment to the full development of extemporaneous speech and the higher arts of rhetoric-- a consumable crutch, if you will, resulting in the withering of true mental facility:

Quote:
(3) In the first place, one may condemn the written word because it may be readily assailed, and because it may be easily and readily practiced by any one of ordinary ability. To speak extemporaneously, and appropriately to the occasion, to be quick with arguments, and not to be at a loss for a word, to meet the situation successfully, and to fulfil the eager anticipation of the audience and to say what is fitting to be said, such ability is rare, and is the result of no ordinary training.

(4) On the contrary, to write after long premeditation, and to revise at leisure, comparing the writings of previous Sophists, and from many sources to assemble thoughts on the same subject, and to imitate felicities cleverly spoken, to revise privately some matters on the advice of laymen and to alter and expunge other parts as a result of repeated and careful excogitation, verily, this is an easy matter even for the untutored.

(5) Whatsoever things are good and fair are ever rare and difficult to acquire, and are the fruits of painful endeavor; but the attainment of the cheap and trivial is easy. Thus it is that, since writing is easier than speaking, we should rightly consider the ability to compose a meaner accomplishment.
They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the grand duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility.
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post #18 of 21
Maybe I'm not giving the argument enough credit for its academic and theoretical sources, but after having read it more than once, I can really see only my original critique. That being, if something is too easy or fun, that it's probably not good for our individual or collective cognitive abilities. Have our "infernal machines" really crippled artistic development? If so, where is the evidence for this?

I'm reminded of a fairly idiotic study that came along during the 1980s, which purported to show that Mac users were relatively poor writers and spellers compared to PC users. The theory the researchers developed to "explain" this result was that the use of a mouse and GUI produced intellectual laziness, or something along those lines. Yes, it's an old argument. An old, bankrupted argument.
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post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarein View Post

I completely agree that attacking the factual basis is a very effective means of attacking my entire theory. I'm just saying that I think the theory is a more interesting part and might lead to a more interesting discussion.

The theory is only more interesting to discuss if it is determined that there is enough of a factual basis to establish it as a theory beforehand. Calling something a theory to begin with relies quite heavily on a sufficient factual basis. You have definitely established you have an opinion on the possible implications of the iPad, but you are still quite a ways from having established that opinion to what qualifies as a theory.
post #20 of 21
Wow, some people need to get laid around here...
post #21 of 21
Incidentally, if anyone still cares, the term "infernal machine" was coined by John Philip Sousa to describe the phonograph. He was sure recorded music would bring an end to the human desire to create and perform music, and ultimately to the end of singing itself. Maybe if Sousa had lived into the days of rock-n-roll and beyond, he might have felt that his prophecy had been fulfilled, but certainly not as he predicted it.

One thing is for sure, the future ain't what it used to be.
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