It’s a stretch at best to call the Apple iPad launch art related, but it falls under the hood of cultural production, so we’re posting about it. Our main interest is a discussion summarized by i09’s Annalee Newitz on the iPad’s core creative limitations:
Apple is marketing the iPad as a computer, when really it’s nothing more than a media-consumption device – a convergence television, if you will. Think of it this way: One of the fundamental attributes of computers is that they are interactive and reconfigurable. You can change the way a computer behaves at a very deep level. Interactivity on the iPad consists of touching icons on the screen to change which application you’re using. Hardly more interactive than changing channels on a TV. Sure, you can compose a short email or text message; you can use the Brushes app to draw a sketch. But those activities are not the same thing as programming the device to do something new. Unlike a computer, the iPad is simply not reconfigurable.
The iPad emulates television in another way, too: You can channel surf through the Apps Store, but you can’t change what’s playing. Every single app that’s available for the iPad has to be approved by Apple first, just like apps for iPhones. That means censorship of “offensive” apps, no apps that compete with Apple (i.e., no Google Voice), and no random app somebody wrote to do whatever obscure shit you want to do. So you’ve got thousands of channels and nothing on. You can only keep flipping through the channels, hoping in vain to see something other than reruns of Cheaters and Alf.
If you want something new, there are very limited ways of getting it. You can write an app, and it might be accepted to the Apps Store. Or you can write your own (unacceptable) app and hand it out to a few friends, if you and they are technically savvy enough. But most users won’t be in that position.
It’s also, as Newitz goes on to mention later, just a fancy e-book reader. Think of it as the television you always wanted to read books on. And buy shoes with. It’s slicker than this, of course, but I don’t need another digital device to help me spend money.
The real issue here though is the restrictions Apple puts on creative endeavors as a means of controlling and growing its market. And the more people who actively voice their discontent, the better.
Editor’s Note: Newitz’s discussion is one of many spinning within a growing community of creatives dissatisfied with Apple. Author and scholar Jonathan Zittrain is probably the most well known. His lastest book, The Future of The Internet and How to Stop It (The book is available to download in its entirety on the author’s site discusses, amongst other things, the creative limitations of the iPhone.
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