The Apple iPad
Chosen by Malcolm Garrett, creative director, Applied Information Group
I’ve yet to see or touch the Apple iPad, so the following is based on conjecture, and quite a bit of enthusiastic anticipation, but when it comes to interactive technologies I am a receptive audience. I had an instant liking for the iPhone, not so much for the object itself, but for how it would shake up both the telecoms market and the whole world of computing. After only a few minutes of playing, and of enjoying of the way the touchscreen interactions varied from task to task, it was apparent to me that this direct yet dynamic way of handling information pointed towards a complete rethinking of hardware interfaces everywhere.
Almost overnight, expectations of how technology could and should work, subtly but irrevocably changed. At once straightforward, yet playfully seductive, this way of manipulating information feels natural and obvious.
It is not at all technical or intimidating. It just works effortlessly and effectively.
This can not now be taken away, nor can other products ignore it. I’m already expecting everything else to work in similar ways, and miss that level of control, even when it has never been present. I find myself instinctively touching and stroking screens, and already feel disappointed with old fashioned buttons, keys and clicks.
Many critics are understandably concerned that the iPad appears to be a solution in search of a problem, and are speculating about what it’s actually for. For me the real interest lies in the evolution of the interface rather than any debate about the precise form factor.
I am excited by further exploration of this type of interaction, and the unpredictable outcomes it will precipitate. Arguably the most remarkable thing about the iPhone has been the sheer volume of inventive responses to its unique combination of hardware and software. It is the integration of accelerometer and gps which makes the iPad such an exciting prospect, bringing together touchable interaction, connectivity and physical and spatial awareness. Together these features have added hitherto unexplored dimensions to software development, and implementing them in this next generation of device was inevitable. The irony is that although the iPhone was in part successful because it could, of course, be relied on to be a cool phone, the reality is that this is its least interesting facet. Far from being a criticism, this highlights a bold distinction between the iPhone and all else
What is key is that Apple continues to simplify and demystify the computer interface. The flexibility of the screen is such that the location and function of screen tools is always contextual, and specific to each and every application.
It is obvious that the iPad is intended to be a general purpose media device, rather than an office or work-related tool. Given the incremental development of the iPod over the past decade from the first click-wheel through to iTouch and iPhone, it is quite logical to see the iPad as a very powerful, and uniquely responsive, next generation iPod, rather than a downgraded MacBook.
That said, the iPad could really be the first laptop to actually warrant that description. You can’t use a MacBook on your lap for long without needing heat protection. The iPad just has to be more comfortable, portable and perfectly useful on your lap, in your hand, on the coffee table, sitting on a shelf, relaxing on the sofa, or even lying in bed. Thinking about its use, I note that there are many more games consoles and dvd players in the world than there are laptops, suggesting that mainstream media consumption is entertainment-oriented, and for most people becomes most usable in singular ways rather than in complex, work-like, multi-tasking environments.
The consensus of opinion at my company, AIG, is that this is a good thing. As this is an Apple controlled operating system, the design of Apps maintains just enough interface consistency to enable them to be comprehensive yet comprehensible, and given that they are empowered by Wi-Fi and internet, this alone could easily make many browser-dependent websites redundant. It is no surprise that the publishing industry is finally seeing a challenging opportunity rather than a threat to its existence.
For my part, back in 1990, when I made the irreversible transition from analogue to digital, I was still somehow anticipating the development of a computer with a screen as large as a drawing board. I felt that screens needed to maintain a better physical relationship between user and media than was allowed by keyboard and mouse, and the disassociation brought about by the confines of such a tiny window into a vast virtual world was a conceptual step too far to grasp easily. The world now suggested by the iPad isn’t at all how I imagined things would progress, yet it feels like a step towards something much, much better.
The Akashic Record*
Chosen by Jonathan Harris, artist, number27.org
“I’m excited that the ancient Hindu idea of the Akashic Record might soon be verified in some way by science.”
* A compendium of all human knowledge and experience encoded within a non-physical plane of existence
Chosen by Johnny Hardstaff, director
I can’t think of a recession I have enjoyed more.
We are at the very start of something special. To work creatively at the intersection between art and industry has never been more exciting. In recent months we have witnessed our economy collapse. We’ve seen the ‘creative industries’ in turmoil and every facet of our professional lives subject to rapid and unpredictable change. Technology is accelerating the chaos wonderfully.
It’s time to check for television’s pulse when the television stations themselves have to advertise for television advertisers in now empty prime time slots (‘Thinkbox’ – a wonderfully oxymoronic misnomer if ever there was one). Print folds beneath the dominance of digital, and production is made accessible through ‘pro-sumer’ technologies. Above all, advertising is upside down and being shaken, hard.
The planets are aligning. Now feels like a synthesis of everything I have been waiting for.
It had to happen. Within advertising, to describe the last 12 months as a nadir would be an understatement. Fake flash mobs. Fake ‘youtubisms’. Rampant emulation. Art projects faithfully carbon copied.
But isn’t advertising always going to be a shade of dreadful? Well, no. Advertising has always had the capacity to be absolutely thrilling. Perhaps if we looked beyond the term ‘advertising’ and focused instead upon what advertising is; the potential of corporate money to facilitate truly creative projects (as has occurred in art), then we might be able to look at it in a less pejorative light. Art and commerce have always had an abrasive but mutually dependant relationship. In the past, satisfactory meldings of the two have been few and far between, until now, perhaps.
Why is this current period of chaos so thrilling? Because out of it will come new commissioning models for the future. We will work differently. We will make different work, for different clients, in different media that delivers very different messages… differently. And most importantly, this work will be made under a new set of rules.
Society has received its ‘art’ through the television in what has essentially been a six decade monologue with a captive audience; shaped by broadcasting regulations, censorial guidelines, business systems and cautious market research. As all media collides, so anything is possible amidst the conjunction of the experiential, the interactive and storytelling.
The creative industries react. Advertising agencies are re-modelling themselves. As ever, the brightest will thrive, perhaps sharing their platform with the lately underestimated worlds of marketing and PR who travel light and look well placed to further drive this change. Clients are getting braver whilst brands’ own in-house marketing departments grow smarter all the time.
It is far from ridiculous to foresee major brands being patrons of the arts. The rules are disappearing. Life beyond a captive audience means that you have to earn that attention, and this alone will raise the bar. Intelligence, creativity, originality and quality will step to the fore, and as a result, the world is going to be a more interesting place. Perhaps not better, but most certainly more interesting.
For good or bad, finally perhaps everyone is going to get what they want. At the very least, we’re going to see what they want.
The great winner in all of this change? Please put your hands together for joint winners, ‘Original Idea’ and ‘Craft’! It’s been a long wait… but it was fun waiting.
Chosen by Nicolas Roope, Poke
I’m going to urge everyone to enjoy my favourite artist Rafaël Rozendaal. Rafael’s work [Everything You See Is In The Past shown above] is timeless.
Unlike so much interactive work I see, it is truly poetic. Most digital products of the communications industry still feel like crude, mechanical monsters to me. Budgets, clients and makers are more often motivated by digital’s mechanical effectiveness for reaching markets and of course I see the point and benefit in this. But just as the medium of film needs the Ingmar Bergmans to balance the Michael Manns, digital media needs its poets.
Without poetry we miss much of the quality and content of language. Whilst we’re building networks, communities, deploying cross media campaign infrastructure etc etc, Rafaël is making beautiful, simple, compelling art. We have a lot to learn from his work. It’s good when lessons are this pleasant.