Thursday, March 04, 2010

New Media Potential of the iPad

This is not a fanboy rant. I'm a dreamer, and in my dreams I see a new form of media. This has less to do with the iPad as an Apple product, and more to do with the potential of the iPad (and similar devices) to pull back the curtain between those dreams and reality.

The dust has settled from the event. I have have engaged in a lot of discussion about the iPad; a mixed response of critiques, praise, confusion, excitement, and disappointment.

I'll be honest. I'm not here to defend the name (but you can't deny the priceless marketing value due to it's close association with the omnipresent iPod in the consumers mind), or make excuses for the lack of a camera, multitasking, or flash. There are a handful of very pragmatic articles in favor of the iPad (at Cnet and TUAW to name a couple), so I won't dabble in those ponds. This article is more visionary and philosophical in nature.

My argument hinges on the future potential of new media functions through the introduction of a new media form.

As with all new technology forms that are introduced, initially we wrestle with how to deal with it. It is tempting to simply translate the functions of current technology to a new form. We can witness this exploration process at work in history. The printing press, the photograph, the radio, the motion picture - each of these introduce new media forms introduces new functions that interact with and shape us, our society, and our culture.

With each new function introduced by a new media form, we grapple with what to make of it.

Following the invention of the printing press there has been an explosion in the use of the written word as a medium. Until the 20th century, this media was unchallenged in it's supremacy to communicate a message. With the invention of the photograph (in its static and motion state) in the 19th century the grappling process began. As technology advanced, the image exploded onto the scene in the 20th century, laying claim to the media throne. This has profoundly shaped our society and our understanding of the world.

Think Kindle.

The written word has largely remained prominent alongside, largely independent of the image. Authors have been limited by the form of words on a page to communicate their message. The Kindle merely translated this age old function into an electronic form. That's fine. But what if we can do more. What if we can...

Think different.

What if a new form of medium can be wielded, destroying old paradigms. What if a creator does not have to be largely divided by the lines of audio, imagery, and words - divided by the titles of musician, photographer, and author? And even further, what if the creator can reach out and interactively engage the audience in ways never imagined? What if the walls which separate the tools of different medias can be torn down?

The works produced by such a creator will exist outside of our current comprehension.

The iPad introduces an effective way to explore completely new functions for media. An author can publish a work with no thought to how much color or pictures are used, integrating video into his work, creating a immersive soundtrack that seamlessly loops and transitions with each turn of the page. But is the person who creates such a work still an author?

The iPad is initially significant to authors, artists, producers, publishers, animators, musicians, designers, and creators; not to the consumer. This explains the discrepancy between the unenthusiastic response of the consumer and the CEO of Disney referring to the iPad as a "game changer".

My prediction: In a year the consumer will be blown away with the content they are being offered on the iPad... if we can dream big enough.

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