Have you noticed that more and more objects are being made with the capability of connecting to the internet? This phenomena is called the ‘internet of things (IoT)’, where information becomes decentralised as a web of smart devices emerges and interconnects. Objects can now bypass physical limitations, and have the sensory capacity of reacting to the environment. Smart speaker companions, like Amazon’s Alexa, are prime examples of the IoT’s growing presence in modern lifestyles. I enjoy having my own mini-network of electronics; my iPhone and Apple watch would both be good devices on their own, but in tandem they create an incredibly satisfying user experience. Then there’s my gaming setup, which combines my PC and Nintendo Switch inputs into one monitor for convenience. Cloud data storage is also a great feature of interconnecting network devices.
In looking at the IoT, I was reminded of a ridiculous product that was popularly criticised online called ‘Juicero’, the ‘wifi juice press’. It essentially squeezes juice from special Juicero branded packets into a glass, something you could easily do yourself. BUT! It could connect to the internet!!! I’ll spare telling you how much it costs… if you’re interested in hearing more about Juicero, I’d recommend critikal’s video about it.
You’ll find threads on reddit that seem to go on forever, arguing the all important question; ‘iOS or Android?’. If you’re here for that answer, sorry! I’d like to keep my cowardly neutral stance, thank you. But this won’t stop me from comparing.
The two are great examples of the ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Bazaar’ development models (terms coined by Eric Steven Raymond in his paper dissecting open-source projects); iOS is closed off from outward influence, controlled and produced by Apple, whereas Android is distributed by Google for free to many different hardware manufacturers (Samsung, HTC, LG etc.) and independent app/OS developers.
So what are the benefits of each? Well, Google’s open-source approach has a much smaller profit margin than Apple on a sale-by-sale basis, though at the same time the huge variety of hardware options and prices available can satisfy a broader consumer market. Tough competition between different hardware manufacturers and developers also means Android may encourage faster innovation and technological progress, though Apple can also sometimes afford to pioneer features in their new releases (usually to much controversy, as many Apple users find their phones’ familiarity comfortable and appealing.) iOS having tight control over devices and their software capabilities can also be a plus for some consumers, as it creates a clean, easy to understand, and familiar user experience. Either way, both have their pros and cons, and the correct choice depends on what suits your own user behaviours and needs.
Ever seen that terrible Justin Timberlake movie ‘In Time‘, where each individual has a clock counting down to their inevitable death, and spend seconds, minutes, or hours from their life like currency to buy goods and services? It was a very literal interpretation of the popular English idiom, ‘time is money’. But this phrase has an interesting resonance when applied to digital consumption and the ‘attention economy’. After all, we only have 24 hours in our day, and with the constant flow of content for consumption in the Digital and Information age, the most precious resource is our time. The mass amateurization of publishing content online has transformed the internet into an overwhelming database of entertaining, informative or interesting content. Thus, drawing attention and consumers toward one place is key; think YouTube click-bait, or aggregates of media like Netflix.
I’m a huge fan of anything 80s, no surprise if you know about my high-key obsession with vaporwave and consumerist/capitalist/’greed is good’ nostalgia aesthetics. Cyberpunk is a genre of fiction emerging from this era that I have always adored. My earliest taste of this bleak neon future was playing the N64 classic ‘Perfect Dark’, wandering the rainy streets of Chicago as Joanna Dark, circa the year 2023. The gritty reality of a city consumed by cyberspace creates an intense mood that resonated with my young self; I also enjoyed the film ‘Blade Runner’, and fell in love with ‘Ghost in the Shell’.
Cyberpunk manifests the anxieties of a technologically dependent society in a way that leaves the viewer torn; they are often fascinated, and excited by the prospects of a digitally integrated lifestyle, but also fear the implications of augmented living. Technologies that push this line too far are suppressed or reiterated because of this cautious approach to rapid progression into the dystopic Cyberpunk society we fear.
“…the round globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence!”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851
My Communications and Media goggles are back on, and already I’m in the right frame of mind for heightening my perspective. It feels great to discuss and think about familiar concepts of digital media in a way that I’d never have thought to before; I’m certain I’ve decided on the right degree. I’m always astounded by the immense impact of digital technologies and the internet as a global network on how society functions, and how this paradigm shift occurred so rapidly in a minute fraction of the Earth’s lifespan.
This quote from American Romantic novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is the perfect metaphor to describe our interconnected global society. The Earth is a brain; a large database of information (index cards!) that is interconnected by nerves, synapses created by communication networks and technologies. It’s an image that has changed the way I visualise the ‘interconnected-ness’ of our world.