Once I clicked on that e-mail attachment, though, and Joan's review filled the tablet screen in my hands, I knew this would be different. I nestled into the sofa, propped the iPad against my knees and blissfully read the whole 3,000 words from start to finish without once experiencing that nagging urge to check e-mail or Twitter or Facebook. OK, so maybe some of that is a testament to the piece itself, but I assure you that in light of my recent track record with on-screen reading, it was extraordinary.
Reading a document on the iPad feels ... serene. There's no dock filled with application icons lurking at the edge of the screen to suggest that I log onto iChat to see who else is online (maybe it's Joan, and she can explain this one reference to me ...) or double-check the day's to-do list. No files on the desktop remind me about that other thing I need to put the finishing touches on and send. No notifications from TweetDeck pop up to inform me that Rose had insomnia again last night or that Ron found a fascinating article on the Guardian Web site or that Michele just posted an adorable new photo of her dog.
[. . .]
We are often urged to frown on devices that don't prompt us to collaborate on and create -- or at the very least comment on -- all the amazing old and new things, from news reports to scientific studies, Web comics to video mash-ups, that proliferate online. It's so undemocratic, so anti-DIY. So old paradigm.
[. . .]
The iPad may not be ideal for what the tech industry calls "productivity," but it's well-suited for the purpose I had in mind: absorption. [. . .] When people complain nowadays about not being able to think or read as deeply as they used to, they're not just acting like a bunch of old fuddy-duddies: They're noticing a genuine lack of substance, the threadbare sensation of living in a culture where everyone's talking and nobody's listening.
But speaking of fuddy-duddies, should any of them still be with us, they're probably asking why, if I don't like reading on my computer, I can't just stick with paper.(Laura Miller, “The ipad is for readers,” Salon, 5 April 2010)
License to leave-behind our trying interconnection?
In a different age, I'd believe it was all about absorption -- being true to the level of interest and involvement someone interesting instinctively draws from you. Today, you wonder if part of the delight in this new device is that it makes the sexiest new thing about IGNORING the irrelevant, as you focus on the preferable, a wondrous movement away from computing devices which told you that whatever you were up to IT SHOULD be about giving every blasted dullard of the posturing electronic diversity an ear -- even if only for moment, before you've twitched on to some other "light" you assess instantly as better-if-snuffed-out.
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For more rarefied airs
The articles over this long-weekend have characterized, what an appreciating social anthropologist 5 years ago would have assessed as "multivocalities" -- a world of enabled individual voices that cannot be suppressed or bidden -- as just unwelcome rude noises that blast us from every direction it is long past overdue we find a way to step away from. It's been near a tag-team effort, with Laura here pointing out a first step away from the old afflicting matrix, by means of a tool ostensibly still belonging to it, and others -- with Thomas finding sober professional's reasoning that we CANNOT, for the sake of bodily/mental health, any longer tolerate the variant "noises [we once understood as but] [. . .] a normal byproduct of our gadget-obsessed times," with Jeanette showing how the played-out history of the web has shown that IT IS NOT in fact full of previously hidden worthy amateurs but rather the kinds of morons who pollute Amazon's comment-streams with five-star evidencing of their ignorance, and with Andrew showing up its ceaselessly reproducing news sources as now a gross agglomeration of dung in the process of blotting out all that had been good in Journalism -- showing that that step ahead needs to be made.And now.
Something is in play, here. A need, it seems, to make an escape away from a community we were told and we accepted we all belonged to, a kind of egalitarian "state" in this long age of income/status disparity -- the infosphere, the Great Wide Web -- not seem a kind of guilt-worthy abandonment of those we prefer remained caught behind. We're not at first-stage, surely: Salon's featured "crazy of the week" shows the desire to make the loud and disparate, not unshackled geniuses but SHACKLE-WORTHY idiots, has gone on long enough that the clamps are already being put on. There is the business, though, of making what had been estimated by so many of the still so highly esteemed -- the whole "Wired"'/"Boing-Boing" gang, and all -- as sign of our age's great realized promise, not seem a grand retreat into "fuddy-duddyism" out of fear of the brilliant but frustratingly uncontrollable world. What we've seen this weekend, the kind of thing Laura recently evidenced in assessing "the [kinds of] people who post [web] comments [as those who don't] even bother to read the article in question," will need to be repeated yet quite a bit, but still it is possible that elites will find a way through repetition to make the old web a once highly-touted domain, now home to but raging cranks and abandoned hopes.
It HAS been a long, long mess; but I don't like using what should be beautiful -- peace, order, simplicity, calmness and fairness -- to take us some place likely even worse.