Past, Present and Future of the Third Media Revolution
Number of Stories: 514
Blog your own story

Gadgets Explained

March 6th, 2011

By Jaap Bloem

The term gadget may refer to a vast number of remarkable products which are totally different in nature. Gadgets can only be defined by a spectrum of partly contradictory properties. In alphabetical order they range from cheap, common, complex, digital, electric, electronic, ergonomic, expensive, eye-catching, fashionable, fun, functional, handy, iconic, ingenious, innovative, ironic, mechanical, micro-electronic, necessary, physical, practical, secret, serious, silly, simple, small, smart, technical, unique, unnecessary to virtual. It is not unusual to call the newest Ferrari sports car a gadget but the qualification equally applies to a kichen appliance and to all kinds of funny or smart accessories. The world of espionage and secret agents used to be the classic example of gadgetry. Since the rise of so-called app stores however, the prominent focus is on the combination of mobile multi-touch devices, we might as well call TAFKAPP (The Apparatus Formerly Known As PC/Phone), and the software functionalities (aka gadgets, widgets and apps) we dress them up with in the context of the emerging Web of the World, being the next phase beyond the Web of Pages and the Web of People. This demonstrates that biologically speaking the gadgets domain resorts immediately under human life itself.

WEB-PAGES-PEOPLE-WPRLD

Gadgets for daily personal use represent substantial economic value. In the United States of the 1930s, interestingly the Great Depression period, Americans spent 100 million dollar a year on mass-produced mechanical and electrical gadgets. Nowadays, the yearly worldwide spend on virtual gadgetry just in app stores equals 5 billion dollar. This virtualisation is a sea change: it means that only now the impact of gadgets, and for that matter widgets and apps – clearly recognizable and appealing real-life software functionalities, activated from an icons or tiles interface, on a screen device of choice – will be experienced in full, as a natural development of a main domain in human life.

The word gadget originates from the 19th century and already then the term referred to yet another novelty the name of which one did not know or could not recall. After World War I, just before the economic and cultural uprise of the Roaring Twenties, the popular use of the word gadget started to increase in the United States. In de years preceding World War II, gadgets predominantly were cheap, functional, ingenious, physical and technical. Since the nineties, with a focus on micro-electronics and mainly on mobile phones, the qualificators have expanded to common, complex, ergonomic, expensive, fashionable, fun, functional, handy, ingenious, innovative, micro-electronic, necessary, physical, practical, simple, small and technical, an increase from 5 to 15 over 60 years. A remarkable parallel between past and present can be demonstrated by changing the term gadget(s) into app(s) in an article of the trend magazine Everyday Science and Mechanics of February 1935.

gadgets-widgets-apparatuses-appliances-APPS-1935-2010

Leave a reply

The App Effect
Virtual gadgetry to transform human information behavior

March 6th, 2011

By Jaap Bloem & Menno van Doorn

Touch the icon
What exactly is an app, also known as gadget or widget? Indeed nothing more than easily recognizable, appealing and practical software functionality behind a virtual button. For years, we used to have loads of icons on our PC monitors and our laptops, but now, with multi-touch phone, pod and tablet devices, we witness the next maturity phase of the icon interface. Apps have become the popular way of tapping and digesting information – less so of creating – and may evolve to the dominant way.

A winning team
Just like icons, multi-touch interfaces have been around for decades. Yet only recently the Apple iPhone was able to reach the tipping point of mass acceptance. The commonly felt enthusiasm was not about the mobile phone itself; it was about the winning feature combination of a truly portable device with an intuitive and responsive multi-touch user interface, a razor-sharp display and eventually apps to be downloaded from a virtual store. The trendsetting original iPhone was rapidly followed by the Android phone family, the iPad, the Windows Phone 7 platform, the iPad 2 and many other phones, pods, pads and tablets.

TAFKAPP gadgets
All these multi-touch app devices belong to this new electronic TAPKAPP domain: The Apparatus Formerly Known As Phone / PC. Closer than ever to our senses and our behavior, after decades of computer development TAFKAPP devices are beginning to behave like ourselves. Virtual gadgets, widgets and apps literally bring all screen devices to life: TVs, computer screens, phones/pods/pads, tablets and slates. In fact, there is nothing more human than this partly physical, partly virtual gadgetry – Mcluhian “extensions of man” par excellence – we are depending and dependent upon. This together we call the app effect.

Change for sure
There are many directions to be explored. Take for instance the addictive power of the new interface, the immediacy of information and how it will affect organizations, or the annoying distraction that these new devices bring to our daily routines. Some welcome the vision of a planet of the apps as the main means of interacting with persons and things around us. Others pertain that TAFKAPP novelties rewire our brains or are even dumbing us down. Being objective researchers, our focus is on indicators, drivers and unforeseen side effects, while aiming to put all in a coherent context so as to shed light on the app effect. Leading are the following questions:

1 – What happens when we experience the app effect while interacting with this new human interface? To what extent does our behavior, do our expectations and do we ourselves change?

2 – How does actual or perceived change in information behavior relate to organizations and how should they act to benefit from the app effect?

3 – Is the app effect all there is, or is it merely a temporary centerpiece in interface development?

What causes the app effect to affect what?
The app effect transforms our personal and organizational information behavior, which in turn affects social, cultural and economic life. Three trends stand out: the rise of app stores, the augmentation of humanity, and the multifaceted pervasiveness of media.

Trend I The rise of app stores means that people carry their own device around, everywhere they go, and that they pick their own apps. This implies a fundamental change in the acquisition of information and tools, being especially at odds with the standardized computer environments organizations have been providing and securing for decades. How does this device annex software democratization affect organizations and their information environment; what do users typically want; how does the app economy fit in; and who can benefit in what way?

Trend II The augmentation of humanity is an ongoing key trend, driven by a steady increase in computing power and functional flexibility. The TAFKAPP hardware/software combination provides interesting new ways to enhance our personal and professional lives. Again the question is how this development will continue to affect individuals and organizations. Which new dynamics will appear that we can benefit from or should worry about?

Trend III The multifaceted pervasiveness of media is at the center of a strong debate around Marshall McLuhan’s statement of media being both the message and the massage. Media alter our mental state: they are intrusive, persuasive and addictive. Media not only function as enhancers, they also delude and distract. Media dumb us down and clever us up at the same time. So, how can we and organizations act smartly upon this irreversible media pervasiveness?

Leave a reply

Subcultures Mostly Blend Back into Culture

November 24th, 2010

Apparently, it’s time to worry but don’t you hurry, since everywhere around the distraction-attention debate flourishes, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. In our Web 2.0 world sacrosanct serendipity, or focused distraction, has become a new normal. The problem: this, horrendously, seems finally and definitively to destroy traditional focused attention. Oops!

Luckily and logically this cannot hold true since sincere serendipity only appears in contrast to sharply focused attention. At the same time these days, focused distraction is drowning in a whirlpool of both unfocused attention and distraction. Are culture, society and the economy irreversibly being dragged down? What on earth is going on and how devastating is it?

SOCMEDIA-ARCHETYPES

The answer is pretty straightforward. Essentially new subcultural personas are developing as media, technology and commerce are transforming life. New lifestyles arise, for a start around communication and content platform niches like facebook, twitter, myspace, Wikipedia, deviantART, YouTube and Google.

From a conservative stance, traditional (non-digital that is) focused attention nowadays is being sped up and enriched by focused distraction, or true serendipity. This is embodied by the seriously looking Google persona to the right of the picture. Obviously this guy disapproves as all the others indulge in distractive F.U.N. or Focused & Unfocused Nonsense.

Now, as these personas develop and go mainstream, just like all subcultures they will help freshen culture and foster societal as wel as economic progress. Meanwhile, excessive and autistic abuse of distinctive characteristics is perfectly normal of any emerging subculture.

So worriers, please cool down and don’t hurry to eschatological conclusions. Focused attention is mankind’s lifeblood, together with its twin called serendipity.

 Author: @jaapbloem

Leave a reply