Locative Media: Is it ok to eat or not?

OK so my story starts with me sitting in what I would describe as the casual section of RMIT Swanston library. There’s couches, tables at a coffee table height and people not reluctant to have a good old chat about anything really. There definitely doesn’t seem to be a strict ‘only study’ policy.

So I sit casually watch my lectures, post in my blog, do my study. My stomach starts to rumble. I look around and wonder do I have to give up my prime position (might I add I had a powerpoint right next to me, to charge my almost dead computer) just to crack open my tupperware and eat the fresh, mango I’d cut up this morning. I sat for a while longer, normally not one to study in the library, I started to regret my location of choice, I don’t know the etiquette.

I look around, no one else is eating, in fact no one else even looks like they want to (maybe that was just my ridiculously hungry stomach affecting my vision). So I sit for a minute longer, unable to decide what was more important, that I was a good citizen of the library or whether my stomach, that was now making audible grumbling sounds needed to be satisfied by that delicious mango.

So I took the risk, I reached into my bag, trying not to draw attention to myself. Each movement calculated so it didn’t make too much noise or attract any degree of attention. I pulled out my tupperware. I ate it! The whole thing once I started I couldn’t stop, that was it my self control was gone, now miles away.

And to my surprise no one really looked at me too strangely and I didn’t get abused, or told to leave immediately. Maybe my apprehension was all my head.

So if you ever wanted to know whether you could eat in that part of the library, as a person like me who struggles to go two hours without a quick snack, you can use my experiment as a guide.

So I placed this QR tag to the very location in the library where this momentous event took place. Just so you know exactly where it is you can without judgement eat your morning snack.


What’s in an ‘app’?

It took until the 6th version of the iPhone (iPhone 5) for me to make the switch from my trusty Nokia smartphone, to the much cooler, more sophisticated world of the iPhone. With the switch came the question, “What apps do you have?”. I don’t know if I’ve spent too much time with my Grandma, but to me a phone is very much still for making calls and sending text messages, although I do now thoroughly enjoy being able to check my emails and bank balance in an instant. And this I guess is what ‘apps’ are all about, making life easier, ensuring we’re absolutely connected and providing hours upon hours of procrastination techniques and entertainment. So what exactly is an app?

In his blog Ian Bogost draws on a comment sourced from a Gamasutra article about the new Mac App Store:

‘I think the primary thing that Apple did was create and market the concept of the “app” as a $1-5 unit. They’re doing to software what they did to music: they broke it up into little pieces and then gave consumers a nice place to shop for the pieces. Before, the channels of distribution were much clunkier and inert. This is very much a good thing for smaller devs. Apple has removed so much of the headache of marketing (“Just find it on the AppStore!”), setting up payment systems, installation, etc.’ (Source: http://www.bogost.com/blog/what_is_an_app.shtml) 

In my opinion this sums up the technology aptly, way before the ‘app’ itself was invented or created we were playing games, creating documents, editing photos online, on our phones and on our computers. Although the ‘app’ has introduced a world- where essentially many applications we have used previously are organised into a neat and easy to navigate store, which can be searched for in an instant and downloaded onto our phones and computers just as quickly. Apple, as in my opinion it has done in many instances, turned a technology that has already existed into a ‘new’ phenomenon that’s easier to use, therefore marketable and somehow inevitably ‘cool’.  Of course the ease of accessibility and the fast paced downloading, can only be viewed in my opinion as a pro the world of ‘apps’ that Apple has created. This sentiment is supported by the following statistics, that clearly demonstrate the massive success of the product:

Every day, 46 million mobile applications are downloaded from Apple’s App Store, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner Mary Meeker.’ (Source: Meghan Kelly 2012, Accessed at: http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/30/app-store-downloads/)

So what are the cons? Well in my opinion it rests in the ease in creating an app and therefore the absolute masses of ‘products’ that appear as a result. Because of the huge number of apps that are available finding the one that is appropriate for your specific need can take a number of attempts. Also breaking into the world of ‘apps’ a creator can prove just as difficult, as Kelly of venturebeat.com reflects:

Many of app developers say that it’s difficult to be found in the sea of billions of apps that live in the App Store. Crawling up to a “top 25″ spot on one of Apple’s app lists, is also difficult, and based on download numbers.’ (Source: Meghan Kelly 2012, Accessed at: http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/30/app-store-downloads/)

It cannot be denied that in many cases ‘apps’ have the ability to make our lives easier, we can check the weather anywhere around the world with a click of a button, connect with friends anywhere around the world in a second, check and send emails from our smartphones and track the progress of public transport. But it must be noted that not all ‘apps’ improve the quality of our lives, many merely occupy the ‘app’ store with a very limited user base, making the process of finding the ‘app’ that’s right for us often a longer process than what it may have to be.

E-books, the real reading experience?

So I must admit I have always had a pretty set and sure opinion on e-books. Let me start by saying this, I just can’t see myself sitting down to read Jane Austen in the sunshine then looking down to find myself staring at the pages of her novel on, well essentially, a computer screen. Where has the magic gone? I don’t get to feel the pages or fiddle with the edges or mark my place with the bookmark my Grandma gave me. I love books, walking into a book shop, casting my eyes over the hundreds of titles, feeling surrounded by words and ideas. That feeling, in my opinion, just can’t be equated into browsing through a list of links on amazon.com.

But when I began my research I was willing to open my mind and see if I could be convinced that ebooks were the way of the future. So let’s consider the pros based on my research. First and fore mostly I had failed to consider the environmental benefits of an ebook, as Remez Sasson writes,

‘No trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of ebooks’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm ).

Next of course comes the portability of an ebook, lighter and smaller than most conventional books, there is obvious benefits with storage and transportation as Sasson also notes,

‘Ebooks take up less space. You practically don’t need any space to store them. You don’t need a library or a room for them. You can store hundreds and thousands of ebooks on your computer or reading device.’ (Source: Remez Sasson 2012, ‘The Benefits and Advantages of Ebooks’, Accessed at: http://www.successconsciousness.com/ebooks_benefits.htm )

Similarly noted in the article ‘The Ebook debate’:

‘…with my Newton I immediately recognized the potential of digital readers, since I quickly filled it with a number of books that I could carry around all the time.’ (Source: ‘The Ebook debate’ 2008, Accessed at: http://www.humanismus.com/_/The_Ebook_Debate.html)

I do see the potential in this aspect of the ebook and it’s ability to make life easier for the user. During my research I encountered the suggestion that perhaps the market for ebooks is for heavy textbooks, medical texts etc. That maybe the need isn’t there for novels, but perhaps for these forms of text an ebook presents great potential. This idea supported by Walt Crawford who states,

‘Forget replacing mass-market paperbacks; ebook vendors should look to replace bulky, overpriced, hard-to update, print books.’ (Source: Crawford, W 2006, ‘Why Aren’t Ebooks more successful, Econtent, vol. 29, no.8, pp. 44-44. Accessed: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=2f3d9440-e24e-40c4-a52f-47c6a2017df7%40sessionmgr110&vid=2&hid=125)

On the contrary many still argue on my side, that the magic of books is simply that ‘the magic of a book’. But also the sustainability of the resource, a book essentially has the ability to last forever, although an ebook’s technology has the potential to become outdated. This idea is supported by the author Franzen, as noted in Anita Singh’s article for ‘The Telegraph’, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’:

‘“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing.’  (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

Finally Franzen supports my somewhat nostalgic ideas of books and memories of childhood and reading my great grandmothers copy of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and feeling a connection to the history of the pages.

‘Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, Franzen argued that e-books, such as Amazon’s Kindle, can never have the magic of the printed page.’   (Source: Singh, A 2012, ‘Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society’, ‘The Telegraph’, Accessed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html)

My question, can an ebook every emulate this history and magic?