The IPad, Made Simpler
On Tuesday Paid Content’s Staci D. Kramer grabbed the legendary design guru and visual journalist Mario Garcia for a quick interview at the Poynter Institute, where he was the keynote speaker at Poynter’s Power of the Tablet conference. (Disclosure: I spent my teenage years as a Poynter brat, and so have been lucky enough to know Mario since I was a kid.) It’s a good interview, which you can watch here as part of Kramer’s report.
In it, Garcia says something I thought goes to the heart of the appeal of the iPad and whatever tablet computers successfully emulate it: The iPad, he tells Kramer, “allows you to feel disconnected when you are connected.”
Yes, I thought, that’s it exactly.
The question of whether the iPad is a vehicle for production or consumption is an interesting one, but misses the point. Similarly, thinking of the iPad as a “lean-back” device instead of a “lean-forward” one is helpful, but only one aspect of what it does.
Many of us feel ambivalent about how technology has remade our lives. On the one hand, we love being connected in a way that feels active, as opposed to taking in information from a TV or a print newspaper. Take away Gmail and Facebook and Twitter and our RSS feeds and our browser of choice and we feel a gnawing insecurity: We’re out of the loop, and things are happening out there that we don’t know about. On the other hand, we remember when things weren’t like this and we never felt that insecurity when not always connected, and wonder if the bargain was worth it. Now and then, if we manage to get past that twitch of needing connection, we find ourselves relaxing and wandering in our own minds in a way we haven’t for a while — and may think, Gee, I should do this more often. I refuse to get Wi-Fi on planes because I like the experience of losing myself in a book for a few hours or simply staring out the window and seeing where my thoughts go. The shame is that I’ve trained myself to think I can only do that on an airplane.
The tablet has the potential to split the difference: It’s a device that allows connection, but encourages contemplation. It gets us out of our busy, working/searching desktop or smartphone postures, returning us to the feeling of curling up with a book. It lets us check email or do some quick surfing, but also makes it easier to stop. It’s not a surprise that early iPad news apps are uncomfortably positioned somewhere between print and online experiences — so too is the iPad. Our job as editors and designers and thinkers is to get rid of the “uncomfortably” part — in other words, to create something that lets you feel disconnected when you’re connected.
Yes, that’s it exactly. Thanks Mario!