The device lets us escape

“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people,” observed¬†Tim Berners-Lee in a speech delivered to the Knight Foundation in September 2009. The inventor of the World Wide Web has acknowledged that he “designed it for a social effect–to help people work together–and not as a technical toy.”

Thus, we have the Social Web to which we connect through our desktops, laptops, smart phones, etc.

Though our technology is designed to facilitate greater connections, it also has the potential to facilitate our escapes.

“Through our devices, we find a way to disappear without leaving the room. By splitting ourselves off and reaching out electronically, we fill empty interpersonal space and ignite our senses.” — Christine Pearson, The New York Times, May 14, 2010

How concerned should we be?

My favorite iPad apps … so far

I’ve been the enthusiastic owner of a 16GB WiFi Apple iPad for six weeks. Being an early adopter, I’ve received countless ogles, requests and questions about the shiny device. The best question was this:

“Has the iPad changed your life?”

While I hesitated at first–knowing the question was actually intended to ridicule my fanatic enjoyment of the technology–I can honestly answer with a resounding “yes.” The device as proven to be impressively intuitive, speedy, reliable and convenient.

The most frequent question I get (and one I often ask fellow iPad-ers): What can it do (i.e., what apps do you have?)? I’ve accumulated only 85 apps so far, but find myself gravitating to those in my dock and on my first screen.

My dock features: TweetDeck (the best Twitter app I’ve found), Mail (a staple), Safari, NewsRack (the best RSS/feed reader), Things (to keep me focused on tasks that need to be completed) and Calendar.

But here are 10 favorites that have earned a spot on the first screen:

  1. USA Today – the best newspaper app for the iPad.
  2. The Weather Channel Max+ – the perfect app for the Weather-obsessed.
  3. Bible HD – for convenient navigation and reading from the most important book.
  4. WordPress – great interface for posting to my blog sites.
  5. Evernote – a repository of all my online discoveries.
  6. Memeo Connect Reader – easy access to all my Google Docs.
  7. Pages – for word processing out of the office.
  8. Attendance – the best way to record my students’ class attendance.
  9. Papers – a PDF library of all my research literature.
  10. Instapaper Pro – for reading when away from WiFi.

Confession: Goo-Goo for Gadgetry

Despite his annoying clumsiness and simple wit, I enjoyed watching Inspector Gadget as a child. It wasn’t the animation that drew me in. And, it wasn’t the silly predicaments that kept me watching. Instead, I was intrigued by the never-ending supply of gadgets which could save the day. Perhaps this was the first sign of my yet-to-be-diagnosed disorder which I will confess publicly today: I am sometimes often almost always goo-goo for gadgets.

That’s right. I have a(n) (un)healthy curiosity about emerging technologies–especially communication technologies. Fortunately I can blame much of it on my professional interests (and vocational requirements) since I do research and teach about the impact of such toys sophisticated communication devices (e.g., computers, the Internet, social media, mobile devices, etc.).

The latest–and perhaps the most novel device today (what will tomorrow bring?)–is Apple’s iPad which became available to the mass consumer market yesterday, April 3, 2010. Billed as a “magical and revolutionary” product, the iPad reached the hands of more than a quarter million U.S. consumers yesterday. I was among them.

Unlike “revolutionary” products of the past (i.e., the iPhone 3G) where I actually stood in line hoping to be one of the lucky few to be able to make the purchase, I ordered an iPad in the first few minutes that they were available for pre-order March 12. Then I waited eagerly (i.e., like a child waits for Santa Claus on Christmas eve) for UPS to deliver it to my home Saturday morning.

Finally at 10:53 a.m., I heard the sleigh UPS delivery truck come to a screeching halt on the street in front of my house. It had arrived and I would have a new toy gadget to play with critically evaluate for the rest of the day.

Is it as “magical and revolutionary” as Apple claims?

Users–those early adopters as well as those who’ve resisted the temptation to drink the kool-aid–are buzzing about the iPad. There is no shortage of reviews of the product, so I doubt I could find a gap to fill with my own commentary, which I’ll save for my Innovation & Social Media class discussion next week.

One such review was written by award-winning blogger and tech writer Gina Trapani. She argues for why one shouldn’t buy an iPad–at least not yet. She makes some excellent points (read it!) and there aren’t many that I’d even think twice about. Perhaps her most provocative point is this:

New gadgets create friction in your life. Every new gadget you acquire is another screen to pay attention to, another battery to charge, another device to sync, secure, weigh down your bag, and buy accessories for; it’s another shiny thing to worry about losing, getting stolen, scratched, dropped, and serviced. If the iPad doesn’t fill an obvious need in your work or home life right now, pass.

At least for now.

I sure am glad I had an obvious need for an iPad in my home and work life right now!

[Disclaimer (a.k.a. justification, defense, etc.): I only purchased the lowest end iPad (16GB WiFi version) because I know the next generation will address many of the complaints. Of course, my greatest “wish” so far for the 2nd gen is a camera.).