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Links of the day

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apophenia » Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated – interesting thoughts on Facebook from danah boyd

Monocolumn – The controversial Four Rivers Project [Monocle] – to paraphrase when South Korea rolls, they roll big

Prized Japanese social values that withstand ‘Westernization’ | The Japan Times Online

在线 | online | 온라인으로 媒体与艺术 | culture | 미디어와 예술 经济 | economics | 경제학

Probably the most important person you have never heard of

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Many of the people that I have worked with over the years give me strange looks when I explain how much we owe technological advancement to 1960s counterculture from the beatniks onwards. I have discussed Stewart Brand here before a number of times, a peer of Brand’s is a man called Richard Stallman who has been steadfast in his quest for free software and internet freedom. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that he says, but you can’t argue with what he has achieved and he has acted as a force-for-good; as a counterbalance to some of the more base commercial interests such as big content and Microsoft.

Mashable did a great interview with Stallman that I wanted to share here.

消费者行为 | consumer behaviour | 소비자 행동 艺术与设计 | design | 예술과 디자인

The changing relationships with Apple devices

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I have been thinking about the relationship that I have with my Apple devices. I have been an Apple customer with 21 years. My first Mac was a sit-up and beg luggable machine and went on to laptops in the mid-90s with PowerBook 165. My current machine is a 13″ MacBook Pro. All of these machines had a name; the one I am typing this post on is called Toshiro after the Japanese actor Toshirō Mifune.

apple device relationships

The machines have a name because they are are more than word-processors or spreadsheets. I took a blank machine and tweaked it until its settings became personal to me. The current machine is also personalised with a Bathing Ape sticker on its lid, so it breaks away from the countless silver lids that appear around me in a coffee shop or a conference.

That the personality comes from the combination of product design and software is self-evident. However this design process is also guided by the heritage of the previous machines and the Mac eco-system. Ultimately this goes back to the history of the first Mac. Back then there was no worldwide web the way we understand it now, though there where bulletin boards. According to Steven Levy’s Insanely Great Jobs envisioned the machine like a Cuisinart food processor. Something standalone, the original machines were designed without a network connection. Even the Apple II was able to be used to connect to online services like bulletin boards and telephone-based stock trading. This self-reliant machine seemed to be an extension of the kind of values and vision that came from counterculture publications like The Whole Earth Catalog published by Stewart Brand – I am sure that it is no coincidence.

With ethernet, Bluetooth, wi-fi and a HSDPA dongle my present laptop is infinitely more powerful and connected than the original Mac and its current industrial design owes more to Dieter Rams than Cuisinart, but the Mac heritage is still there.

The iPod was an empty vessel, the ‘soul’ stays in iTunes and transfers from iPod to iPod, apart from the mild irritation of losing an iPod due to the inconvenience I was never that bothered about it. It also seemed to add fuel to the warranty chip urban myth as they would often fail just after the warranty had run out.

The iPhone is an impersonal device, I don’t have an attachment to it, but I have a leash on it. My social graph is in the cloud, allowing it to be disposable by nature. However the device is less like a pet and more like parolee due to the MobileMe iPhone tracking and data wipe facility.

The iPad takes things in a different turn. Those people I know who’ve tried the device and many commentators talk about the device being a communal device. They envisage a few of them around the house, the way magazines and books are with the information being in the cloud. This ubiquity and utility is more reminiscent of the brand that Microsoft built over the previous three decades in the PC world. Apple by contrast was always a personal brand, what will this mean for the Apple brand and its ‘coolness’ in the future?