The cushioning effect of the iPad
Names dictate destinies. Just look at me: with a name like Ludwig, it was inevitable that I would spend my days musing over such marginal subjects as philosophy and theoretical physics. My brother, Sepp, on the other hand, being the more practical and dependable one, was destined to devote himself to farming.
What does destiny have in store for the iPad? Pad as in pillow, cushion, protector. Soft, padded, cushioning. Or pad as in paw. Absorbs noise, without making a sound. It's been widely publicised that the iPad has no keyboard and no development tools. It reduces communication to tweets and e-mails, rather than blogs. Makes us into recipients rather than senders. Mere users rather than protagonists. It provides us with everything we need, allows us to access the world via remote control from the comfort of our own living rooms. But what it doesn't do is invite us to get involved. It's not by chance that pad also means home, as we've lost the revolutionary spirit we used to have and are now cushioned in our own little corner of cyberspace.
This reminds me of nineteenth-century bourgeois households. The domestic interior as the etui of the private individual. Overcrowded, shielded from the outside world, stifling. The owners would accumulate an array of jewels, Chinese vases, lacquered boxes, porcelain ornaments, rugs, ivory miniatures, everything stuffed away under protective covers, cases, on shelves, in drawers, made to look like trivial exhibits in a museum, completely detached from reality. Like a velvet-trimmed cocoon for the owners. The interior, jam-packed with run-of-the-mill décor, would cushion them from the harsh realities of the outside world and sap their energy.
Is something similar going to happen with the iPad? The bourgeois revolution started with the discovery of the world, overseas trade and the desire to enrich the world through business. And ended gathering dust in houses which had everything but were not liveable. The digital revolution began subversively: a few hippies in sunny California started out by poaching in the big guys' data files and establishing a communications subculture. With the iPad, subversion is turning towards consumption. The nifty tablet computer promises all the enjoyment you could ask for: writing e-mails, surfing the web, rummaging through text files, playing games, listening to music, looking at photos and videos.
iPad is like an advanced iPod. Designed to pacify our senses. Gone are the days of interaction. Freedom has to re-establish itself in real life. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.