Content Creators and Consumers (and the iPad)


One of the coolest things about today’s internet is that we all can be creators of information as much as we are consumers of it. It’s something I like to make sure we talk a lot about in my information literacy class. Old internet=read only (unless you were geeky enough to understand HTML and how to get it online). New internet=read/write.

There are lots of reasons for this: Web 2.0, cheaper tools (digital cameras, microphones, etc), easier to use tools (largely because of Apple). Anyone who has ever made a Facebook profile has seen how easy it is to get content online. And because of that we all have the potential to influence large scale conversations.

It’s one of the things I love about the internet.

At the same time, there is a lot of discussion about how Twitter is killing blogs. I’m not sure exactly where I fall in that argument, though certainly a lot of blogs I follow are producing less content than they used to. A lot of those authors are spending a lot of time on Twitter. But most of what they’re posting to Twitter isn’t the same type of content they used to blog about. I’m not judging if this is good or bad, it’s just Twitter and blogs achieve two different purposes. Blogging allows the writer to consider an issue in depth or to pull together seemingly unrelated ideas. Twitter allows for real-time information sharing and conversation. For most of us, that type of content is something we can put up much more frequently than blog posts, and is much more reasonable to post regularly as well.

There was a period of time, a few years ago, where to participate in online library discussions, you pretty much had to be blogging or at least commenting on them. That’s not true anymore. There are many folks in the library field who don’t blog, but have established a strong online reputation (and rightly so) based on participation in Twitter and other social networks.

Likewise, the video blogging/podcasting crowd has always been a smaller one than the blogging one. It flat out takes (sometimes just a little) longer to produce that type of work, you’re “out there” in a way that’s really different from text, and the content isn’t as searchable. And there’s a lot of good professional content in this area these days. I know that the podcasts/video podcasts I subscribe to have shifted to be more of this professionally created content over time.

Okay, so at this point I’m thinking:

  1. We’re in a fantastic age of the read/write web.
  2. There was a period of time where a lot of “regular folks” produced a lot of content (written and multimedia) for the web.
  3. We’re in a period where people are shifting to shorter form pieces.
  4. We’re in a period where more content is being created by organizations (from the NY Times to Revision3).
  5. There’s a lot of quality, polished content to consume on the web.

At the same time, there’s an increase in discussion about online TV, ereaders, and more multimedia publishing.

So, with the unveiling of the iPad, I can’t help but wonder if the device is aiming at the segment of the population that is more consumer than producer of information.

When I think of how I use my computers, I tend to use a majority of that time for some sort of production: mostly writing, document creation, calendar editing, and some multimedia. I do use my home laptop for TV viewing, and I do a lot of reading between production tasks, but when I think “I need a computer!” it’s almost always about something I want to put online.

I love my iPhone, and waited (apparently I didn’t blog that unboxing) in line the day it came out to get it…and again for the 3Gs version. It’s awesome. And I do use it for a lot of content consumption. Often, if there’s something I want to respond to on it, I’ll send myself a link to the website for once I’m back at a laptop. If all my content creation was via Twitter, Facebook, and quick emails, the iPhone would enable 90% of what I’d want to accomplish.

So when I see the iPad, I see a device for people who have those specific types of needs. It looks like a device for people who want to consume information and maybe contribute shorter messages to existing sites. Users without a work computer would probably get the keyboard for emailing, which will increase functionality, but would be something they’d pull out on occasion rather than use with regularity.

In all honesty, as a big Mac fan, I immediately started thinking about how this thing would fit into my life. My first thought was that Apple would need to produce a keyboard that would hold the iPad so I could type on it at conferences. Then I was struck by what a pain it would be to carry multiple parts around like that. And then I realized I was envisioning something an awful lot like my netbook.

And it seems to me we might begin seeing a divergence in computer purchasing options. Those who want to primarily consume information may begin opting for this type of tablet. Those who produce a fair amount of content will still go for a laptop (with keyboard, multitasking, and enough memory/power for video and audio work). And those producers who like to talk about technology will probably have both. 😉

So though I’ve been a repeat line-waiter for the iPhone line of devices, I anticipate sitting this one out. My relationship with the web is as much contributing to the discussion (via blog posts or video or whatever) as it is consuming, and my laptops do a darn good job of enabling that. My iPhone meets my consumption needs pretty well, too.

Though, this entire post has clearly been written before the thing even has been reviewed by many sources and is far from being delivered to anyone’s door. Who knows what’s in store and how things might change in the next year.  For example, Reel Director is an unbelievably awesome video editor for the iPhone. I use iMovie even less now that I have that app. It might all come down to the keyboard, and old fogies like me will just have to get over the lack of a touch type input device. :)

My name is Lauren Pressley. This is where I think out loud, document what I'm doing, and share the things that I like. I'm the Director for Learning Environments at Virginia Tech University Libraries and author of a few books. This blog focuses on libraries, education, information, & the internet. When not at work or blogging, I spend most of my time with John and our son, Leif.

6 thoughts on “Content Creators and Consumers (and the iPad)

  1. Lauren I completely agree with you. It looks cool but I can’t see how it fits into my life & what I need/want from devices. That said I had conversations yesterday with 2 different people who are not content creators who are thrilled about this thing and can’t wait to get their hands on it. They care nothing for my concerns about how locked down it is & what its missing.

    I guess you and I are just not the intended audience.

  2. I don’t like devices made more for content than creation. My primary concern is that if a device like this becomes more popular it takes away from content creation and makes users just more consumers of materials. I am quite put off by that.

  3. William, me too! I really don’t like movement away from devices that make it easy to contribute.

    Bobbie, It sounds like we are in the same camp! :)

    That being said, I’d love to try one out, I just can’t imagine thinking of it as a real computer. (Which, maybe, is the point.)

  4. Lauren, I really liked your angle of content creator/consumer. From everything I’ve read, the iPad is not meant to replace a laptop. Like you, I’d love to try one out, but I am 90% sure that I will not buy one. I can see the iPad being very useful for people who travel a lot (I would have bought one for this reason several years ago). I also like the principle of having options. Even if I might not have a use for it (enough to justify the cost), some people might. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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