The Ipad, Digital Media and the user.

We live today in a world of technological advancements.  Technology keeps moving forward in an accelerated pace so it can catch up with all our needs and demands as a society. There have been a lot of technological milestones since Steve Jobs first introduced the Macintosh in 1984, making computers “accessible” for every person on the planet has affected profoundly the way we consume content and produce media.



1984: Young Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh.

With a simple click, the Macintosh introduced people to software that gave them the ability to draw pictures, make text documents.  People were now able to make their own content and share them with others.  We were producing our own new media.

Popular definition of new media identifies it with the use of a computer for distribution and exhibition rather than with production. (Manovich, New Media 43)  In a sense, Apple opened a box full of creative possibilities, and with each product they release they keep pushing the envelope; trying to revolutionize more of today’s media industries.

But Apple wouldn’t be in the spotlight without people who paved the way for Steve Jobs and his ideas.  People who built the “Star 8010 Document Processor” in XEROX looking to introduce the first personal computer to people, as well as developing a Graphic User Inter phase which allowed the user to interact with a computer easily.


This race for smaller, easier to use devices is what drives people in the technology industry to develop new and exciting products like the “Ipad”.  This tablet represents what Apple has stood for through out the years: innovation in design and new, fresh revolutionary ideas. It is interesting to consider the fact that the Ipad has a great potential for Variability.

As a new media object, something that is not  fixed once and for all but can exist in different potentially infinite versions; (Manovich, New Media 56) an Ipad can be as different as each user’s imagination.


The Ipad was introduced to the market as a hybrid that had a lot of potential.  It could be a new way to read books, or it could be considered as a way to have a small computer to take to meetings.  For many years, it has been a tradition to attempt to cure our society´s ills through technology.  Unfortunately, most of these “cures” are no more than paint than rust.  (Kay, 1)

While it comes in handy, the device doesn’t reach its whole potential because it limits the interaction it has with the user.  We cannot generate new content while using the Ipad, we are limited to the boundaries set by the device since we first press the “on” button.

The ability to “read” a medium means you can access materials and tools generated by others. The ability to “write” in a medium means you can generate materials and tools for others. (New Media Reader, 392)  A touch screen interface, easy to use applications, and the use of our hands dont necessarily make this a revolutionary tool because it only makes our life more “automated”.   

Technology has yet to give us a tablet that boost our creativity or make artistic expression easier. Maybe we can create our own apps to suit our own personal needs?  Or maybe we can re-write the code for an application when we need it do an specific task?


People have accepted tablets rather easy into their lives.  Our technologically embedded society has made tablets a part of our daily routine, with some people even considering this as a possible solution or enhancement for children’s education.

New media today can be understood as the mix between older cultural conventions for data representation, access and manipulation and newer, conventions of data representation, access and manipulation. (Borges to HTML, 13)  For a device to succeed where the Ipad has fail, it has to enable interaction, manipulation and constant feedback with the user. We are looking for a device that can help us work harder, not to do all the work for us.

We are constantly seeking for this revolutionary idea that can change our lives, but we should be looking for an idea that can help us be better in our line of work.


Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, “Personal Dynamic Media” (1977), excerpt from The New Media Reader, ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Originally published in Computer 10(3) (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003),

A short History of the GUI and the Microsoft Vs Apple Debate

Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (excerpts). Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001.

Lev Manovich: “New Media from Borges to HTML.” Introduction to The New Media Reader. Edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003, 13-25.

Alan Kay : “A Personal Computer for Children of all Ages.” Palo Alto, Xerox PARC, 1972