Technology and convergence media

Owners of hand-held communication devices are known by their enthusiasm for their “apps.”

Last night I watched CNBC’s “Planet of the Apps: A Handheld Revolution.” Although the report mainly focused on the profitablity of the apps market and how the “small applications – or apps – that fit on our mobile phone do everything from helping us accomplish mundane tasks to keeping us entertained while we wait for the bus,” it also delved into how the technology is changing society.

But technology doesn’t change society, people change society… at least, that’s how it should be.

For example, cell phones, although they had texting capabilities, were not originally designed for sending frequent text messages. Users drove that innovation.

From CNBC.com's Top-Selling Non-Gaming Apps of 2009: No. 3 Textfree Unlimited Send unlimited free texts for a whole year to any US mobile phone. Replies are free, too. Category: Lifestyle Seller: Pinger, Inc. Price: $5.99 Requirements: iPhone OS 2.2 or later, iPod Touch

Apple tapped into that user-driven model of innovation with the iPhone and App Store, in which companies and individuals can write their own app software and make it available to the public at the price they determine. The impressive results, which apparently surprised even Apple, have been well documented and analysts project the success will continue to accelerate.

In “Planet of the Apps” I saw evidence of a user generated paradigm shift similar to that of the texting cell phone. The popular “Bump” app (which lucked out in being the 1 millionth app downloaded from the App Store) has the technology of enabling devices carrying the app to “talk” to each other. Thus, while users currently “bump” their devices for simple exchanges such as photos, contact info and other data, the app could potentially be used for more formal social exchanges, mundane and otherwise, such as making a purchase by “bumping” your device to a register.

One of the experts interviewed in the hour-long report said that apps are the ultimate “instant gratification,” but I beg to differ. The mobility of these devices essentially transcends conventional conceptions of space, so why wouldn’t we also need to reconceptualize our notions of time as well. Again, it depends on the user.

For example, my husband was finally allowed to purchase an iPhone (and I hope he isn’t downloading the same first-person shooter games that he put on my iPhone or reading this blog.) Beside the occasional penguins bombing igloos,  the huz is great at identifying good, useful apps. Before a road trip to Canada, he suped up my iPhone with everything I needed, including navigational help, mileage calculator, cheap gas locater, a packing reminder list and more.

Even six months ago, he knew that the key to a good app was location-awareness, which is something I’ve picked up on in the industry mainstream discourse only recently. So it didn’t surprise me at all when the huz said I had to get the AroundMe app. Many are saying that what is the greatest step forward in the much anticipated/heavily speculated iTablet/iSlate is its hyper-local capabilities.

“Smartphones,” as they are often called—a name which will will recede from our vocabulary with the advent of Apple iTablet/iSlate and its ilk—are leading us into the next generation of computing, e-reading, mobile gaming, TV viewing and news and information delivery/gathering. The ultimate convergence device… until the next advance in technology, at least.

Thus, the smartphone needs a new name. Until we develop the capability of projected 3D “screens” like Minority Report, Iron Man or Avatar, I’m calling my handheld my finger-smudge device.

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2 thoughts on “Technology and convergence media

  1. Pingback: The iPad Experiment « Media and community

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