August 17, 2009
Snark By Snarkwest: Kindle 2020
The iPod wasn't the first digital music player, but that doesn't really matter; when it was introduced in 2001, it was the first digital music player that made ordinary tech-inclined (but not necessarily tech-savvy) consumers pay attention.
I graduated from college that year, so I remember that time very well. Let's review; Napster had been shut down. I didn't own a DVD player. In fact, I didn't even have my own computer. (I bought both that December.) I didn't have a cellular phone, but some of my friends did. (In fact, I didn't get one until 2005.) I had never used wireless internet, ever. I had bought an APS camera two years before, on study abroad. (Digital cameras cost about a kajillion dollars.) Instead of writing a blog, I kept email lists of everyone I knew and periodically quasi-spammed them with prose poems, Nietzsche quotes, outlines for essays on Bulworth ("The key to understanding Bulworth is that it's not very good"), and news about my life. Oh, and I used telnet for email.
The time hardly seemed propitious to launch a device that would effectively break wide open handheld digital media. But that's what happened.
It's worth remembering this, because we've now had eight years of the iPod, iTunes, and the Apple Store, during which we've had to clear all of these technical and commercial and psychological and social hurdles to get to the devices that most of us carry around (in one version or another) every day.
What does this year's model of the iPhone (already almost three years removed from the announcement of the first version) have in common with the first iPod? It fits in your pocket; and maybe - maybe - you still put stuff on it from your computer - to update the firmware, if nothing else.
That's eight years of the iPod. I'm glad I saw it, because 21-year-old me wouldn't have believed it. All the more so because none of what happened is in retrospect at all ridiculous.
Now let's imagine twelve years of the Kindle.
Now the Kindle in 2020 might not even be the Kindle anymore. Maybe Sony or Apple or Google or Microsoft or someone we don't even expect might shoulder Amazon aside and take center stage, or readers will be more like the smartphone market right now, with a handful of solid competitors egging each other on.
But the Kindle now, like the iPod eight years ago, is the first electronic reader that most of us tech-inclined but not tech-savvy users have paid much attention to. It's already gotten better, it's already spurred competition, and the chances are good that we're going to see some significant advances in these devices before the end of the year.
In twelve years, we know electronic readers will do more, store more, work faster, look cooler, and offer more things to look at then it does now.
But what don't we know about the Kindle 2020 yet?
Robin, Matt, and I - yes, all three of us - have proposed a presentation for South by Southwest Interactive where we -- and some other supremely smart people -- are going to try to figure out just that.
Here are some basic questions:
- What kind of devices will we use to read?
- What formats will be used to deliver documents?
- What kinds of documents will be "read" - text, image, video, audio, hybrids?
- How will documents be written and produced?
- How will documents be bought, sold, and otherwise supported?
- How will contributors be compensated?
- How will reading work in different industries?
And here, I think, are - for me, at least, some more interesting ones:
- What could turn an electronic reader into a totally NECESSARY device - like a mobile phone, or iPod?
- What features will the reader of 2020 have that nobody's even talking about yet?
- What are we going to use it to do that nobody uses anything to do now?
- What's going to be your favorite thing to read on it?
- Forget your favorite thing - what are you going to use it to do over and over again, whether you like it or not?
- How are you going to write with it?
- Who's going to have one? How are they going to pay for it?
- How do we share what we read?
- What will we still want but not get?
- Here's the big one: how might it change the entire FIELD of media consumption, handheld devices, computing, reading, etc... Will everything restructure itself around the reader? Or will it be a fun, handy curiosity, plotting its own logic while everything else goes along unchanged?
Beginning today, you can vote to help get this panel accepted to South By Southwest. I am way excited. First, I am a nerd for all things related to the written word. Second, Robin and Matt are the most talented futuronomists I know.
Finally, in addition to being awesome, Austin is (oddly enough) geographically centered for the three of us. If you look at our locations (Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco), Austin is the country's fourth column, which (I think) bestows it with Penumbra-like magical powers.
Between books, papers, and screens, I think we might just have this covered. But see, this is where we start to worry about our own blind spots or idiosyncratic enthusiasms, not because we want to lose them, but because we need to put them in context.
So we don't just need your vote. We need to know what you know. And we're willing to use the patented Snarkmarket figure-four leg-lock -- by which I mean, your comments in the thread below -- to get the conversation started.
They say that hindsight is 20/20, but that's not really true; some people remember the past better than others. The future, however, really is 20/20 (especially in 2020). Right now, we all know just as much about the future of reading as everyone else.
The only difference is that we -- you and I -- are focused.
What do you see?
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Collaborations, Object Culture, Technosnark
August 7, 2009
BLDGBLOG Book Contest: Snarkmarkitecture
It has been indicated, correctly, that I am in possession of two (2) copies of The BLDGBLOG Book. How this came to pass, only Etaoin Shrdlu knows. But two copies is clearly too many for one man; the double-dose of enthusiasm and imagination threatens to consume me.
Therefore, a contest: SNARKMARKITECTURE.
The premise is simple. Imagine Snarkmarket as a physical space. What is it? Where is it? What does it look like? What does it feel like to walk through or around it?
Leave your pitch in the comments. Focus on creativity and brevity. It can definitely just be a sentence or two—though, by all means, if you want to Etaoin Shrdlu it up, I'm not going to stop you.
The contest ends
Sunday, August 9 Monday, August 10 at midnight EST. (Update: I wanted to accommodate non-weekend-readers.) I'll choose my favorite comment and send its creator a copy of The BLDGBLOG Book. (Be sure to use a real email address in the comment form so I can contact you if you're the winner!)
Snarkmarket co-bloggers are not eligible to win but they are required to enter.
Snarkmarket as a physical space. Go for it.
File under: About Snarkmarket, Cities, Collaborations, Design
July 15, 2009
Write Like It's 1856
Writing up the new Oxford Historical Thesaurus, Jason Kottke laments the lack of an advertised online version: "what a boon it would be for period novelists to able to press the 'write like they did in 1856' button."
So, being a total dork, and already in love with the not-even-shipping OHT, I tweet:
I want a "write like they did in 1856" button!
Actually, not a "write like ANYBODY in 1856" button. I want a "write like Flaubert" button. (Quiz: what writer in 1856 would you choose?)
This is harder than it sounds. 1856 might have seen just about the greatest confluence of writers ever. Do you want to write like Flaubert, Baudelaire, or Hugo? Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? Melville or Whitman or Dickinson? The Rosettis, the Brownings, or George Eliot? In nonfiction, you could write like Darwin, Marx, Carlyle, Mill, Schopenhauer, Lincoln, or Emerson.
All that said, I'm sticking with Flaubert. That's the year he finished and serialized Madame Bovary. (The next year, he went on trial for obscenity, and won, on the grounds that he wasn't a pornographer, but a genius. This changed everything for modern literature.)
Gustave's my guy. Who's yours?
P.S.: On the Oxford University Press page for the historical thesaurus, it includes a link for an online version - it's almost certainly going to be subscriber-only, and the link ends up with placeholder info for now. But it will happen.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Collaborations, Worldsnark
June 15, 2009
The New Liberal Arts and the New Professors
So I'm writing a short essay for a forum on the future of scholarship and the profession at The Chronicle of Higher Ed, I think on the New Liberal Arts.
Like you, i've spent a lot of time thinking about WHAT the NLA should be, but relatively little on how that would change colleges, universities, and the lives, research, and careers of professors.
So... What should I say?
April 25, 2009
Snarkmarket Reading Survey
Something Walter Benjamin said has interested me for a while now:
If centuries ago [writing] began gradually to lie down, passing from the upright inscription to the manuscript resting on sloping desks before finally taking itself to bed in the printed book, it now begins just as slowly to rise again from the ground. The newspaper is read more in the vertical than in the horizontal plane, while film and advertisements force the printed word entirely into the dictatorial perpendicular.
--- One Way Street (1928)
If Benjamin's right, then this is a reading revolution that's still underway -- expanding from film, advertisements, and newspapers to television, computer, and telephone screens. Even though we're using all these different devices, they just might be participating in this dyad of vertical vs. historical reading.
I've become something of an amateur anthropologist of how people read -- watching people read books or papers or from their phones or laptops in public places -- but I'm curious: how do you read?
* What kind of device(s)? * Where is your body? * Where is your reading material? * How do you prefer to read? * How do you read most often? * Where/how is it hardest for you to read? * What are your reading surfaces -- desks, tables, a bed, your own body? * Do you use any prosthetic aids -- glasses, something to raise your laptop upwards? * How did you read as a child? Ten years ago? What's changed?
Send pictures or movies even! Images of reading!
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Collaborations, Object Culture
April 21, 2009
Ink: Flock/Songbird For Writing
I gave a presentation to my students today on writing and research tools, doing what I always do -- apologizing for the limitation of every single thing that I showed them. Zotero is pretty good at building a research database -- but you can't use it to write. MS Word 2008 is a champ for layout and even does a good job at formatting bibliographies -- but it sucks for organizing research or pulling data from an application. Scrivener is a good place to organize research or notes and build drafts -- but it turns PDFs into pictures and doesn't really handle citations. Yep and Papers are great PDF organizers, but not much else. (I didn't even want to get into DevonThink.) But Papers builds in a WebKit browser, so you can do research and navigate into online databases and plug anything you find right into your library.
This feels like the big conceptual leap. We're finding our information on the web. We're writing our documents on the web. We're storing our data on the web. We're using the web to collaborate on docs. But while online storage and collaboration are winners, AJAX writing apps kind of suck. They're low-powered exactly where we need the full power of a rich client. We don't just need more formatting and layout options; we need to be able to manage databases, for research and reading material, and lots of interconnected projects that bridge online and offline work.
What I want is just what my title says: a specialized browser-based client devoted to writing.... Read more ....
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Collaborations, Learnin', Technosnark
December 12, 2008
Snarkmarket's Best of '08
June 11, 2005
Remember Snarkmarket Collaboration #1?
It's done! Get it here.
June 4, 2005
Don't Forget! Snarkmarket Collaboration #1
It's SATURDAY! You live somewhere! That means you gotta take a minute to document something about the experience of living in that place. Video is A+ for overachievers, images or sound are great too, and I'll even take text if that's all you got. You can email to me at rsloan at gmail, or post as a comment here if you like. More deets are back here.
As for me, I bought a new videocamera this week and I am taking it out on the town right... now.
May 31, 2005
Snarkmarket Collaboration #1
Robin's call to action (4MB MP3)
Right-click to download, or just click to play it in your browser.
So, I made a video. But due to the vagaries of webcams and computer hard drives (I guess?) the sound was waaay out of sync -- I mean seriously, I would have just gone ahead and posted it except that it was hurting my brain it was so messed up.
But, in the spirit of just getting something out there, here is the audio alone, sweetened with a nice Minus Kelvin track. Take a listen. It is a description of a Snarkproject that I hope you will contribute to!
After you've listened: If you're in, email something to me at rsloan at gmail dot com between now and Friday!
I neglected to say in the pitch that I will, of course, be throwing some content in myself -- probably video clips from around San Francisco. And Matt better contribute something from Frezzle-rock, too, or I will start posting weird stuff under his name.
To underscore, though: The only reason I think this project might even be possible is that such a great, smart crew makes time for Snarkmarket -- old and new friends alike. So I hope you'll join in!