Odyssey Online

iPad Glued Not Screwed

April 7, 2010 · No Comments

…in an essay published on Boing Boing Cory Doctorow states his case against the iPad, which is based on the iPad being a closed system, a proprietary technology resistant to reverse engineering.  As he puts it, (remembering a piece called Maker Manifesto) “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws not glue.” Johnathan Zittrain had a similar thing in mind as the argument of his book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It where he argued that the morphing of the Internet into hand held devices would rob it of its generative quality. Tim Berners-Lee made HTML freely available, and that, coupled with the fact that the code could be readily understood (and then written) is what propelled the web forward.  Zittrain and Doctorow both raise the point that has the Internet moves to proprietary frameworks (like iPads, Facebook, blogs software such as you see here) it becomes a consumable technology rather than a malleable one.

Some comments directed at Doctorow’s piece suggest that people writing APPs for their iPads is very much in the DYI-coding of the Internet, but, that strikes me as decoration.  For the a period of time the world wide web was coded in readily learned ways that allowed one to build substantive, original, computer frameworks in ways that APPs just aren’t.  I can’t help but think it is analogous to what’s happened with cars…anyone with some patience, the right tools, and a manual could repair and work on an air-cooled automobile (think original Volkswagon Beetle or Studebaker), but cars with embedded digital technology require mechanics with specialized diagnostic technologies. The digital technologies are expensive t00–my car has tire sensors that need to be replaced every so often and are $150 a pop, which would buy a lot of spark plugs.  Life is change and succession, but it strikes me that much is being lost in turning from code to convenience…

Categories: Essay on Technology · Research How-To · The Academic Internet