Take a stance. Even for a minute or two or a month or longer. Do it publicly.
One of the conversations, however briefly, I got into today on Twitter with Jonathan Greene was about John Gruber’s iPhone post, “Complex“.
While I agree with Gruber’s initially stated premise that starting with a simple problem or solving a problem (just one) is a great way to begin any project. Once the simple has been defined, then build on it. Gruber goes from strength to strength to Apple fanboi kool-aid drinking by the end of the post.
In one of my Tweets, I pose the question:
“Gruber is very much in the Apple fold. That is why I ask if he is making a theoretical stance rather than an accurate assessment”
I think it makes great articles to take a stance and argue from it. I think it makes great art when one decides to take a stance, even if briefly, know where one resides in that theoretical space as one creates and practices one’s art. But it is also important, whether one is writing articles or creating art to clearly acknowledge the stance and space that one is standing in, so that the reader or viewer can also know where to stand.
What do I mean by this? In Gruber’s piece, his lack of a disclaimer or acknowledgment to the audience or even to himself of his US-centric and Apple-centric position makes the ending arguments of his piece fall flat if the reader falls outside of the concentric circles that Gruber is assuming that everyone is agreeing on. Many of the ideas in his article are intriguing, such as basing a series of devices on a software/firmware platform first rather than the function of the device, but this assumes that all the readers have drunken deeply of the iPhone kool-aid and are devotees at the shrine of Jobs. But what happens to the cult when Jobs retires and the powers that be don’t carry on the same way? What happens if Gruber is looking at Apple’s strategy from a theoretical stance or from a critical (in the academic sense) 20/20 hindsight review of the last eight years of strategy rather than what may or may not have happened?
This year at SXSW, Andy Budd and I had two very fun rounds of debate about Apple, the iPhone and anything that Nokia is doing. We were to have round three but never got to it. Andy is a User Experience professional, not only does he blog about it, run a whole web firm predicated on UX (clearleft), writes books on it, and speaks on UX, but he also firmly lives it. I thoroughly enjoy engaging Andy on topics of UX as it intersects mobile, as it is a great place for my great passion of mobile to cross his of UX. Andy and I disagree on the iPhone. While I agree with him that it is the “game changer” of 2007/2008, I don’t think we can assume that it will be going forward.
I argue that Nokia and other firms cannot be discounted in the wake of the iPhone, as not every user/customer/person will be satisfied by the iPhone’s features, functions, and OS. I have a number of non-web-design LA area creative friends who tried the iPhone and returned it before the 30 days were up for an Android G-1, a Sidekick 3, or for a Crackberry. I also have a number of friends and colleagues in LA and other places, who prefer Nokia Nseries phones to the iPhone, of which I am one of them. Most of us in this category want camera phones that take great photos.
On Twitter, I summed up my statements with on Gruber’s article:
“It can be easy to forget culture & sub-cultural usage patterns as well as differing personal usage. The US is not all.”
To this end, both in Gruber’s article and in my own conversations with web colleagues who are passionate about A or B or C or X or Z device, I think we all have to remember that different mobile devices are not just fulfilling a cultural zeitgeist of the moment (like the iPhone in the US right now), or a sub-cultural niche (like the Sidekick 2 in the North American punk scene from 2005-2007), but also individual’s differing usage patterns.
I do think it is important to state, even if briefly where one stands in that moment within the frame of the discussion so that the reader/viewer knows what one’s theoretical stance is.
This is why I always encourage my friends who are excited about digital photography to write about and publicly dialogue about whether they are most interested in the act of shooting the photo or in the act of processing it later on their computer. Do you post your photos as is or do you process them? It is not an inconsequential factoid, but a record of your artistic / photographic journey that helps your viewers to know where you stand right now.
This is why I try to be clear that, for now, I like to shoot photos with camera phones, as I like the immediacy, I like the constraints, and I like to send my photos to this blog or to Flickr unprocessed, as is. And on the other side, for my friends who the great pleasure comes in the hour or two spent at their computer later processing their DSLR photos, good – many beauties upon you. Let us know about your process.
Why do I talk about theoretical stances or spaces in conjunction with John Gruber, the iPhone, Andy Budd, Twitter, Flickr, and camera phones this late in the evening after a long day? Well, in my recent post on the Nokia N95 vs. the Nokia N97, I was outright that my interest is in the camera capacity of the device and in response to some comments, I made a few comments that went deeper into the the territory of the quality of the camera being preeminent. I didn’t make these comments to inflame but to iterate that my theoretical space and concern as an individual user of mobile devices is that of a photographer first and foremost.
From what position or space are you standing in right now?