One of the complaints I’ve seen lodged against the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is that it is always onto the "next big thing," often with iterative and unfinished products, never fully realizing their vision. Whereas tablets were the focus of a number of keynotes last year (when the PC market tried to beat the IPad before it hit the market), much of the talk this year has centered around the idea of "Always On" content that happens in a world "After the Computer."
Over at GEARFUSE, John Brownlee states the problem from a journalist’s perspective, but it affects all of us who use consumer electronics: “It’s a shame. I wish that the hundreds of talented tech journalists who converge upon CES every year could pass onto their reader a coherent vision of the landscape of the next year in tech, but who can blame them for not being able to do that when even the people making these gadgets can’t answer as simple a question as why their device matters?”
This is especially the case when so many of these devices operate in a wholly digital ecosystem. To a lot of people, they do not matter. While the digital media ecosystem is growing, it leaves many people behind, cut off from those who have moved on. This digital divide is common, and at least in library circles, it will be addressed by teaching the second-level literacy skills of “Transliteracy,” first defined by Sue Thomas as “…the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.”
Far, far away from the glitz of Las Vegas, at the 2010 Saint Étienne International Design Biennial, “(a)ll objects, images, and services exhibited to the visitors may either question serious issues or show unexpected visions.” To that end, designer John Kestner has created a bespoke piece of technology, without minute iterations, that attempts to solve the digital divide in an elegant and personalway. While it does not address the underlying need for transliteracy, it meets the intended user more than halfway into their comfort zone, something which the Busybacksons at CES seem unable to do, as the process of iteration lacks any vision outside of minute technological evolution for mass production. It also is part of the “After the Computer” worldview, it does not look like a computer, it only has two functions, and it is “always on.” But it is much closer in feel to the non-digital world, where “always on” has little meaning. Even if it is for one person, it is suprising to see how simply one can answer the question: why does this device matter?