Seems that last post about Oxford University Prof. Jonathan Zittrain and his worry about Apple's iPhone -- as well as other technology derailing our creativity -- struck a bit of a nerve. Several of you have written in, deriding his claims, calling him a Luddite, and more importantly, calling into question the basis on which he forms his opinions.
Here's a quick sample:
"That guy is a tiresome Luddite, romanticist, and steam punk," writes James Hall. "I can't understand how functional devices do anything but enable creative, purposeful works."
He adds, "Zittrain, the Quixotic tilt-at-windmills contrarian, is pining for things that have no place in the present and perhaps never really were at all."
Frequent reader Robert O'Neill adds, "These devices are a tool -- nothing less, nothing more. A person seeing a hammer for the first time will discover it's useful to hit nails, but will that same user understand when you flit the tool around you can also pull nails out? It's up to the user to educate themselves on the capabilities of a tool and how it can serve them. Apple offers classes at their stores to people buying the iPhone. That's more than the guy offered me when I bought the hammer."
Tim Dodge in Denver also uses the hammer analogy, writing: "I find (Zittrain's approach) akin to suggesting that innovation stopped once the hammer was invented. Said differently, the computer is a tool. It is the means to an end, not the end in and of itself. So if Prof. Zittrain, or anyone else, to posit that innovation and creativity will be killed by homogeneous computers they must first believe that curiosity and a desire to explore, invent and create have been killed. He might have to wait awhile."
Kevin Brown says, "I suppose if your creativity falls within the boundaries of the types of activities that Apple and [Research in Motion] ALLOW, they could be fostering creativity. [Microsoft's] Xbox -- completely closed."
Malcom Manness has his own list of creative technologies that are spurring innovation rather than stifling it:
"1) Photoshop/Illustrator (Adobe products) has created a renaissance in visual arts. There are thousands of kids (thousands at least) creating art and sharing on Gaia, DeviantArt, etc. Really good stuff, too. 2) Poetry also is shared on many sites. 3) Second Life is a whole new art form, completely unimaginable 20 years ago. You create a persona and a complete environment in which you interact with others. This is an amazing new art form and incredibly creative."
Just a taste of some of the notes you've sent. I couldn't agree with you more. Keep 'em coming, and I'll keep sharing. He'll be on at 4:40pm ET or so. I can't wait to hear how Prof. Zittrain tries to defend his position. Should be interesting.
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