Will Smart Phone Apps … Replace The Web?

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a modern state if people don’t have a camera phone in their pocket that works. – Clay Shirky

During my early teen years in Calgary, I frequently visited Evelyn De Mille Books, a versatile book store that carried masterly titles on every conceivable topic. I developed the habit each time of intentionally visiting a section of books that I knew nothing about … which wasn’t particularly challenging for a young guy in the 1960’s when 17 weekly television series of Westerns flooded the air waves. I never ceased to be amazed at the plethora of topics and ideas and information available in that wonderfully tasteful book store. Later W H Smith Books occupied the space, dropping vanilla pablum of bestselling but banal fare, marking an intellectually impoverished era for Calgary book readers until the birth of Amazon.com. Not the original Evelyn DeMille store, this one specialized in technical books. Clay Shirky, Internet Guru and Associate Teacher of “New Media” at New York University, gave a spirited and eye-opening interview to Fareed Zakaria on Zakaria’s GPS show on CNN on 29 August 2010. GPS is short for “Global Public Square“, a show that I religiously record every Sunday morning and would never miss. [ Click HERE to view the 12.5 minute, 67.7 MB, video the entire interview. viagra dose Click HERE to read the transcript of the entire show.] Shirky argues that the web already induces us to become wider but more shallow thinkers. It now seems that we shall become narrow but shallow as smart phone apps replace Google type web searches.

Shirky: Web is making us "wider and shallower" - we know less about more.

Zakaria Interviews Clay Shirky on GPS – 29 August 2010

Shirky points to a “move away from this completely general purpose browser, the most general purpose platform literally in the history of the software industry, down now to these very specific apps that are custom-designed for purpose.” Where a Google or Bing search on the web may give millions of “hits”, a smart “app” targets a narrow data set costumed to the user’s personal history and preferences. Search engines already curtail the frequency of accidental discoveries of information commonly experienced by early generations of newspaper readers as they flipped from one section to the other. Now sparse and narrow parameters of specific apps further curtail opportunities for serendipity.

Some of Gerry Donaldson

Shirky points too to the tradeoff between triple freedoms delivered by the Internet (speech, press, assembly), pharmacy in canada albeit at the price is distraction as “there is no such general intellectual capability as multi-tasking. We’re just not good at doing two things at once, by and large.” Specific purpose apps retrieve specific information that we want at the moment, which could be a list of movies playing in our neighbourhood theatre or the cheapest price for a specific camera that we want to buy. Are we in danger of discarding the DeMille type breadth of experience for W H Smith mundane type fare? Implications for teachers are trivial and profound. Web design courses should be teaching iPhone and/or Android app design. Metacognitively, we must strategize with students how to inculcate serendipity, discovery of information and thought that we have been hitherto unaware of the existence thereof. Randomly canada pharmacy look up new words in a physical dictionary and read about them in Wikipedia. Look for a topic or book title in Amazon.com that you never heard of before and order and read it! Think about the most sacred assumptions that you hold dear and watch You Tube detractions of those views. Students must be encouraged to travel beyond their own small community of experience and values, to seek new frontiers of knowledge and understanding. Teachers of Computer Science are first teachers of learners.


About the Author:

Gerry Donaldson was Calgary’s first high school teacher to use a lab of personal computers. Gerry taught CSE, including CTS, AP and IB Computer Science, for 30 years before teaching and consulting to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary.
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