When talking to a friend about a new computer for one of his kids, I stumbled upon an analogy that I think really fits how we need to consider the choices around computing that we need to take these days:
…which version of the Internet do you want your son to learn life from Google’s (we will index/organize everything, monetize your connection to it w/o necessarily giving you back the money) or MS’s (3 screens and a cloud, we make money when you purchase from us or our approved partners, your limits on creation is what you can build w/our tools/methods)
I mean these as blanket statements, but these are also the lenses at which we have in front of us. Let’s expand on that a bit more.
When I was coming up into computing, I had to learn DOS in order to wrangle Windows 3.1 into subjection; I had to learn what and how MacOS and Windows were and weren’t compatible with one another, and the tedious nature of making sure that I didn’t lose anything in the process; I had to learn how to design with tables, and then relearn how to design websites without them; and so on. Today, the question of learning life can start from the Internet. And if you do so, then there are many competing voices, and a few loud ones in which we need to consider if they are suitable teachers for whatever comes next:
- If your lens of the Internet is that you mostly interact with it through Facebook, then can you speak to what happens outside of that network, what happens if/when that point of connection is no longer available, the reliability of security controls, and the value of reading and understanding terms of service agreements?
- If your lens of the Internet is that you only use Google to search for content, can you speak to what other search engines can/do uncover that Google doesn’t (for whatever reason), what happens when Google’s results are limited to you because of regional, commercial, or governmental interests, the positives and negatives of a single-sign-on system across multiple devices and what kinds of data is collected, analyzed, and monetized through those connections?
- If your lens of the Internet comes first through Microsoft products such as SharePoint, Internet Explorer, Windows Phone, or XBox, then you can speak to other ecosystems that combine hardware, software, and subscription services; what does it mean to have an open programming environment; do you understand how past market and governmental systems shaped the current software or services’ functions, and what freedoms does your region or the terms of service allow in that?
- If your lens of the Internet comes through Apple, how do you convey design and aesthetics when it isn’t within Apple’s style-guide or an approved developer’s highlighted application; how do you discuss the impact of logistics and planning on the final product (do you recognize how much Apple does here), and there’s that terms of service again – what are your rights as prescribed by a document you can’t append?
There are other companies with which we’d have to consider their lens as well – Samsung, Amazon, Logos, LifeChurch.TV, etc. – all of whom have differing viewpoints as to how Internet, mobile and other media are best used to forward their aims, and to help enable (or disable) yours. Are you ready to learn from life this way, or is there another solution on tap?