The Blue-Green Digital Divide

While studying Digital Anthropology, digital divide was a topic which often came up for discussion in the classes. Digital divide which clearly demarcates those with access to technology from those with limited, borrowed or no access to technology. In this context, the stories of Yahoo-Yahoo Boys of Nigeria and the cyber-cafes in Ghana make very interesting reading. In my own country, digital divide has spawned into new forms of social and cultural equities.

So, I was so amused when I read Paul Ford’s ‘It’s kind of cheesy – being green.’ There’s a point in his post where he highlights Tim Cook’s quote from a WWDC event in which he had mocked upon the green bubbles. But are the green bubbles really ugly? Ford highlights how these are purely product decisions clearly in this case, to make the ‘iDevice’ user stand out from the rest. It’s now even a selling point! However, what appears stranger to me is the fact that the icon for Messages in the iOS universe is green and not blue.

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It’s a little thing, so very little, but it matters. Perhaps, one small factor among many that allow the iPhone to sustain higher prices and margins and for people and societies to form opinions. There are many studies which show consumer decision making gets strongly anchored to a product or an association as an effect of colours.  The whole business around cherry-picking colours for different product attributes is now so well-entrenched industry trend, that Pantone, the proprietary colour-standardization company, has been for a couple of years has been selecting ‘colour of the year’ to influence design and product decisions from fashion to home, and packaging to interactive design. How they pick the colour of the year makes another very interesting story.

As a final word, I don’t think Apple did the iMessage colour coding on purpose but the decision around selecting blue over green has led to multiple ramifications impacting societal and cultural norms.

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Irony

Line breaks: irony
Pronunciation: /ˈʌɪrəni /
NOUN (plural ironies)

[MASS NOUN]
1The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect

Origin

early 16th century (also denoting Socratic irony): via Latin from Greek eirōneia ‘simulated ignorance’, from eirōn ‘dissembler’.

Orwell

Via Twitter

Visualising the internet

The internet has been described in innumerable ways. At times, it is difficult to imagine the force which we interact we act with so often. Spending most of our days in front of a big screen and then the small screen in our pockets, my attention is certainly divided.

A couple of days back I read this wonderful book by Andrew Blum called Tubes. Blum became hung up on the lack of physicality associated with the Internet. The journey to find exactly what places support and connect with the Internet was triggered following an unusual interaction with a squirrel in his backyard.Once when Blum’s internet broke the cable guy came to fix it, he said something which appeared extremely preposterous to Blum.He said ‘I think a squirrel is chewing on your internet’. And this of course seemed absurd, because as all of you know the internet is the great changer of everything, it has changed revolutions, and dating and shopping and anything that you might imagine.And then Blum realised if he yanked off the wire from the wall, it had to go someplace. So, Blum went on an adventure to find the buildings, installations and people who make the Internet what it is today which ended up in completely unexpected but wonderful book.

Ben Mendelsohn explores this subject in Bundled, Buried & Behind Closed Doors, a short documentary on the internet infrastructure. He takes us inside 60 Hudson Street in New York City, a nondescript building that houses one of the major nodes of the Internet on the east coast of the US.

Timo Arnall,a designer and artist from London, has documented the hidden spaces,the series of massive servers, wires and equipment tucked away in high-security buildings in his project Internet Machine.

And, there has also been an attempt to visualise the immaterial, the network around us which carries multiple giga-bits of data around us in the immaterials project.

In the words of the designers, the Immaterials project emerged from the humble preoccupations of a few designers dealing with some of the invisible, immaterial, intangible stuff we had in front of us. These small experiments led to larger and more visually and narratively communicative work. In the end what I think we’ve developed is an approach to technology that revolves around material exploration, explanation and communication.

RFID-Touch-Project
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The future of news will be written in code

I am enamoured and excited by the recent bout of venture investment in news startups like Vox, Pandodaily and Buzzfeed. This story from Quartz explains some of this fascination.

Continuing on the thread of the news websites, I thought I will take this moment to express my great fascination for Quartz. I begin my day with their most smartly curated newsletter. This story explains its making and how some of the smartest editors from the Atlantic (their sister publication) spend hours working on it everyday.

It is not surprising that Quartz is now amongst the most visited new websites in the world. It is no mean feat that they managed to get to this level in a period of less than two years!

This video by the Quartz publishers, from one of the Digiday events explains some of their ways of working. And it is not too different from the principles a technology company works on!

The Making of a Modern Publisher: Atlantic Media’s Quartz from Digiday on Vimeo.

I am really glad that Quartz is launching an India edition.