When supply continually buries demand, there is no way to sprout roots

In the course of my self-education, I’ve come to see that the frequency, number and type of innovations and apps overwhelmingly outstrips society’s ability to grasp, understand and use them.

By a massive margin.

That gap continues to grow, between what innovators can and are creating, and the masses’ desires or abilities to use them. I don’t see this as necessarily a good or bad thing, except that it creates a false idea of today’s mantra: “If you don’t keep up, you’re standing still.”

For example, if you begin to tally up the number of free applications (apps) available to, say, the iPhone user (530,000, most of which are free), it provides a neat little micro-example of that theory.

I’ve just today acquired the new iPhone 4S, mostly to see if it’s true the device is, as one colleague put it, “the Swiss Army knife” of the journalism toolbox.  If that’s the case, I will expect this device to record and transcribe notes, take excellent quality photos and video, check my email, research on the fly and allow me to write and file stories. Oh, and to make phone calls!

Now there was nothing wrong with my old cell phone, except that I never had a data plan with it. Never needed one: email and the web could always wait until I got home or to work.

But if I’m going to upgrade our journalism curriculum, and as I see reporters using smartphones, it has become clear I’ve got to walk the talk, and see for myself what all of the fuss has been all about.

The big one is to record interviews in either person or by phone, and to watch the voice recordings turn into text before my eyes. If this device has the power to do that, it will spell the end of the notepad and pen, to which generations of reporters have been enslaved since the beginning, and singlehandedly increase accuracy exponentially. This alone will be worth the price of the device and my time to learn it.

But beyond those things, what more would I possibly need or want from a smart phone? There are over half a million apps out there, not to mention those I can get for my laptop and desktop computers. Will any of them do my laundry? Vaccum our house? Cook me a meal?

Maybe some day, but for now I hope I don’t get too dazzled with cool apps I may use once or twice, then forget about, because that’s just more noise in my brain; the mental ability to accept enough change to feel comfortable, yet more efficient.

By the time I return to my teaching gig at Algonquin, I would like to be satisfied that I will have used and practised what is useful, and advise my students to ignore what is not. Is there an app for that?

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