11 October 2011

Link Sausages Take in Fluids

A lingering case of the 'flu can sure infect the link sausages. Don't worry, though — this batch was started afterward.

  • I suppose I'll get this over with up front: I come not to praise Steve Jobs, but to bury him. And his cultural imperialism. (Remember, I was building computers before there was an Apple.)

    If there is one thing that Jobs should be known for — but is not — it is his championing of closed systems based upon his view of proper Design (and Control of the User). On the Macintosh, recall the sealed cases in an era of hobbyist homebuilds; the one-button mouse that persists to this day; the refusal to accept already-established standards, such as floppy-disk formatting and keyboard conventions (some of us, after all, are touch-typists); the file system that breaks files into multiple parts; and, perhaps most egregiously, the never-trust-a-user-to-know-what-the-user-wants nature of the Macintosh OS itself. Similarly, for the iGadgets, consider all of the new and incompatible media formats demanded by Apple devices, primarily to prevent people from accessing data not obtained through Apple itself... and the implicit disdain for literacy in way the interfaces denigrated word-orientation in use. Those techie gripes pale, though, compared to the sheer arrogance and self-serving nature of his quarter-century-long struggle to not just compete better, but avoid competition at all, through closed systems... which essentially denies the distinction among hardware, software, and data. Example: The public release of the trailer from The Avengers today in QuickTime format — the page for which, unlike releases in DIVX and Windows Media format, refuses to acknowledge the existence of compatible players and demands download of QuickTime (and the iTunes store, and oodles of crapware).

    I do not rejoice in the death of any human. I do, however, hope that Jobs's departure will — eventually — lead to less arrogance in Cupertino. The Lords of Redmond have, at least, demonstrated more (not nearly enough, but more) willingness to adapt to market demands and individuality than that.

  • Amusingly, there's a running battle between two insular institutions about the viability of the "creative class" that by its existence demonstrates that they're both wrong. On the one hand, the white-elitist-techie Salon claims that "The creative class is a lie," only to be met with objections from Atlantic Monthly that "The creative class is alive." Of course, they're both missing the point entirely, which is not at all surprising given the cultural imperialism and arrogance of their respective urban locations (Salon believes there is no civilization east of the Cascades/Sierra Nevadas, while Atlantic denies that there is any west of the Hudson).

    The initial impulse of creativity is not economic in origin. Economic support certainly sustains creativity, but does not define or (pardon the pun) create it in the same way as it does merchant banking or farming; Lee Goldman wisely objects to putting the publishing cart before the storytelling horse, and he's in TV! It is entirely meaningless to speak of a "creative class" in the same terms as infected by Marxist (and neoclassical) appropriation of the term "class". This is, perhaps, most obvious among college undergraduates — the "creatives" are far more akin to particular sororities and fraternities than anything else, even though sororities and fraternities together were the real class definition. Walking through Malinckrodt on the way to class meant playing "spot the dancers" with their legwarmers and tights in the same way as one played "spot the Ape" with their AEΠ uniform t-shirts; but there was no cohesive origin to these groups. Trying to pretend that there is for the convenience of manipulating the group as a whole is about as likely to be successful as herding cats.

  • Here's a missed irony: In the NYTBR Alexandra Horowitz wonders "Will the E-Book Kill the Footnote?" without grasping what the footnote is: Preelectronic hypertext. I'll leave aside her throwing away of the prevalence of footnotes in legal writing — if anything, there aren't enough footnotes in legal writing, as anyone who has struggled to get from one end of a sentence padded out with string cites could attest — and just object that her piece neglects the course of footnotes in seventeenth- through nineteenth-century works (Swift being an obvious example) and how that evolved into the narrative aside. Then there's the fact that most people these days read the NYBTR online in HTML...