Sr. X presenta: Coloquios Históricos, Hoy: Nietzsche y Marx (fuera del trabajo...)

In January, Roger Fidler, Program Director of the University of Missouri Journalism school wrote about tablets and how they fit into the mediascape. The tweets and buzz around his post asked “will tablets save journalism?” That was all the commentary I saw was saying something like this. Why did he get so much buzz? Because in 1994 he “predicted the tablet.” But you and I know Mark Weiser did that much earlier.

All that being said, journalism isn’t broke. Neither is news. The business models are but news is still happening every day and it is still being reported. When Twitter was adopted en mass, journalists asked the same thing “will this save our industry?” The next shiny thing will come along and they will ask…”will this save our industry?”

I made commentary on the general commentary and huge praise for tablets. I said:

@Adam Levy I’m struggling with the idea that E-readers are the only possible option. If we think from user’s perspective, how many people are running out to buy, yet another, device to carry around with them? And that’s not even considering the monetary cost of buying an e-reader device. Which brings me to my point about the digital divide.

Sure, there are the people who can afford to buy an e-reader, those people likely have smart phones. I’d be curious to know how many people who take a phone, charger, laptop, camera (maybe), wallet and their lunch to work also want to lug an e-reader around with them.

Then, what is the news solution for people who cannot afford an e-reader? Sure, news is online, it’s free. I think that’s excellent. It works for me. I think we, journalists, designers, need to have some conversation about readers without mobile devices, without internet connections at home (or at least fast ones). Yes, we are designing for the future, but people with low-incomes will exist in the future, too.

I am not arguing that we need to fire up more printing presses for those without internet connections. Because those people, likely, are not buying the newspaper too (because of cost, not interest). So, let’s remember to also design for the future of news on the other side of the digital divide. If we don’t, I predict we’ll see an educated bourgeoisie and a proletariat without access to news.

Coming back to my point: I have a smart phone, it costs a lot of money, it let’s me read the news without having to buy anything more.

Just playing devil’s advocate…

I want to revisit the argument I think I was trying to make with some help from Marx and Barnard.

“Art criticism, journalism and social commentary are not the sorts of institutions that are found in formalist, or expressionist accounts of art and design, for example, and it must be a strength of Marxist and social history approaches that new institutions and personnel are admitted to the account. The problem with most device centric options versus news print is a class problem, but class has not yet been considered in the conversations I see in blogs, at conferences and even over tweet.

Marx identifies ‘the economic foundation’, the base.

He also identifies ‘a legal and political which correspond definite forms of social consciousness’ This superstructure consists in various institutions, ‘legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic and it is based upon the conditions of production.”

The conditions of productions for tablet news apps made for for news companies are produced under difficult conditions. Employees are under pressure to produce something that will bring revenue to the company, attract readers and ultimately, save their own jobs in a struggling industry and economy. An HCI critic would see the opportunity for an interaction designer and human-centered work. But it seems the designer, under such constraints, is not given the opportunity to think about their users due to the constraints of the superstructure.

In addition, news interaction designers don’t seem to be conscious of classes outside of themselves. “…in ideology that the conflict of class interest is brought to consciousness and fought out.” For designers, who sit in front of their expensive computers, with smart phones, iPads and many gizmos and gadgets, there is little sign of the consciousness even being brought out to fight about.

While print newspapers have almost always cost some kind of money, the only barrier was cost. However, an app that costs $2.99 also includes the barrier cost of the device and the service. If all news becomes digital, how can people, who live offline, be educated about civic affairs? If they do not have an opportunity to be well educated about local, national and global politics, how can they be informed voters? If they cannot be informed voters, how can they know if their leaders are exploiting them?

Then, I think Marx said it was time for a revolution.