Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
John Bissell's Blog

The Demand For The Loss of Creativity

2011-01-25 10:49:06
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My brother just wrote a blog about the apple state of mind (My Emotional Response to iAnything). Michael has written several blogs about his frustration with Apple and Apple products, but in this blog he notes it’s really the smugness of some apple users; their lack of real technical knowledge, coupled with their religious certainty in the superiority of the apple product line. This got me to thinking about what is really going on here.

Apple’s simplification of the computing platform opens the market up to loads of people who would otherwise not be interested in computing products, it makes computers less of computers and more like terminals. And it makes people not capable of understanding computing devices able to use them, which makes those some of those people feel very smart –even superior. IT experts are relegated to the outskirts of the industry they founded, ran and still love. This is frustrating for IT experts, but it is not the first time this has happened to an industry.

The bicycle industry changed in this same way during the 1980’s and ‘90’s. I started riding in 1977. Gears (called freewheels then, now called cassettes) were selected gear by gear. This allowed a rider to customize his or her bike based on the type of riding planned (racing – touring, hills, flats etc). The calculation of gears was so expected that derailleurs and freewheels came with gear charts in the box to help the customer. Once the rider made his calculations and set the bike up, the rider was mentally invested in the ride. It was part science, but also part art. We knew our bikes, felt out bikes, and thought our bikes into existence.

This process was too complicated for the sport to expand rapidly. During the 1980’s Shimano became the dominate bike part supplier, removing Sun Tour from their long standing place in the top spot. Shimano created set gear ratios and one could only buy a complete cog set or cassette. Certain gear patterns were phased out. Gear charts were not supplied, and by the mid 1990’s it was almost impossible to find replacement cogs. Now many Shimano cog sets are riveted together preventing the replacement of individual worn gears. Flexibly, creativity and thought were removed, in favor of simplicity and mass marketing.

The gear changes started by Shimano have swept through the rest of the industry. Those slow to accept this new way were out. By 1993 Shimano had 100% of the new bike market. Sun Tour was gone entirely, and Campagnolo (once the premier brand) was an after market brand. Campagnolo came back using the Shimano model and is now doing well. Others have conformed. Meanwhile Shimano commands the same kind of religious loyalty for their sometimes only mediocre products that Apple commands in the computing arena.

It is clear that Apple is a trend setter and that others will follow, just as Shimano set the trend and forced the market to their will. The real question is why did it work? Do we really want to leave creativity and thought behind in favor of simplicity? Do we really want others (big brother, big industry, big religion etc.) telling us what we want, need, feel and believe? Looking at the Apple and Shimano model I would say yes, that is what most want. Those few of us who want to think and feel and believe for ourselves will sit on the outside with the non Apple IT guys and the bike gear heads.

Bicycling and being seen in traffic

Justin Pedersen: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:00:34

I'd hate to have that state of mind!

Michael Bissell: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:04:04

Which state of mind? The one that picks the world apart and says, "Crap..." or the one that accepts things handed from big brother, big industry, big religion etc.?

Justin Pedersen: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:04:40

I am sorry, Michael, I was referring to the Apple state of mind. I hadn't read those before and that is the one that really bothers me.

Renate Ruby: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:05:19

John - I appreciate your article, but as an Apple head, I have to say that the simplicity of the product makes it easier for me to use the machines and to increase my own creativity. I just finished redesigning my own website using iWeb (gasp) and because it's so easy to understand and use, I could do it myself. It has some serious limitations - like when my friend Bill the web designer tried to help me add some tags to it he couldn't find how to see the code - but for someone like me, who doesn't care to see the code or even understand the code it's been great.

If I had to build my own gears - I'd never ride a bike either - and I like riding a bike.

Michael Bissell: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:06:04

Renate - I think the problem that John outlines really well is that the simplification eventually removes the possibility of doing more. Shimano changed the industry to the point that we *can't* build our own cogsets anymore.

My fear is that Apple is leading the way to the point your web friend won't *ever* see the code, and we're all stuck with Apple's vision of what a website, or an app, "should look like."

Renate Ruby: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:11:05

@Michael - I hear that, but I just don't think it will happen. As my beloved husband revels in pointing out to me, Apple still only has 10% of the market. Computers do allow for a high level of creativity for those who really want to understand them. It doesn't take much until someone interested in doing more with their machine runs up against the constraints of the Apple platform and moves onto something else. I'm just not ever going to be one of those people. Without Apple I'd be stuck staring at a blank screen feeling stupid. I'm a right brain creative and Apple makes it possible for me to use a computer in a way I could never with a PC - but those friends of mine who actually understand how PCs work don't find Apples to be any fun because they can't mess with them, and I think fun usually wins.

Justin Pedersen: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:28:52

John, one of my friends the other day was so happy that the app store was on her mac. I was absolutely floored. Remember when we use to say "my phone is a mini computer"? Now people are excited that their computer can do mini programs.

John Bissell: Re: The Demand For The Loss of Creativity
2011-01-25 12:38:19

@ Renate: I think there are two points here, and neither one is that the apple platform is bad - because what you say is right: Apple makes things work for some people where they would not otherwise. The 2 points are: 1. The religious zealotry that some people place on a brand or platform is uncomfortable and ugly and is spurred by some of the things I mentioned - and that Michael mentioned, and 2. The simplified interface that limits options also removes choice and creativity. I don't see apple taking over. However, we have seen too many other industries remove our choice. Nothing can be fixed, everything gets thrown away, no gauges on cars, no choice in gears on bikes. We trend that we. It's a repeat them in George Orwell Books. Apple has found a way, and others will follow.

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