Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 6 studio project - iPhone apps

The media that I explored in for my studio project is the iPhone. The iPhone is a very unique device because it has the functionality and computing power of a computer, but it is as small as a phone. What this means is that the iPhone has is more a computer than a phone-- you can play games, do email, do research, read the news, and also call people. If you are interested in learning more about the iPhone, here is a link to more information. The iPhone is also unique because it is one of the first phones to use touchscreen technology, where you touch the screen instead of pressing buttons.

What is most amazing about the iPhone is that there a bunch of applications (AKA 'apps') can download and use in nearly every aspect of your life. You can download apps for driving directions, cooking, music, sports news, academic news, games, quotes, and more! Here is a link to learn more about the cool iPhone apps!

I chose to explore the iPhone and specifically its apps because they are so diverse, and I was interested in which ones are more useful than others and why. The iPhone is a unique medium because it is a phone, and is thus meant to be used more in the context of your surroundings than at a desk like a computer. For example, one Nike app allows you to go running and tracks your time as you run. This also means that you can use the iPhone to find directions when in a foreign city, check the weather on the go, or even put on the counter as you cook. Likewise, the iPhone is all about giving power to the user and many of the apps focus on user generated content and connecting users to form communities and create a more full experience. For example, the Nike app allows you to rate your run and track your progress. Likewise, another app called 'DoGood' allows you to bond with other users who do good things each day. It is a simple concept, but very effective.

On the other hand, some apps do not fare so well. I think a big reason for this is because of the design of the app. Many either have buttons that can't press, or the design and purpose of the app doesn't grab user's attention. This complicated even more because the phone screen is smaller than a normal computer screen, so you have to make the content easy to understand latch on to in order to keep the attention of the users. A perfect example of this is Wholefoods app. I used it to make a pasta sauce. However, the ingredients and the directions were on different pages, so it was frustrating to cook with it. It was also relatively hard to search for the specific recipe I wanted.

In conclusion, I definite 'new media literacy' in terms of user experience. If you are able to navigate the app (or whatever artifact you are using) and have a basic understanding of what you are doing, then you have 'new media literacy'. However, I would 'new media fluency' as a more advanced state of literacy. This means that you can interact, be immersed within the app, and feel comfortable exploring new content (rather than just sticking with what you are used to). Fluency also involves how to interact and understand the community behind the app, and also how to best use it in different contexts, not just ones that you are used to. Part of being literate vs. fluent with an iPhone app (or any other artifact) is partially do to being a digital immigrant vs. a digital native and how comfortable you are in digital technologies. However, another aspect of this is how well the app is designed and tested so that users feel comfortable using it.


  1. I like your choice of technology - did you have trouble learning how to use this technology when you first encountered it? Do you recall the learning curve? Can you describe it a bit? What about learning how to utilize the apps vs. the tool? For example, I have trouble sometimes working with the actual iPad and where the apps "hide" when I have to reset it - but I do not have trouble using the apps - do you think there are separate learning curves with apps vs. the tool itself?

  2. Also, do you think this is related to literacy in new media?

  3. Good questions (and sorry that I didn't get back to you sooner). I had very little trouble learning how to use my iphone and some of the apps on it (I was using it proficiently in as little as a few days).

    However, after my initial use, I got stuck using a few apps. I think this happened for a few reasons. Some of it was because you had to have an account to use the apps and couldn't use it right away. The biggest reason that restricted my use of apps was the lack of community-- it was really easy to access the apps, but unless you were an app geek and a major expert who knows the apps in and out (like a developer or a professor), there are so many apps that it is hard to find ones that I enjoy and are easy to use. Also, as I used the apps more and more, I noticed good app design definitely gravitated towards those.

    In terms of using the device vs. the apps themselves, I think these are two different things. Like I said, the app store is very big and really have to explore deep to see what apps you like the best. Likewise, using the advice is much simpler (at least to me). A big reason for this is because the touch screen technology makes everything so easy. I think the main challenge is using the apps and making them interoperable with different technologies.

    In terms of media literacy, the iphone does increase 'street smarts' and social literacy because it is a mobile device and many apps are meant to be used in the environment and to communicate. Also, there are news and educational apps that increase your cognitive knowledge too.