Computers are quintessentially generative, they allow (and even encourage) their users to develop new programs and ways of use. Or at least they used to be. Now many companies instead aim to produce ‘appliances’, computers limited to doing a small number of repetitive tasks, with little or no allowances for customisation.
A key example of this is Apple. Zittrain (2008) comments that “Apple II was designed for surprises,” Apple had no idea how the computer would be used, it was open-ended and encouraged user development. The iPhone however is the complete opposite, it is a sterile, pre-programmed device with locked functionality, only Apple has the ability to update or change the technology in any way (Zittrain, 2008).
He presents a worrying future, where generative PCs are all but obsolete, and sterile appliances – tethered to a network of control – take their place. This takes the things we love about computers, our ability to revolutionise and change technology – things we oft take for granted and destroyed them completely.
With the rise of control societies, we need to be aware of what is being taken away, and ask the question; how do we stop this? How do we keep out autonomy in a world that wants to strip us of it?
References: Zittrain, J., 2008. The Future Of The Internet And How To Stop It. London: Penguin, pp.1-7.