The Apple Halo effect

I was listening to a podcast this week, I can’t remember which one, where Frederico Viticci of was talking about how he came to be an Apple fan. He said that he had a friend who had a gorgeous, slick iPod, which inspired him to get one.  The simplicity, usability and the general gorgeousness of the device along with his experience on it, nudged him towards getting a MacBook soon afterwards. And from there, the rest is history, as they say.

After I heard this, I checked around online, and indeed, there is an entire world of people who have succumbed, been seduced, been persuaded by and converted to this way of life.

I’ve joined this particular throng.

There is a term for this: the APPLE HALO EFFECT.

In 2009, I got a MacBook Pro 13.3″. At the time, there was a educational purchase deal that included the iPod Classic (really really useful and gorgeous, and really, 160 gb?).  Then in 2010, it was an iPod Touch. During a trip for work, I got an iPod Nano (square one). In September 2011, I needed a new phone and wen phoneless for 2 months until the iPhone 4S was released in Canada. When I started grad school, I purchased an iPad 2 and went paperless as much as I could. As soon as our finances are more stable, we may invest in an Apple TV device to stream home media and music.

What a halo. It’s just that THINGS. JUST. WORK, generally very well, very smoothly, and amazingly well with each other.

(I purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in October 2011, since mon Mari had a Samsung Galaxy S2 phone, and had an AWFUL experience and returned it for the iPad instead, which is a story for another day.)

Some people may ask if we really need all these devices. The answer is no. But they have been useful, and have enabled us to connect, share, teach and learn in ways that we otherwise would not have tried or known about.  Of course, with these (and any) devices came new habits and behaviors and thus the need to cultivate social rules and understandings around how we engage with them, and how we need to shepherd our time, so that we don’t end up spending fruitless time with gadgets that could be spent otherwise. (I admit, we do struggle with this, but I think  this is becoming more and more common for any modern household with children who attend school.)

I do want to add that we are not ONLY Apple at our house.  We have 6 computers in our house, and 5 are not Apple. Mon Mari has an Android phone. I look forward to trying out the new Galaxy Nexus 7″ tablet, so very much, too.

Anyway, the Apple halo effect is alive and well. I can testify to it.


The new Polaroid Instant Digital Camera


Didn’t think this camera would be born again.

Well, it hasn’t, not exactly. I guess in spirit, though the form is quite different. Though the retro format will be missed, it’s cool to have actual, paper, material photographs in your hand again. I read that it prints out business card size photos.

Now, if only it had wi-fi connectivity…..

A man and his phone….

Emailing Facebooking Twitting Googling etc (Taken with instagram)

Emailing Facebooking Twitting Googling etc (Taken with instagram)


Along the lines of an earlier post about Chris Crutchfield’s video project, here is a photo that showed up in my Tumblr feed today.

There is a photo project out there, I wish I remember by whom, looking at people and their phones in all sorts of places and times of the day. We have very interesting relationships with our phone in this day and age.

It’s a topic totally worth looking into more deeply.

On cultural icons, by Tricia Wang


Talk about timely. I can’t say how much I’m in love with this post by researcher and blogger Tricia Wang. (Talk about accomplished. I’m duly impressed.)


I love moleskin. I love its deep respect for user creativity.

The blank black leather cover whispers to the notebook owner,

“I trust you with this empty space to do what you need to do with it, just promise to carry me with you wherever you go. “

And its owners are loyal to Moleskin because of this message. Someone could put lots of stickers or someone could just tape their name on the cover or just leave it empty and allow time to wear its way in. It’s the tool for the mobile –  from wanderers to ponderers to thinkers to writers to programmers to storytellers and creators.

It’s not demanding or loud, but it’s not dull or passive. It sits there, comfortable in being opened or closed, knowing that eventually the idea from you will come. Its thick paper weight can bear the erasing, the constant revisions. The pen can scribble over words with great stress without burning onto the next page. This is the beauty of quality paper – the paper allows the ink to sink in without fading over the years. It holds ideas in process and it allows you to return to them. Ideas take years to work through, and the moleskin has been designed for this.

Moleskin has expanded into a new product line – bags, pencils, and book lights. (I must admit that I am excited to buy their book light even though I haven’t seen it yet! ) This new line speaks to their attentiveness to designing auxiliary supplements for the moleskin eco-system. The social life of a moleskin now has more texture than ever. Moleskins are no longer just limited to Muji writing tools; it can now have friends of its own kind.

Speaking about the new product line, Maria Sebregondi from Moleskin says:

“The idea has always been to put the notebook in the center of the galaxy, a system of nomadic objects related to contemporary lifestyle and technologies.”

She goes on to say that the

“Moleskine is a cultural icon. It is not a simple notebook, and it is not a commodity, but a free platform for creativity.”

If we look beyond the branding jargon – because let’s not kid ourselves, it’s a commodity and we don’t need to get Marxian now – what’s lovely about this statement is that it reminds us to see our daily objects as cultural.  The moleskin for creative and professional community signifies creativity – physically and symbolically.

So what digital tools are cultural icons now?  iphone and ipod, and very soon the ipad will become one if not already. The Apple design philosophy in many ways mirrors Moleskin’s design values: Anonymity, Simplicity, Desirability, and Usability.

So I’m wondering out loud – in our mobile society, cellphones are at the center of our entire social worlds. What kind of nomadic objects can be designed to support the cultural centrality of cellphones to our lives?

This question would be vastly different if instead of cultural centrality, I said practical centrality. If designing for practical centrality, I would think about mobile banking, distance education, digital health, battery longevity or e-governance. 

But if we’re designing for the cultural centrality, I think about games, the physical extensions of cellphones, its role in relationships, identity, social settings, physical places or creative uses.


Although this post starts off waxing lyrical about Moleskine notebooks (and rightly so, I would chip in), Ms. Wang extends her commentary to point out other kinds of everyday items that are icons in our culture right now.

She states that “cellphones are at the center of our entire social worlds” and notes that if we imagine this current cultural icon as characterized by practical centrality instead of a cultural one, then its more commonly associated functions and apps would be quite different from what’s thought of when it comes to mobile devices.

She also notes the cult following of Moleskines and makes a quick comparison to Apple products, linking their similarities in design philosophy. (Is this one of the reasons behind a recent obsession with Moleskine notebooks?)

A further reason why this post is resonating with me is because she asks a great question that has become stuck in my brain: “…what digital tools are cultural icons now?”

I totally look forward to reading more commentary by Ms. Wang and especially following along with her work on digital technologies usage among specific populations in China.

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction – NYTimes


Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

I’m thinking we’re going to have to make even more of a conscious effort to include tech-use savvy and wisdom in our child-rearing practices.

Re-framing my daily world

I mentioned earlier that I joined the digital revolution and got a smartphone. It’s been about 10 days and I’m still in honeymoon phase.

There is LOTS I am doing with my phone but the thing I am enjoying the most is experimenting with some Android camera apps that have allowed me to capture and reframe some visual perspectives and objects of the world around me.
It isn’t so much media consumption as creation.

The little smartphone has empowered humans to be do a lot more than ever imagined. This is a wonder of this technology.

Little powerhouse in the palm of my hand

So I’m learning to get comfortable with my little LG smartphone. From the reviews by experts out there, it is apparent that my smartphone model is not highly acclaimed: it’s no 2 Ghz power processing monster but a measly 600 Mhz, and has a mere 100 Mb of internal memory, unlike many current models with higher capacities and specs.

But for my needs, it’s terrific. JUST terrific. I’m in love with a device.

Just some of the things I can do, in the palm of my hand, from my desk, on the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office or at the coffee shop, without having to lug around a 5 lb laptop computer, as gorgeous as the MacBook may be:

  • read my google reader feeds
  • have access to our family’s medical, ID, official documents and numbers
  • receive emails
  • get news/updates from my friends and social networks
  • take photos and share them online
  • write and post blog posts
  • browse the internet
  • take amazing photographs
  • read my e-books (well, I wouldn’t regularly do that on a 3+ inch screen, but I CAN)
  • activate a lightsaber that swooshes and sounds like Darth Vader’s, Luke’s or other Star Wars characters’
  • make long-distance calls over wi-fi for free

and, what distinguishes it from an iPad, at least for now, is that I can make and receive phone calls on the device as well.

Here are some of the apps that I’ve installed for free:

Finally “connected”


Today, I joined a global revolution at last. It is a deliberate, quite enormous act, though it might not seem like it. 

I got an Android smartphone and now am connected wherever I am. At the touch of a finger, I can ask, seek, look up, reserve, buy, renew, send, snap, listen….My partner said that maybe knowledge will become less valuable, since I don’t need to “know” it, so much as look it up. 

Let’s see how my browsing, surfing, media consuming and communicating patterns will be altered (and I think they will) by having a smartphone.