iPads, smartphones are ideal media for McLuhan's...
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Apr 02, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

iPads, smartphones are ideal media for McLuhan's message

St. Marys Journal Argus

Dishing it Out by Andrea Macko

It’s been a watershed couple of weeks for technology at our house. I’m slowly typing this column on our brand-new iPad; we decided to take the plunge at just the right time, as our laptop seems to be biting the dust after five years — practically an eternity, for technology — of dedicated daily use.

The laptop, if Bill at The Source can’t perform his usual wizardry, will be in good company, for my equally ancient cellphone entered the great beyond a few weeks ago. Despite only using the thing for emergencies, it was cheaper to upgrade to a nifty smartphone which gives me directions and lets me check my email, while making the occasional text-message a far less harrowing experience.

What’s really interesting about these three devices is that they all perform the exact same functions despite their visual differences. It’d be faster to write this column on my laptop (I could at least make notes on my phone), but I’m managing... the iPad’s touch keyboard takes a while to get used to. But, for basic Internet browsing, I’ve not missed a thing. And it’s nice not to have a supposedly portable laptop burning my lap if I choose to work from the couch.

The future, it seems, is upon me, which is sad, because kids have been obsessed with smartphones for years, and savvy grandparents have been Skyping and Facetiming with their families for nearly as long. But before all this — and after the first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992 — I was an eager journalism student on the verge of a new era. The buzzword of those halcyon 1990s was convergence; traditional media outlets needed to make sense of the Internet, and quickly, or risk irrelevancy.

But we still watched our favourite shows on a television, and read our books on paper. Now, though, everything operates on the same digital platform; one screen suffices. In addition to watching programs online, we have web-exclusive content, and we peruse news and information from a myriad of websites. The person who reads the 6 o’clock news also Tweets, has a blog, and posts video on YouTube.

Another buzz phrase from my school days was the Marshall McLuhan gem that “the medium is the message.” I never really wrapped my head around it in those pre-digital days, but now, when we have the ’Net perpetually at our fingertips, I do. How could we demand consistently excellent content when the Internet is always on and expanding, always asking us what we think? With the instant connection that a cellphone or a tablet allows, it’s never been easier to share what’s on our minds, no matter how pointless or profound. The virtual world has converged with the real world into a new kind of existence that we’re only beginning to understand.

A few weeks ago at an appointment, the receptionist apologized for how slowly her computer was processing my information online. It wasn’t a problem; I replied that it was still faster than the pre-Internet days. We chuckled, but there was also a moment of reflection. People not much younger than I don’t remember those paper-filled days, and that’s a shame. For as much as we malign the Internet’s omnipresence, the technology which creates it is awe-inspiring. My new cellphone, this super-cool iPad, and yes, even our ailing laptop, are practical pieces of magic to me and the millions who use similar devices (even if a little too obsessively).

One of the coolest things about the digital age is how everyone is on a level playing field. Every user has as much right to the Internet as anyone else. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle ambitions on www.goop.com have been derided as a more pretentious version of Martha Stewart, but some of her recipes are downright delicious.

Braised Cinnamon Chicken

1 whole chicken, chopped into eight pieces

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 small cans whole tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cinnamon stick

Salt and pepper to taste

Ground cinnamon

Olive oil

Romano cheese to garnish

Wash and dry chicken. Season with salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of ground cinnamon on each side. Coat large pot with olive oil and place over high heat. Sear chicken pieces for one minute on each side, until the skins are browned. Remove chicken from pan.

Lower heat to medium-high and add onions. Stir for a minute until soft, then add garlic. Cook for another minute until translucent. Add cinnamon stick, tomatoes, broth and season with salt and pepper. Stir and bring to simmer. Return chicken to pot, submerging into the liquid. Simmer for about two hours, until chicken falls off the bone.

Dish over bowls of a small cooked pasta, like orzo, and garnish with grated Romano cheese. Serves four to six.

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