Random musings on producers and consumers

I was at the mall last week, doing some shopping, when I noticed a crazy-long line snaking out of the Apple store. It was the day of the iPhone 5 release, and there were at least 300 people waiting to get the latest gadget. I have no interest in smart phones, to be honest, but apparently I’m in the minority.  This got me thinking about the “thing” that everyone wanted to have, and why they wanted to have it.  Why is everyone so eager to consume this device?  Because the device itself offers the opportunity for more consumption.

Think about it: what do you do on your smart phone?  You consume information, in many different forms. Whether it’s email, texts, news alerts, twitter feeds, instagram photos, etc….. all these are things that you are eagerly devouring.  Which makes me wonder about the flip side of the coin.  If all these people are so eager to consume, who is doing the producing?

Because for every “thing” that is being taken in, that “thing” has to be created somewhere, by someone. It used to be that one person would write one letter, and that one letter was then read by one other person.  A direct 1 to 1 relationship existed between the producer and the consumer.  But in the age of digital, it’s much more common to send out 1 text to 20 of your friends, so now there is only 1 producer and 20 consumers.  It gets even worse when you think about news feeds or Twitter, because then you might have one producer (Ashton Kutcher, for example), who single-handedly has more than 1 million consumers.  The ratios get all wonky.

In fact, it then becomes a supply and demand problem.  The demand for information has increased crazily … there are a million people out there eagerly awaiting the latest tweet.  But there is only one person supplying that demand ….  and I have to ask: how do we feel about that?  As a society, I mean.  Are we okay with the fact that one voice is now shouting louder than ever before, instead of having many voices but smaller audiences?  Who really has the power in this relationship, the consumer, or the producer?

The last thing that’s been troubling me is about my iPad, which I totally love and am completely addicted to.  But I’ve noticed that on this device, I am only a consumer.  I rarely, if ever, produce anything on the iPad.  I don’t send emails on it because I find the keyboard awkward. I just stalk my twitter feed, but really only post when I’m in front of a proper computer.  I look at pictures, but I rarely take any because the quality is better with a real camera …. I have become more of a consumer on this device that I’ve ever been before.  And I’m not entirely sure that I’m comfortable with that!
Wow. That’s a lot of heavy thought for a Monday morning.  Must be time for a cuppa and a biscuit.



Posted on 01/10/2012, in travel. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I have an anti-Apple friend who refers to iPads and their like as “fondle-slabs”. I suspect part of the attraction is that they look so sleek, and what they do they do so well, that they arouse a sort of semi-conscious magical thinking. I don’t think I’m alone in imagining, as I browse some ultra-chic stationery shop, that if I only had this hand-laid paper, this elegant pen, my handwriting would miraculously become calligraphy and my thoughts the most stimulating wit. Shiny shiny iPads inspire the idea that the world one chooses to see (and show, insofar as one can) through it is going to be equally shiny.

    But I think the jury’s still out on whether the provider/consumer balance is likely to be tilted by it – not outside Apple’s walled garden, I suspect, where the complaint for years has been the cacophony of new producer voices, most of which won’t last or aren’t saying anything particularly new. Every new development brings with it a tendency to try to corral consumers into a walled garden (remember Compuserve? Netscape? Microsoft’s faltering forays into content provision?), but there’s always something that means enough consumers are never quite satisfied with that. Remember what happened to Adam and Eve – and what they did to get themselves expelled from the garden………………………

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