Misconstrued Intentions – Sometimes Less is More

Last week we had a very rare critically misrepresentative review of our “Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross” app. In the article “How Interactive Ebooks Engage Readers and Enhance Learning”, the writer attempts to characterize “The Pedlar Lady” as not offering “any real value through interactivity”. Not only does this statement ignore the substantive interactivity in our apps, the authour chooses to ignore any educational merits in the app. (Just one example: as in all of our apps, with “The Pedlar Lady” app, a user can record their own voice to be heard alongside the provided music, sound effects and animation.) Needless to say, I find this kind of unsubstantiated journalistic “criticism” frustrating. But we can’t win – if we let the misrepresentation slip by unchallenged, it may compromise our critical presence in the digi-sphere. Yet if we respond to point out the error, we can come across as defensive and thin skinned.

With so many of the available “interactive ebooks”, the interactivity jarringly interrupts the user’s immersion in the story. Sometimes less is more. Just because one can add a gratuitous interactive moment in an app, doesn’t mean one should. We are not interested in prioritizing mindless interactive stimuli over the potential immersive qualities of the exciting new kind of storytelling experience offered by devices like the iPad. From our point of view, it’s about intention, about having the technology serve the narrative opportunity, not overwhelm it. It’s about balance, selection, editing. It’s about substance and presence. It’s about presenting a rich and resonant experience for those who give it time.

This last point is critical, as so much of our technology consumption is rushed. Its akin to fast food consumption. The implication is that we should grab it now for instant satiation. Its “eye candy” versus “culture”. It’s about “shipping product” versus creating art / literature.

We realize we are seemingly swimming upstream in this regard, but we advocate a slow and deliberate engagement with technology. Further, just as overindulging in fast food paradoxically starves the body, we believe there is an enormous audience that is hungry – starving even – for substantive content.

Of course the trick is, how to be seen amongst all the flashing neon, canned music and hucksterism.

(For another perspective on the Pedlar Lady, read the thoughts of The New Yorker’s Susan Orlean here….)

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