On eschewing devices and living well

From The Stuff of (a Well-Lived) Life, where L.M. Sacasas reflects on the furor around the recent iPad ad:

A good life is supported by a diverse array of focal things and practices, which tend to reward us with deeper, more meaningful experiences; a gratifying measure of bodily skill and competence; and possibly even a stronger fabric of relationships. Alternatively, a life characterized merely by the consumption of virtual goods mediated through devices, and the subsequent dependence and isolation such a life necessarily entails, will not be conducive to our well-being.

iPads embody a device-centric paradigm towards computing, which is exactly why my wife and I have been extremely cautious in how and when we allow our children to use them. Their device-centric nature isn’t so much an artifact of the table form factor as it is of how Apple markets it and tailors the associated user experience towards consumption over creativity. The recent ad, which attempts to counter this perception—”look, your iPad can be your piano!”—instead fails miserably and only reinforces this hidden bias. We don’t want our devices to subsume those focal objects that make an embodied, creative life so fulfilling—if anything we want devices to remain in the periphery, to complement them instead.

I fully believe there could be an alternate universe where tablet devices excel at empowering creativity by complementing other tools and instruments without trying to supplant them. But, that’s clearly not the universe we inhabit today.