Making versus taking: Will the mobile shift the balance?

Posted on February 10, 2014  /  0 Comments

There was something Steve Jobs had said to Steven Levy 30 years ago that stuck in my mind:

”You know we’re constantly taking. We don’t make most of the food we eat, we don’t grow it, anyway. We wear clothes other people make, we speak a language other people developed, we use a mathematics other people evolved and spent their lives building. I mean we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful ecstatic feeling to create something and put it into the pool of human experience and knowledge.”

Obviously, I too like to be a maker and not a taker. Or to put in more in terms of what I think I am good at, more an ideas generator than someone who runs on other people’s ideas. But what would the world be like, if everyone is a maker and no one is a taker?

Ah, I hear the response. Division of labor. You make in one aspect of your life and take in others. I write down the ideas I make on a computer made by someone else. Steve Jobs made beautiful machines (I have actually drooled over a NeXT), but ate food other people made.

Anyway, that’s a long preamble to the question of making and taking on the Internet that most of us access via mobile devices. I am writing this (making) on my laptop and not on my smartphone. So will there be two classes of people: those who make, using proper input devices and those who take, using smartphones? But has it not always been the case, that not everyone wrote books? Why do we want the whole world to be doing the 21st Century equivalent of writing books? And what makes us think that the capabilities of the input mechanisms of 2014 mobile devices are ever-lasting?

Only 20 percent of the readership of the English-language Wikipedia comes via mobile devices, a figure substantially lower than the percentage of mobile traffic for other media sites, many of which approach 50 percent. And the shift to mobile editing has lagged even more.

Just 1 percent of changes to Wikipedia articles in all the more than 250 languages are made via mobile devices; for example, since July, there have been 200,000 mobile English-language edits, compared with 20 million total edits.

The concern in the Wikipedia movement and among people who study it is that smartphones and tablets are designed for “consumer behavior” rather than “creative behavior.” In other words, mobile users are much more likely to read a Wikipedia article than improve it.


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