"Magical" vs. "Hackable"

I meet more and more folks in education that are contemplating swappingout laptops with complete operating systems like linux, max osx or windows in favor of tablets (or most recently the advent of chromebooks).

I get it.  They're cheaper than market alternatives and are extremely portable.

I own an ipad.  I use it to lean back and to read, or maybe interact a bit with people I know online.

But I never use it to create.

This week I've been rolling up my sleeves and learning ruby on rails, met with challenges and frustrations of configuring my system to push commits of source code to github and production deployments to heroku (a neat site that hosts sites for testing purposes).

It's been a mess. But in three days I've learned more about a new topic that I can apply to the creation of new things than I have by consuming on my iPad.

I've been able to think in broader terms, hatching two collaborative projects with student fellows that further tend to the mission of what we do around here, and what we hope to accomplish for the St. Louis region writ large.

The problem is that tablets strike us with awe by their magic, seven sensors that can help track our every movement, providing us with detailed data about our daily lives.  This is cool, but creates an illusionary distance between us and the technology that drives these experiences. Furthermore, we're tied to proprietary systems that no doubt provide elegance to our user experience, but leave much to be desired with regards to how things work.  This is undoubtably better for the market in general, but for many of us (and more importantly those younger than us who don't quite know they are like "us" yet), it poses problems.

Instead, with the more freedom that complete operating systems provide, we can more fully understand the underlying architectures that drive the future. We can tinker with sensors ourselves with arduinos.  We can create dynamic webpages with ruby on rails.  We can even take our computers apart (gasp!) and understand their inner-workings, hacking ourselves to more complete understandings of how computer hardware can be improved.

I'm in favor of more complete systems because, while not being sufficient conditions for creating the next generations of inventors, engineers, and makers, it certainly is necessary to do so.

Disruption Department