With Halloween and this column coinciding, now is good to share what I hope will be a treat.
The Internet and the World Wide Web existed before the debut of this column back in 1992, but the Web really didn’t really take a form resembling anything like now until after the mid-1990s. Over the years, I’ve tried to include digital intercommunication and cyberspace whenever warranted as it relates to the subject matter of this column. After all, in many ways the digital revolution is the story of this era.
One trend that’s coincided with the development of the Web has been the growth of mobility. Once upon a time, not so long ago, a computer consisted of a huge CPU housed in a box on or under your desk that you interacted with via a CRT, keyboard and mouse. To connect to the Net, your computer had to be tethered physically via a cord or cable.
As laptop computers became lighter, with capabilities rivaling many desktop systems, long-lasting lithium-ion batteries and wi-fi allowed us to untether and work almost anywhere we could lug a computer bag. A visit to any Starbucks nowadays will verify that.
You can still use a laptop, of course, especially the ultrathin, ultralight and ultrasleek “ultrabook” class of laptops that took their cues from Apple’s popular MacBook Air line.
But mobility grew even more pronounced with the 2007 launch of Apple’s iPhone smartphone and 2010’s iPad tablet computer (the fifth-generation iteration, the iPad Air, hits stores tomorrow), and we’re still in the midst of the after-effects of those advancements and their copycats.
All the power and mobility one might need are housed in these devices. To be able to catch up on one’s email or the news, text message a friend or watch a YouTube video while standing in a long line at the DMV or post office instead of being bored and annoyed is a modern marvel.
With the iPhone and iPad came apps, that is, applications or programs designed for that new form of computer in which everything came together, such as media consumption (digital books, music, spoken word, TV, movies and short-form video, games, retail), social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linked In), media creation (digital photography, audio and video, drawing and painting, music, spoken word), interactive communication (email, text, telephony, stock trading), Web search and access, and the ability to also do some actual work via mobile versions of word processing programs, spreadsheets, presentation software and photo, video and audio editors. It’s been a truly wondrous, awesome, creative and sometimes scary era in which to have been immersed.
From my perspective as a journalist and semipundit/blowhard, I’ve been interested in all of the preceding as it relates to news and its creation and dissemination.
The Web has been the main focus of many a media company these past years, and despite all its inherent advantages — instantaneous speed, global reach, search and archiving, interactivity and in the case of traditional newspapers, savings on ink, paper and distribution, etc. — the Web has been a less-than-satisfying experience for many consumers. Oftentimes, the Web experience ends up being clunky and cluttered, frustrating and flabbergasting.
Instead paring down and keeping what’s useful, we’ve tried throwing everything at it, and the result is a mess. We’re still getting used to it, despite the tremendous strides we’ve made in a generation. Old-school newspapers and magazines, on the other hand, have had centuries to figure things out. We’re used to them and we like them, despite their inherent limitations and problems.
The tablet era, however, seems to be pushing us toward what could likely be the future of news dissemination and consumption, especially with regard to an app called Flipboard. If you have a smartphone or tablet, regardless of the make or model, you should download Flipboard. It’s an elegant, intuitive and beautiful way to read content, in a magazine-like format. In what was likely the best endorsement it could get, Apple named Flipboard the 2010 App of the year.
Since then, it’s only improved. From what I’ve read, its founders (Mike McCue and Evan Doll) wanted to create something for news dissemination that took advantage of the hard-won lessons gleaned from the Web thus far and create something better, as if the Web had been designed from get-go instead of having been assembled piecemeal over the years from whatever tool and part happened to be available.
As for the aforementioned treat from the beginning of this column, presuming you have a smart device in your possession and have or will have Flipboard, do a search for the words “Nikkei Nation.” I’ve been experimenting with Flipboard, which also allows users to create curated digital magazines on a particular topic.
Some readers may remember that I co-launched an all-digital Japanese American community news website a few years ago, NikkeiNation.net. It’s gone into hibernation, sorry to report, for a number of reasons, mainly manpower and money. But it’s not dead, and whether Flipboard will ultimately make the concept viable remains to be seen.
In the meantime, I’ve created several Nikkei Nation-branded magazines. They are Nikkei Nation: Japan & Asia; Nikkei Nation: Community News; Nikkei Nation: Arts, Entertainment & Media; Nikkei Nation: Business, Science & Technology; Nikkei Nation: Sports; and the all-important Nikkei Nation: Obituaries.
These Flipboard magazines are only accessible via the Flipboard app on your smartphone or tablet. To find them, use the app, search for the words “Nikkei Nation” and subscribe to whichever ones interest you. That way, whenever you use Flipboard, your Nikkei Nation magazines will be easily accessible. Another way to access it is to send an email to me at the address below and I’ll send you a direct invitation.
The best part: It’s free.
I have to admit, I don’t yet know all the ins and outs of Flipboard. But with just some free time and a little experimentation, I was able to put together some pretty respectable-looking examples of what is possible with these Nikkei Nation Flipboard magazines.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
(George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2013 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.)