The Return of the Square

Two is a trend.  Vine, the new social media app that allows you to post 6 sec video clips, has a square format.  The videos are in a 1:1 aspect ratio.  This follows Instagram, the popular photo sharing app that gives the user focus and colour filters to improve their images.

This trend arrives just at the time when wide-screen has become the standard, default aspect-ratio of choice for both video and TV.  The footage generated by Apple iPhones, other cutting edge phone technologies, and the latest video cameras, all seem to be on the 2:1 ratio.  Before the move to High Definition, TV and camcorder footage was all 4:3.

Why the change to 1:1 for Instagram and Vine?  Perhaps because the ratio evokes Large Format photography.  This conveys a seriousness, a permenance, and a respect for the art of photography… a useful quality to communicate in the ephermeral, digital world of online image sharing.

Grand Central Station and Hotel Manhattan, New York, 1900 (Library of Congress)
Grand Central Station and Hotel Manhattan, New York, 1900 (Library of Congress)

Image from the Library of Congress, found via the NYC Past Tumblr and Kottke.org.

IncarcerApp: Toddler Mode for the iPhone

This post by Peter Merholz from 2010 stuck in my head:

Toddlers love the home button. Being the only physical button on the device, and thus the only the that provides tactile satisfaction, toddlers press the button all the time. Particularly while using an app they really like. And they don’t realize that pressing this gets them out of the app. And after they press it, they then look at you, as if to suggest something is broken, and you need to help them.

(Via Kottke).

On a Jailbroken iOS device, IncarcerApp gives users a way to solve this problem, by temporarily disabling the home button on a phone.

This tweak is, I think, a perfect illustration of why users might wish to legitimately jailbreak their device.  The term Jailbreaking carries negative connotations.  It suggests a link to piracy, copyright theft, data theft, and the spreading of malware.  But the tweak described above is about none of these things:  It is about a common design/usability problem that many people encounter.  Why shouldn’t these parent-users have control over the core functionality of their devices, so that their children can use the device for entertainment and education?  Why does Apple place barriers to this kind of action?  I would bet that if the functionality provided by IncarcerApp were available by default on iPhones and iPads, educational apps for very young children would become more popular.

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting

The Winklevoss Twins
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, as played by Armie Hammer in The Social Network. I'm well aware that these two are even more priviledged than your average Straight White Male, but they are the perfect illustration. I'm also aware of the hyper-realistic implications of choosing to illustrate the point with a picture from a stylised film, rather than a picture of the actual Winklevoss twins. Umberto Eco has written whole books on this subject.

Via Kottke, a fantastic explanation of white male ‘privilege’ using the metaphor of role-playing games. If ity hasn’t already become a meme, then it should be.

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

It’s essentially a pop-culture way of thinking about John Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance‘ from as described in his Theory of Justice. I think this will be useful for debates around political correctness, like the Diane Abbott palaver a few months ago.

Formerly, the meta-data for this blog was simply “white middle class heterosexual English man” which was my attempt to make a similar point. See also, this piece of juvenalia where I spoke of the British as “privileged, Platinum-Plus humans”, a line I now realised I subconsciously ripped off from The Onion. Indeed, The Onion followed up on the theme with the fantastic ‘Judge Rules White Girl To Be Tried As Black Adult‘ sketch.

Update

At the New Statesman, a report on a growing “men’s rights” movement.