Phones as Hackable Platforms

Douglas RushKoff, of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, reports on a talk that our own 3 Quarks editor Marko Ahtisaari gave at NYU:

The mobile industry is stuck. But don’t start printing out those resumes quite yet. A new romance may give the industry just the kick it needs, if we are to put faith in the words of the intriguing director and head of user experience at Nokia’s Insight and Foresight unit, Marko Ahtisaari.

In a talk he provocatively called “Phones as a Hackable Platform,” the Helsinki-born technologist shared a dark and rarely uttered truth: “If we look at this industry and the speed of innovation, innovation has largely stopped.” Speaking before a packed house of open minds at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (where I run The Narrative Lab), he did not equivocate: “What have we had? We’ve had mobile voice, which was the lead application and still is the lead application. Texting, person-to-person, one-to-one messaging. And, recently, the only dominant functionality that we’ve added is the camera. We need new innovation on this platform for it to grow.”

Ahtisaari understands that the most promising and compelling software innovations have always been born in the hands of playful users. Now more than ever, the mobile industry needs to put some faith in a history borne out during the Internet era. Just as the most successful companies in the software and networking markets have already learned, often the best way to develop a product is to let the users do it. In other words, follow the lead of the alpha-geeks, or those Japanese schoolgirls that Wired and other industry magazines have begun to champion so enthusiastically.

Defining hacking loosely as the “ability to manipulate a product either through hardware or software to one’s own ends and apparently in a way that no one has guessed before,” Ahtisaari offered appropriately diverse illustrations of this kind of creativity.

Read more here at TheFeature.