Snark, Crackle, Pop Culture: The iPad

Technology geeks everywhere rejoice! We have a brand new Apple invention to talk about, analyze, and prepare to stand in very long lines to get. Apple has officially unveiled their newest, ground-breaking…well…I’m not entirely sure what to call the iPad. I’ve heard it called a tablet, but that isn’t particularly descriptive of what it does. Is it a giant iPod? Is it a replacement for a laptop? Is it an e-reader for books and newspapers like the Kindle? Is it all those things together? Even after researching it, I’m not entirely sure.

Whatever you want to call it, Apple is breaking new ground with the iPad, an aluminum-backed, half-inch thin tablet with a 10-inch screen. It weighs just around a pound and a half and looks just like the iPod with a standard iPod/iPhone connector and a single Home button. The iPad will run all the same apps as the iPod touch as well as give people the ability to download and read written content such as books and newspapers. It will be available in models ranging from $499 with 16 gigs of memory and a Wi-Fi connection to $830 with 64 gigs of memory, Wi-Fi connection and 3G cellular. You won’t be able to get one for a while, late March at the earliest, but people are already talking about the possible uses and downfalls of the technology. To see Steve Jobs introduce the iPad go here:

After the release of the iPad, I heard several media reports talking about the iPad being “the fifth screen.” People in technology, who are much smarter than I, discuss eras by the types of screens that made a huge change in technology of the time. The first screen was the movie screen which brought with it a whole new type of media. As technology improved we were given the ability to bring this media into our homes in the form of the television, the second screen. The third screen was the personal computer which brought along with it the mainstreaming of the internet into people’s everyday lives. The fourth screen was the mobile hand held device, primarily the mobile phone but also mp3 players and multitasking phones like the Blackberry and iPhone. Each of these screens worked independent of one another. In fact, most of us interact with all four screens on a regular basis because each has a slightly different use.

These same technology gurus have been predicting the coming of the fifth screen. While we don’t know exactly what the fifth screen will look like, we can predict what it might do. Experts believe the next big culture changing screen will be a device that works so seamlessly with all other technology that it makes the other screens obsolete. This screen would work like a computer, bringing us word processing and internet access, while also giving us on demand television, music, and movie media. It will serve as our single way of communicating with others as a phone (probably a video phone) as well. It would connect with other pieces of technology like other fifth screens and cars to make it easy for us to do everything using a single device. Even just a decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine this screen outside of science fiction, but in a world where everyone streams TV on their computers and connects to the internet using their phones, the idea of one device doing all those things is within our reach. It isn’t hard to see how this fifth screen would become the only screen people needed.

The iPad may or may not be the first “fifth screen.” It has a lot of issues that need to be worked out before it replaces all our current screens, but it has the potential to the first of a coming wave. Even if the iPad is not the fifth screen, there will come a time in the not so distant future where we will have to start thinking in terms of one screen as the others become increasingly obsolete.

I feel that often in youth ministry we are always talking about technology after it has already become the norm for nearly everyone in our congregations and communities. As leaders we tend to wait until something has been around for a while to begin to even consider what ramifications it might have for our ministries. While we don’t want to waste precious time chasing after technology that will never take hold, I think the church is often frustratingly behind the technological times.

What would happen if youth workers were prepared for a fifth screen ahead of time rather than responding to it after it has taken hold? Would it make a difference? Is it possible that churches could find ways to interface effectively with these screens as they become more common rather than long after they become the norm. Technology isn’t something we can afford to be afraid of especially as we enter an era where the technology is an integral part of everyday life. I don’t know, but I would like to think if we get ahead of the curve we can come up with some creative ways to make sure ministries are on the cutting edge of using technology to spread the gospel. What do you think?

Published February 15, 2010

About the author

Julianna Shults is a DCE serving a Program Manager for LCMS Youth Ministry. With a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Community Development, Julianna served congregations in Florida and Chicago. She writes for the Youth E-Source, co-authored Relationships Count from CPH and co-hosts the podcast End Goals. Julianna is a self-proclaimed nerd, coffee snob and obsessive aunt.
View more from Julianna

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