Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Entertainment and Meta Entertainment

What did we do before mass entertainment? How did we amuse ourselves? By playing games. First parlour games like charades, then board games like Monopoly. Then came the radio, movies, television, mass entertainment. In the popular telling of this history, we became passive consumers of entertainment…only we didn’t. While watching TV became a cornerstone of our culture, we found a way to participate through water cooler discussion. We’d come to the office with  “Did you see …?”, “Wasn’t it hilarious when…?”, “What do you think’s gonna happen when…” We had a natural instinct to want to participate. The brains behind the entertainment content clued in fast and figured they had a whole new product to sell, entertainment content about…entertainment. Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, People Magazine.  Stories about the people making the stories that we all wanted to talk about. But now we’re living in a Post McCluhan world. The media is no longer the message, now the messenger is the message.  “The people formerly known as the audience” who have sort of participated in the creative process now they have easier access to the factors of entertainment production. They’ve become active participants. Some have even become co-creators (think of all the “Make McCain Great” entries on the Stephen Colbert show last year). Entertainment is no longer consumed at face value. Fans can quickly look up  behind the scenes stories and critical commentary but they also create parodies, spinoffs, fan fiction. This meta entertainment has become as important as entertainment itself.

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One the Road: 10 Mobile Travel Apps

This post was originally written for the “Friday Five” section on the Edelman Digital blog. Here’s an expanded version.

Your luggage is packed and you’ve kissed your loved ones good-bye. Plane Tickets? Check. Hotel and Car Rental Reservations? Check. Map? Check. Guidebook? Check. Those were the good ‘ol days of travelling and according to a CondeNast Traveler article last year they were still necessary evils of travelling. Well mobile technology has caught up and nowadays, it’s all you need.

Tripit

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile Web (Any phone with a mobile browser)

After setting up an account with Tripit, forward all your confirmation emails (flight, hotel, rental car, even Broadway tickets) to plans@tripit.com . The system scrapes through the emails and creates an itinerary complete with all your flight details (with links to web check-ins) and reservation numbers that you can print, email, or access through your mobile device.

Oanada

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile Web

Want to know what that that jacket really costs in your home currency? Get up to the second currency rates and adjust it for credit card or debit card rates.

Yelp

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile web

Ok, you’ve arrived, settled in, and need something to eat, a drug store to buy the razor you forgot, and a supermarket to get some snacks. Fire up Yelp and search for all these venues near your present location. Not only will you get the venues, you’ll get reviews by previous customers so you can decide if they’re really worth checking out.

SeatGuru

Available for: Mobile Web

Not all economy seats are created equal. Some have extra leg room. Some have smaller overhead bulkhead compartments. Some have no screen. Some do not recline. Be more informed about the seat you want by checking the mobile version of Seatguru at mobile.seatguru.com

iLingual

Available for: iPhone

Voice to voice translation apps are in development now (link to http://onlygizmos.com/google-working-on-voice-to-voice-translation-for-smartphones/2010/02/ ). In the meantime, we have to contend with text-based translation apps of which there are a lot to choose from. iLingual takes some of embarrassment out of not knowing the local lingo by having an animated version of your mouth speak the phrase, demonstrated in the following video

Google Maps

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Mobile Web

We use this so much at home, we forget how indispensable it is on the road. All of a sudden, the features we thought were neat’ have become ‘incredibly useful’. You might have missed that great shortcut looking at a paper map…and because of the traffic layer, you know to avoid the highway this time around. And with streetview, you won’t miss that great cafe recommended by Yelp with the teeny tiny sign.

Expensify

Available for: Blackberry

Every business travel knows, tracking expenses are a pain. You need to keep all your receipts, so you can justify to accounting that because of that important client’s particular taste in vintage wine, the dinner for two really did run $200. Enter expensify. Take a picture of the receipt with your mobile camera and connect it to a particular expense. Then when you get to the office print off your report. Connect your credit card to your account and expensify can issue IRS compliant e-receipts related to each line item.

FlightCaster

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone

This is a great app for anyone meeting you at the other end. FlightCaster not only lets you know when a flight is delayed. It gives you the probability of the flight being delayed “nearly 6 hours before the airline alerts”.

HearPlanet

Available for: iPhone

Want a tour guide without the hassle of following a schedule, dealing with other tourists, or listening to cheesy jokes? HearPlanet lets you learn about your surroundings at your own pace through the comfort of your mobile phone speaker. And if you have earphones or a blue-tooth ear-piece, you’ll look much more attractive than when you’re carrying that digital “wand” at the art gallery.

RealSki

WebSite: Can’t find one

Available for: iPhone

For those whose idea of a winter vacation is shredding the slopes of whatever peak was featured in the last Warren Miller movie, this app’s for you. Hold your phone over that traverse with several runs coming off it and you’ll know the names of the runs, level of difficulty, and mid-mountain lodge locations. Maybe later on they’ll incorporate user generated conditions one day with foursquare style points for the skier who doled out the most advice and a free apres ski beer for the mayor. Here’s a demonstration.