Gadgets are a part of my daily routine. I find them to be convenient, helpful, and well, fun. Mike Elgan is a journalist who writes about technology and innovation. His vast coverage of technology has spanned numerous publications and countries, which means he is a great person to talk with about gadgets.
Travis Blair: How would you define the word, “gadget”?
Mike Elgan: Any consumer device that’s fun to use.
Travis: The next big thing is always around the corner. Why do you think people have always been so interested in the latest and greatest?
Mike: One reason is that people look at how some technologies have transformed their lives and changed the world — the Internet, the cell phone, Google, GPS and so on — and remember back in horror about how they weren’t paying attention when these things were new or obscure. They don’t want to miss the next one.
Another is that latest and greatest technologies are like any other cultural reference, like new books, movies or TV shows. People want to be current about what’s happening.
Travis: What is the one device that amazes you the most?
Mike: I’m amazed all the time by new things, but the most recent is Google Glass. Now that apps are emerging, its clear that this bold leap into wearable computing is truly amazing because it makes Google services more immediately accessible.
Travis: You have lived and worked in places around the globe. Have you witnessed a different relationship between gadgets and certain cultures?
Mike: The differences are extreme. Coming from Silicon Valley which, even by American standards, is tech-obsessed, it was shocking to see how obsessed so many people are with phones but how disinterested in smartphones — apps and all they can do.
For example, in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Spain (I recently lived in each for more than three months), people are obsessed with being at cafes but keep their laptops and tablets out of that obsession. I was always the only guy working at these cafes.
To Kenyans, a cell phone is primarily a banking device for getting paid, paying and transferring money.
I found people in Morocco to be by far the most upset by cell phone photography.
Travis: If you could travel ahead in time for a day to witness the future version of anything we currently use, what would it be?
Mike: Google Now, for sure. It looks like it’s going to evolve into everybody’s invisible friend, always whispering words of wisdom and opportunity into our ears and guiding us through our daily lives, answering our questions before we ask them. I expect that it will feel like everything on the Internet is part of your own knowledge and I want to know what that feels like.
Mike Elgan’s work can be found in such publications as Computerworld, Datamation, Cult of Mac, Houzz, PC World, InfoWorld, MacWorld, CIO Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle and The CMO Site. He can be found on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.