This article is cross-posted on Ubiquity.
With Apple’s retreat from their position disallowing the development of iDevice apps using Adobe AIR–fundamentally the same technology used in Flash on the Web–and the growth in Flash-supported mobile devices, the much-heralded and by many much-desired death of Flash has been postponed (or, to continue to misquote Dr. Holmes and Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated). While this is great news for Flash developers who want to build apps on the iPhone and iPad, it’s even better for Flash developers that want to reuse their code and present the same experience on a RIM device, an iDevice, an Android device, a Windows 7 Phone device or a web browser. I have my doubts that the new RIM OS or Windows 7 Phone are going to find much traction, but it does seem to militate against the value of device-centric programming languages, for all the flak Flash receives for its performance. While I’m sure a highly complex piece of software needs tuning in a native language for particular devices, there’s an vast amount interactive potential in mobile device without achieving the magic of Google Goggles.
It’s much more interesting than that. Adobe AIR, whether we like or not, is the only way to develop multi-scale apps that could present dynamically different interactive profiles depending on which platform the app is being accessed from. Christian Cantrell has put together a very simple example of just such a multiscale app:
In this case, it’s simple adjusting for screen size and aspect ratio and input-type, and it’s a relatively simple piece of software. But with a spectrum of traditional and tangible input types, coupled with a variety of presentation options, one could imagine interacting with the same digital object using multiple scales of interactions.
Why is this good? I have no idea. But my intuition is that there exists the space for a multiscaled group experience wherein the particular devices provide different interaction vectors. One could imagine a curated dataset such that a user at a Microsoft Surface may work with it from one perspective, while another user on an iPad works from another, a web browser providing a third, distinctly different experience, and so on and so forth covering not only the known interactive profiles that exist now but putative profiles that could be envisioned by the creator of such an installation. In a sense, this is already the case with the Internet and the variety of social networking sites being accessed through a variety of browsers and apps, except this would be purposeful and designed from the ground up to for multiscale interaction.
And for those of you who hate Flash, it doesn’t need to be created in Flash.