This little smartpen from livescribe just might revolutionize my note-taking in seminars, discussions, and ethnographic interviews. If you have never seen it before, check out some of the demos on YouTube. In short, it records audio as you write and links what you are writing to the audio (by recording what you write through a small infrared camera near the tip of the pen). When you are done recording you can actually tap the pen anywhere on your page and the pen will play the audio that was recorded at the time you were making that specific pen stroke. Students are already sharing lecture notes in the community section of livescribe.com. As recording devices become increasingly embedded into everyday objects the days of protecting lectures from being recorded seem numbered.
Embedded below is my first use of the pen in my Digital Ethnography class. This was Day One of midterm research updates by my research assistants (“students”). As you can see, you can click anywhere in the notes to hear what was being said at the moment I was writing.
I feel like this is one of those “Rear View Mirror” moments in which a new technology comes into our lives with enormous potential and we just don’t know what to do with it yet. We think of it in terms of what we know (pen and paper) and fail to recognize the potential. It is impressive as it is, but I’m especially excited to see what happens as they become more popular and people start building new applications and new ways to use them.