A Private Picture is Worth How Many Words?

    by Paul Lamb
    January 19, 2008

    picturephoning.pngFor those of you who attended the Consumer Electronics Show last week, you may have seen this new “TV Glasses” gadget that allows you to watch a movie played on an MP3 player or cell phone. It appears to be the next evolution of what began with the Walkman and personal digital devices toward the further privitization of the public media space.

    While old schoolers might compain that the “iPodization” or tuning out of our culture is bad enough as it is, others might argue that such devices are no worse than someone reading a book or checking their blackberry in public. Some might even say that, unlike the cell phone, such devices are desireable because they keep us from having to partake in other people’s conversations and digital consumption in the public sphere.

    For the news media and broadcast channels it represents another video-enhanced opportunity to address a captive audience while away from the TV, radio, and desktop – a trend which is already quite popular in Japan and other places. Down the road it might also represent a more visually stimulating, customizable, and comfortable way to deliver text-based media like newspaper and magazine articles and blogs.


    What do you think of this new media “opportunity”, and about the further privitization and customization of media consumption?

    As for me, I just hope people don’t drive or ride a bike with damn things on!

    Tagged: ipod locative mobile private public TV glasses video

    2 responses to “A Private Picture is Worth How Many Words?”

    1. Privatization of media consumption is much older than the iPod. In my current research focusing on American college and university residence halls, this has happened with other media and technologies including radios and phonographs (from public lounges to individual rooms), telephones (public rooms to ends of hallways to individual rooms and now out of rooms entirely as cell phones dominate), televisions (public lounges to individual rooms), and computers (public labs to individual rooms to portable laptops). So from a certain perspective, “What do you think about the further privitization and customization of media consumption?” isn’t a very meaningful question as it’s been happening for quite a while and will certainly continue to happen regardless of what “we” think.

      From a consumer’s perspective, I welcome devices such as this one. The weird transition point when technologies are being privatized and customized for individuals but they still impinge on the public world (although it’s often the fault of the user and not the technology) is unsettling and disruptive.

    2. Dan Schultz says:

      All due respect to Kevin – it seems he has done a lot of work on this topic – but I think that stopping for a minute to question the impact of these sorts of technologies on the way people in our society work together is absolutely a meaningful thing to do.

      On this blog we are all talking about finding ways to help people living in physical communities communicate with digital media. This question of how digital media (such as the ipod, or the walkman, or whatever technology “started it”) has HARMED that communication process hasn’t been very much explored *here* yet.

      Thanks to the English teachers at Cheltenham High School I have had those questions thrown at me since 9th grade. When you sit down with an ipod or when you look at your cell phone to participate in social networks or read locative news sure you may be tapped into digital media, but you have completely removed yourself from the most important media of all: reality.

      Fine, it’s a choice, and you may say that to each his own – but there is a negative externality there. If everyone in the world decides to constantly tap into their mobile media device and becomes a zombie, things won’t be that fun for those that enjoy seeing life in front of them. Go watch Sean of the dead to see what I mean;)

      I know I’m not necessarily bringing anything new to the table here, and I’m not trying to convince anyone that mobile media is something to be avoided, by no means. I just think that it is a mistake to say “what’s the point of bringing it up?” and I think we should welcome the discussion – it is an incredibly important question for people to ponder, especially if those people are at the cutting edge and are helping to design the next generation of tools.

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