Another technology story, but this one touches on another thing I try to look at in my writing – the idea that as much as media, technology and communication change, we’re all still people trying to do and say the same things. Joking around with friends, flirting, having meaningful conversations, miscommunication… whether they’re in person, over the phone or on Snapchat, it’s still how we interact.
Social media tends to get a bad rap. We constantly hear how each Snap or text deteriorates our ability to have real, meaningful conversations. But the truth is, they’re just the new medium we use to be social.
Our Facebook accounts, Twitter feeds and even our text messages are all mediums we use to connect socially. Our phone’s contact list is on equal footing with our friend lists and follower counts. They’re all the latest tools that we use to communicate the yada, yada, yada of our lives.
Humans are hardwired to be social. We’re constantly looking for the newest way to connect with our friends and family members. Currently it comes in the form of tweets and texts. During the Seinfeld era it was the face-to-face pop-in. In the 50s it was the telephone. Every generation creates a new way to communicate with each other and at the same time people from the previous generation decide the new way will ruin humanity’s ability to communicate.
I found this simultaneously interesting, kind of cool, and slightly disgusting. Not disgusting in the “foodborne illnesses leaping from reheated tray of food to reheated tray of food on a cruise ship out at sea” sense, but in the sense that this ship is running to give us more of an online, interconnected, networked and logged experience than a change to escape from it.
It’s something I’ve thought about a lot and tried to touch on in my own fiction, but the real world seems to be catching up with the sci-fi and doing things I hadn’t even thought of – for better or for worse.
I wish Mr. Pierce would have asked a couple of questions about this – whether or not making our experiences more online and digital and shareable is a good thing – but he focused entirely on the technology (and why the people running the cruise think it will attract millenials):
You wear an NFC-enabled wristband that lets you into your room, lets you pay for drinks, and lets you book meals and entertainment just by tapping your wrist. You can check in before you ever get to the ship and track your luggage as it makes its journey to your room. Company CIO Bill Martin told me that Royal Caribbean never loses luggage, so it didn’t need a system like this one – but waiting for luggage made customers nervous, and a tracker brings peace of mind. Oh, and there’s Wi-Fi. More Wi-Fi than has ever existed on a cruise ship before, at a price anyone can afford. (Think $15 a day, not $1 a minute.) You can Instagram your cruise to your heart’s content.
A short story about technology (kinda) and relationships (mostly).
“It’s called ‘Countdown,’” says Brian. He looks away from his phone to smile at the bartender as she hands him another beer, then looks back at us. “It’s free.”
He turns the screen towards us and — I hate to say this — it actually looks cute. The cartoon clock, with little clock arms and clock legs, and one hand on his clock hip. “Countdown” is plastered in colorful letters at the top of the screen.
The term “Gonzo journalism” gets thrown around a lot to describe any journalist who writes a piece under the influence of drugs (or, at least, when he admits to this drug use in the story – otherwise I think a lot more journalism could be classified as “Gonzo”). But the movement that Hunter Thompson defined really had less to do with the use of drugs and kee-razy antics than it had to do with inserting yourself in the story, shedding any guise of objectivity, and reporting not just on the story but the reporting of the story as well. Take Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail as an example; while Thompson mentions Wild Turkey more times than you have fingers to count, the story is really about a reporter for the then-little-known Rolling Stone magazine pulling back the curtain on the ludicrous, staged, scratch-each-others’-backs nature of political campaign reporting.
I love this piece by Grant Howitt about the Panasonic Toughpad Press Conference because, while he does mention what he can piece together about the Toughpad, he casts a more inquisitive eye on the tech release press conference beast itself, and on the journalists at the press conference doing the reporting.
The devices can be used in heavy rainfall. I think for a second that the image illustrating heavy rain – a faceless man in a trenchcoat and leather gloves – looks like it is illustrating cold-war era spying, instead. The Toughbook would be good for spies, I think. It probably deflects bullets. You could use it to beat up an informant. That sort of thing. That should be their marketing gambit. An embittered agent thrashing the Toughbook against the face of a scared Eastern-European man, teeth and blood on the floor, yelling TELL ME WHERE THE BOMBS ARE HIDDEN DAMNIT TELL ME NOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE
Jan stops for a second and says there will be a demonstration. He says “With the nice police ladies we are to make some watersports,” and half-laughs, half-smiles awkwardly. He says that onstage in front of the world’s press. He seems to think that is fine. The women come forward and pour water from a jug over a toughbook sat in a perspex case. People take pictures.
A man in charge of something important just made a SEX PISS JOKE at the Panasonic Press Conference and that’s all fine. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. Is that fine? Is this just what happens at tech events? I want to have a lie down.
Since these press conferences are really little more than big commercials with the press releases already written, Howitt’s Gonzo approach seems to be a much better way into the story of our obsession with the latest and greatest tech.
Poster Illustrated by Ted Slampyak (The Art of Manliness)
The Art of Manliness has created half a dozen faux “propaganda posters” to lay out some of the simple rules of modern etiquette:
During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the use of “propaganda posters” were popular for encouraging good behavior — teaching safety, boosting worker morale, and rousing wartime sacrifice. I’ve always enjoyed the art and design of these posters, and decided to have Ted whip up a set of originals to address an area of behavior where modern society is often lacking: smartphone etiquette.
Come to think of it, maybe it’s not right to call these “faux” posters after all – a number of commenters are planning to print them out and start plastering.