1930s.2.0

Yeah, I know “2.0” is overused, but since I am pulling from Tim O’Reilly, I thought it would be appropriate. Tim writes of a Boston.com article:

This is one of those “Duh!” articles that makes you see the obvious. As the article notes:

“Most of us, of course, think we know what a depression looks like. Open a history book and the images will be familiar: mobs at banks and lines at soup kitchens, stockbrokers in suits selling apples on the street, families piled with all their belongings into jalopies. Families scrimp on coffee and flour and sugar, rinsing off tinfoil to reuse it and re-mending their pants and dresses. A desperate government mobilizes legions of the unemployed to build bridges and airports, to blaze trails in national forests, to put on traveling plays and paint social-realist murals.

“Today, however, whatever a depression would look like, that’s not it. We are separated from the 1930s by decades of profound economic, technological, and political change, and a modern landscape of scarcity would reflect that….

“Unlike the 1930s, when food and clothing were far more expensive, today we spend much of our money on healthcare, child care, and education, and we’d see uncomfortable changes in those parts of our lives. The lines wouldn’t be outside soup kitchens but at emergency rooms, and rather than itinerant farmers we could see waves of laid-off office workers leaving homes to foreclosure and heading for areas of the country where there’s more work – or just a relative with a free room over the garage. Already hollowed-out manufacturing cities could be all but deserted, and suburban neighborhoods left checkerboarded, with abandoned houses next to overcrowded ones.

“And above all, a depression circa 2009 might be a less visible and more isolating experience. With the diminishing price of televisions and the proliferation of channels, it’s getting easier and easier to kill time alone, and free time is one thing a 21st-century depression would create in abundance. Instead of dusty farm families, the icon of a modern-day depression might be something as subtle as the flickering glow of millions of televisions glimpsed through living room windows, as the nation’s unemployed sit at home filling their days with the cheapest form of distraction available.”

It’s a sobering thought, though I wonder if this free time may actually have a counter effect on the predicted isolationism. Instead of wasting away hours in front of the television, this wasted time may be spent connecting with others through electronic media , whether by way of social media sites (perhaps too vague a term) or online supported games.

Even if this is true, I am don’t look forward to a time when all communication and connections are made in front of a flickering screen, no matter how innovative the connector is.

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