A pop musician recently reminded me that hit songs aren’t only catchy tunes; they are also a barometer of culture. I never expected to refer to Lady Gaga with anything other than casual references to her music or her edgy style (I’ve heard it called “21st-century Madonna), but one of her recent songs gave me some pause. The song, “Telephone”, has been controversial for its risqué video, but its lyrics are a valuable insight into current culture. In it, the protagonist laments her busy social life “sometimes I feel like I live in Grand Central Station” and “I cannot text you with a drink in my hand” while referring to a boy trying to reach her (“blowin’ up my phone”) while she’s trying to dance.
When I was a kid, the concept of being able to travel with a phone on your person, much less making a call from the dance floor, wasn’t even science fiction. For all of the great SF created in the pre-personal computer/laptop/pda/cell phone days, the only well-known character to ever use a personal technology device was Dick Tracy. True, Agent 86 in the TV Series Get Smart carried a rotary-dial phone in his shoe, but that was more humor than prediction.
Today we deal with the reality of ubiquitous communication, with that dreaded (and often predicted) computing singularity just over the horizon. Convergence is far from over, and just as we are consolidating hardware functionality into our devices, we must start consolidating means and modes of communication under one or two e-identities, with streamlined and organized software functionality. If we do not want to become slaves to our own means of communication, we must decide the role we want personal communications and data access to have in our future society