[David Strom's Web Informant] Web Informant 27 September 2010: Screen Addicts

David Strom david at strom.com
Mon Sep 27 08:57:33 EDT 2010

Web Informant 27 September 2010: Screen Addicts

Two of my favorite movies, Blade Runner and Total Recall, have these
scenes where their view of the future is filled with video screens
hanging everywhere as the characters move about their daily lives.
Amazingly, this future has already arrived, and we have become screen
addicts. I can go from my home PC, TV, Kindle, cell phone to subway
(multiple TVs per car, playing sports highlights and other ads), to
restaurant and sports arenas. Our cars have a GPS and seat-back videos
for the kiddies. There are billboards that are just large video
displays popping up around town, almost to the point of being too
distracting with their changing images. Bus shelters and even taxicabs
have video advertisements running both inside and out. Even our phones
have multiple screens and video cameras now.

Remember those old days when just sports bars were the only ones that
had TVs? Now the average restaurant is chock full of video "walls" and
even some have TVs in every booth, like the jukeboxes of yore. And
watching TV is no longer a passive activity: both my wife and my
daughter pull out their phones or laptops to check some random thought
online, look up an actor's IMDB profile, or text their friends while
watching a show.

The Cowboys and Giants stadiums are other examples of immersive video
environments. I had a chance to tour the Cowboys' stadium before it
was finished the day they actually turned on the gigatron that is
hanging over the field between the 20-yard lines, and it was
interesting. All work stopped and all eyes were focused on that screen
when they starting playing some football video highlights. It was
almost like a religious experience. Maybe that was the intent. But the
big midfield screen isn't enough – there are more than two thousand
regular-sized TV screens scattered throughout the place, if you ever
can take your eyes off the enormous one hanging over the field. Each
TV has its own IP address and can be programmed individually to
display something during the game, making it an advertiser's wet

Speaking of screens in cars, remember when you last talked to your
kids or played the alphabet game on a long car ride? It required
nothing more than your own powers of observation: no batteries or
technology needed. Now every passenger has to have his or her own
video cocoon to pass the time.

As an experiment, a college in Pennsylvania last week tried to turn
off Facebook, Twitter and IM for an entire week across its campus,
which is a single 16 story building in downtown Harrisburg. Nice try.
During this self-inflicted ban, the college was host to a conference
on social media trends and a video game tournament for high schoolers.
I guess going cold turkey proved more difficult than they first
thought. Of course, students could still have access via their mobile
phones to get their fix, or walk over to a Starbucks nearby. That is,
as long as Facebook itself is online and doesn't have outages of its
own doing.

It used to be that having one monitor on your computer was considered
sufficient. That seems so old fashioned, like looking at a model T
now. Today's geeks have surrounded themselves with at least three
screens per PC, and traders have entire video walls sprouting from
their desks. Why bother with virtual reality goggles when you can sit
inside your own computing landscape?

Yes, we are addicted to screens. How many families sit down to dinner
with their devices nearby, just in case they get a text that needs
attention? Well, I will keep this column short this week, just so you
can get back to more important business. But it might be good to take
a few minutes to walk outside and see how far you can get before you
see another screen.

Retweet this: @dstrom says we are all screen addicts http://bit.ly/cGbyao

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