As is undoubtedly clear, I love technology. That said (admitted?), this should not be inferred as a whole handed endorsement of its widespread application without consideration of consequence.
As I write this I am sitting at gate K2 at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. I've been here - O'Hare - before. But this time, at this gate, there is a new addition: a flat screen TV hanging from the ceiling.
This addition is forcing CNN - currently covering the Chris Christie bridge controversy - how long until we add a "-gate" to this in some way? "Bridgegate"? "Trafficgate"? - in excruciating detail upon the weary travelers as they wait for the next flight.
This experience echoes my breakfast experience at RBI Restaurant in Rockford, which successfully places a flat screen television at every potential viewing angle, foisting ESPN, Faux News and, again, CNN on its customers. There's really no position in the restaurant that allows you to avoid a screen, so it's really just a matter of choosing the lesser of evils.
You can have the opportunity to watch television while getting your hair cut, teeth cleaned, and filling up your car as well. I find, as time goes on, that this is increasingly frustrating.
Which leads me to wonder: why?
This is not a screed against television as an entity. I grew up watching TV every night, and my daily conversation is peppered with television references, done conscious, some not. The number of Seinfeld references alone passed between myself and MLW during our trip is staggering (my favorite - the man who passed by us in the very large hat was clearly wearing an urban sombrero).
Still, as technology advances there has been a significant shift in how we consume video entertainment. In the era of iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix we can be selective about what we watch, and when we watch it. It is, in fact, possible (at home) for the television to always - and only - be displaying something that the viewer explicitly chose to see.
Which means that these public screens, displaying video that no one actually asked for, video selected with an eye towards the lowest common denominator, have become the metaphorical equivalent of the kid with the huge bass speakers in the trunk of his car. In both cases they inflict their preferences - unasked - upon the world around them.
One would correctly point out that I don't have to eat at places that do this - and I don't, as a general rule - I avoid restaurants and gas stations that make television a primary component of ambience. But the TV at the airport gate is a different thing. This is a public space, and the TV is an irritation at best, and perhaps better categorized as noise and sight pollution.