My essay over the holidays is (hopefully) on the link between technology/items and politics. A pretty broad area so narrowing it down towards, perhaps, cultural and sociological effects of individual items. Which makes this Wired story on Americans' addictions to gadgets quite interesting.
Some nice quotes first off:
"Our culture is about distraction, numbing oneself," said David Greenfield
The appeal of different high-tech products differs from group to group.
"Part of the reason is the hype, the commercial selling of it," [Greenfield] said. "Some people feel the products will improve the quality of their lives. But do we really need to be connected in every way, shape or form?"
This relates to the direction I was thinking of - that (in addition to other, more technical/economic factors that I want to blog about at some point) technology as a "product" (e.g. iPods) or a "brand" (e.g. DVDs, or even RSS) acts as a social indicator - not just of status (e.g. how much it costs to adapt to/invest in a technology), but also of the nature of a person (at least in a limited, technically-biased sense). The rise of the PS2 was, I claim, a social phenomenon rather than a technical one - people bought them because others bought them and because of the image portrayed by marketing, not because of any particular applicable functional advantage.
My essay hopes to go into why this "social compatibility" aspect to technology affects society and therefore politics, but politics aside, it's similarly important for technical pioneers and entrepreneurs to understand the nature of the playground as it stands currently - i.e. that one cannot rely on a technology being taken up on a large scale purely on technical grounds.