In the 1970s, I could visit a bookstore, a record store, a comic book store. I could go to those things even without a penny in my pocket, just to get the hell out of my apartment, and browse. I could see the things I aspired to buy.
In the 1980s, I could visit a bookstore, a record store, a comic book store, and a video store. Again, it took no money to go to those things. But I was getting older, and the comic book stores were becoming very annoying.
In the 1990s, I could still visit the above, plus computer stores.
During the years 2000-2009, things shrunk to fewer bookstores, far fewer record stores, and one video store (which was actually in a combo record/video store), and the computer stores were mostly gone.
Here it is 2010 and there are no more video stores. There are no more record stores. I will never set foot in a comic book store (they’ve gotten worse!). Computers are a section in other stores (which are also very few). And the bookstores — and comic book stores — are soon to go away.
What is the future going to be like for people when there aren’t any no-money places they can escape to? Places they can indulge their acquisitive aspirations? Or just a place they can go to get the hell out of the house, to escape flailing in their own juices while in the grip of a money shortage?
Will we be left with just the Apple Store? What happens when that goes away? (And it will, since all things pass. Ask some people who ran auto dealerships for generations and lost them during the recent Detroit troubles!)
People would meet new people in such places. You could see someone else browsing in the same music or video section as you and there would an excuse for a conversation. At the very least, you didn’t feel alone in your interests.
What will the future be like when basically all that remains are pay-to-enter places, like McDonald’s, Starbucks, movie theaters, restaurants, bars and clubs? Where going someplace immediately means a commercial transaction must take place?
In this New York Times article, I read of someone who doesn’t mind displaying his daily purchases. He’s a fool. What happens when he’s hit by a bout of unemployment and his spending is contracted to survival purchases? And what happens when his purchases have to go off that grid because his credit has been yanked? Look around: that’s been the reality for millions of people in the past two years — and that’s only the beginning.
So, combine millions of people without the ability to buy things with a contraction in the number of places non-spending people can go to — and what will be the result?
I don’t know.
Yet, I am still a digital book militant, because I see how that ultimately favors writers.
But we writers live among our fellow citizens.
And, just like them, we also rely on places where we don’t need a price of admission.
What happens when we live in a country where the only places to go are literally pay-to-be-here?
Do all the free marketeers have an answer to that? Have they even thought that far (when they think of anything aside from money, that is — and if they ever do that)?
Is the future everyone staying inside, turning on a webcam and indulging in the niche Chatroulettes I think are coming?
Source: Roulette Reactions
Sociologists spoke of the “atomization” of people during the rise of suburbia and the reign of television.
I don’t think they understood what “atomization” can really mean.
We’re all going to find out.