Cyberpunk Review » Podcast Phones - The Next Step in Global Surveillance?

May 24, 2006

Podcast Phones - The Next Step in Global Surveillance?

Podcast phone


PC Magazine has a wonderful article on MIT Media Lab’s RadioActive phones. These phones allow their owners to do podcasts directly through the phone which is then uploaded into a pretty slick site that adds metadata to it, associating the podcast to all potentially interesting connections.


By and large, more people are turning to their mobile devices for entertainment, says Donath, but rather than call, and potentially annoy, a friend, it would be ideal to “conveniently drop into an [ongoing] discussion and drop out when you’re done.”

…The RadioActive project, which Donath (MIT) created with student Aaron Zinman, defines a large-scale asynchronous audio messaging system, or mobile audio forum. In this system, voice messages, which are short audio sound bytes, are exchanged between groups of users via mobile devices, like cell phones or PDAs, as a method of “discussion-on-demand.”

…Just like an email application or an RSS reader, RadioActive supplies its users with an inbox, which displays the first message of discussion threads that have been subscribed to or are contextually relevant. For instance, location may be one factor the system takes into account when determining contextual relevance. In this scenario, threads relating to New York City restaurants may appear in the inbox as the user walks around Manhattan.


While this functionality in itself is pretty interesting, the thought that occurs to me is that this is just another step in a societal change where we know where everyone is at all times and where all communications are potentially monitored. Paranoid parents already have the ability to keep tabs on their children 24/7; now a jilted lover has to worry about the possibility of his or her significant other secretly “podcasting” their breakup discussion because this would be so dramatic that it would be a surefire hits generator on whatever the hot social networking site was at the moment.


Final Cut Screencapture


The trend is clear: reality shows and social software technologies are transforming you an I into the stars of the modern media age. Our movie stars are quickly losing their sacred pedestal as the voice and face of society. The societal actors are becoming the nameless many, who now can make a name for themselves by podcasting the latest bizarre incident in their lives for all to see. Yes, as the article suggests, we can use the podcasts to immediately broadcast to Manhattan that our crab cakes at Crabs-R-Us contained too much filler, but over time, the game show host mentality will take over. Then the question facing society will not be too dissimilar from the question explored in Final Cut: how will people act when they know that potentally all their interactions are being recorded for others’ consumption?


Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame is based on the presupposition that there was an agreed-upon, discrete stage. In the cyberpunked present, our 15 minutes of fame has been converted into a potential 24 hour-a-day fame on one of a bazillion media outlets. Every interactive website is now in direct competition with cable & network TV. We all compete for your attention. To the extent you participate, you become part of the new internet reality shows. So “podcast away” ladies and gents!

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living, News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.


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