The Showroom by Robin Byles; found on flickr and used under creative commons

Jon Ronson at The Showroom, Sheffield: a half-arsed review

I would argue that my generation has probably seen more change than any other.

The change is technology-driven and affects all spheres of our lives, from the micro to the macro. Synthesisers and computers have changed music forever, for example. I can perform music and DJ in a club using a tablet only a few inches long; meanwhile pop music will never sound the same. I can carry the world’s collective wisdom in ebook format on the same tablet and reference it anywhere, so I’ll never again go back into a library. I’ll never spend more than a few pounds without price-checking and reading reviews online, won’t visit somewhere without stepping through it virtually… I don’t even have phone numbers for half of my friends and if I did I probably wouldn’t use them because I use social media to keep in touch (also I don’t have many friends).

Social media has facilitated a great change in our thinking and behaviour. Interactions that I couldn’t have conceived of whilst I sat tapping in ZX Spectrum games out of a magazine are now commonplace, and frankly very little seems futuristic.

But, argues Jon Ronson in his new book, social media – twitter, primarily, due to the real-time nature of the interactions – has also facilitated a resurgence in a very old-fashioned behaviour: public shaming.

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A very short story about random encounters in a coffee shop

You’re sitting in Starbucks with a friend, just idly chatting about this and that; not anything in particular, just a conversation sparked off by a chance remark. Starbucks is full but that’s okay, you’re just passing the time of day and enjoying the chance to catch up with a friend.

Suddenly, a stranger comes and sits at your table with you.

“Start again,” he says. You look at him, not quite knowing what to make of either his sudden appearance or strange demand.

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