I really liked the little thesis behind this Slate piece by Mark Oppenheimer. It’s the sort of thing I wish I’d thought of myself:
Remember when you could tell a lot about a guy by what cassette tapes–Journey or the Smiths?–littered the floor of his used station wagon? No more, because now the music of our lives is stored on MP3 players and iPhones. Our important papers live on hard drives or in the computing cloud, and DVDs are becoming obsolete, as we stream movies on demand. One by one, the meaningful artifacts that we used to scatter about our apartments and cars, disclosing our habits to any visitor, are vanishing from sight.
I’ve said it before, but in my youth, when somebody greeted somebody else wearing a, uh, Walkman, they’d frequently ask them “what are you listening to?” I regularly encounter people while wearing headphones, and nobody asks me that. Do they already know that my taste in music is abhorrent?
On a related note, I’ve always thought that big public art galleries would be exceptional places to meet members of the opposite sex. There always seem to be lots of people standing alone looking at the art. They’re likely to be interesting people because, hey, they’re in an art gallery. On top of all that, there are conversation starters hung all over the walls. In the context of Oppenheimer’s article, galleries are one of the remaining ‘public’ media consumption channels.