CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

Will the Laptop Destroy the Coffee Shop?

Yes, We’re Using Our Beach Umbrellas to Charge Our Smartphones. No, It Doesn’t Mean the End of Public Space.

In an age when you can purchase a beach umbrella with solar panels to charge your smartphone, defining a public space—and differentiating it from the digital realm—is complicated. A Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” event at the Getty Museum, presented in conjunction with an exhibition of the Belgian artist James Ensor, explored whether such technology is killing public spaces and changing our relationships to the world around us and to one another. Robert McGinn, a scholar of science, technology, and society at Stanford University, said that technologies like the solar-powering umbrella lead him to wonder whether physical public spaces are becoming nothing more than “takeoff points” for adventures in cyberspace. People make less eye contact on the street, he’s noticed, and have fewer serendipitous encounters in places like cafés. “I think there’s even the possibility that there’s been a loss of psychic …