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.

John King, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Mia Lehrer, Robert McGinn

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 …

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