James Naughton has an article in the Guardian about how portable music and mobile telephones have contributed to the decline of public social space. Not an earth-shattering observation. But he makes one claim that bothers me:
It’s not clear when [public social space started to decline] started, but my guess is that technology – in the shape of the Sony Walkman – had a lot to do with it. As the Walkman de nos jours, the iPod is simply continuing what Sony started. But not even Sony could have single-handedly destroyed the notion of social space. The coup de grce was administered by another piece of technology: the mobile phone.
In the U.S. at least, the decline of public social space has been quite well documented. And portable music devices and cell phones are really rather small, recent developments in the bigger trend. The rise of the suburbs, fear of strangers, dependence on automobiles for transportation are major factors in this decline.