Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, and James Wolcott are all fretting over how we’ll broadcast the wonderful stuff we’re reading and listening to in the age of the Kindle. By my lights, it’s gotten a lot easier to do this where it matters. Sure, the random folks you’re sharing a subway car with won’t see you’re thumbing through Proust, but really, when was the last time you actually paid that much notice to other people’s subway reading choices? Is there really a point to signalling at people who don’t know who you are, don’t care, and will probably never see you again? Meanwhile, as you can note from the right-hand sidebar on this blog, it’s now quite easy to signal not just the one book you’re reading at the moment, but your immediate music playlist and the half dozen records, books, and movies in your current rotation.
Fine if you’re a blogger, you might say, but what about everyone else? We’re at most a few years off from broad adoption of augmented reality applications in widely-used smartphones, which will have all of us radiating reams of data to anyone in our physical proximity who actually cares. Your Facebook profile will dog you like one of those floating Sims icons. You won’t just know what the girl sitting across the coffee shop is blasting on her iPod, you’ll be able to listen in. All the tech is actually here already, if not in quite the fancy form it’s implemented at the link above. All it would take is for someone to integrate the location-sensitive functions of an app like Loopt into the apps for Facebook or Last.fm, and you’ve got a point-and-profile system. The real question is whether people actually want to signal that much in the physical context. Some of us are chary of giving every stranger in ping-shot a pretext for striking up a conversation.