Feud! Boston Globe v. Assistant Professor Ge Wang

Recently, there was an article in the Boston Globe by Linda Matchan. The first paragraph is reproduced in full here, for your benefit.

The geniuses at Stanford University have done it again. The folks who helped bring us Google and the tools for genome sequencing now give us the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra. The guy who invented it, an assistant professor named Ge Wang, built an app that lets you play your iPhone as though it’s an ocarina, a 12,000-year-old wind instrument.

But wait! The positive tone quickly degenerates into attacks on poor professor Wang.

Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me, a mortal of lesser academic standing, to point out the obvious, but here goes: Isn’t there something a tiny bit deranged about using an iPod ocarina — or any other iPod solo or ensemble instrument — while you’re waiting to pay for your milk? Can’t you just stand there? Or talk to someone? I actually tried this, just the other day. I waited in line at the supermarket, and — lacking an iPhone ocarina (or an iPhone, for that matter) — I actually had a conversation while I was waiting, with the woman behind me. And I enjoyed it! I would like to say this to Professor Wang: Why is it so important to invent even more ways to play with your iPhone? I know it’s a smartphone, but is it really smart to be so disengaged from the world and the people around you?

Indeed! People with iPhone apps are utterly unable to hold conversations. As are the apparently godlike scientists here at Stanford. Good to know. One more paragraph, just in case you enjoy this sort of thing:

What I’d like to see coming out of Stanford is a study about the unintended consequences of what Wang touts as the “mobile renaissance,’’ but that I lament is the decline of eye contact as a function of all this thumb contact. Like the time I said hi to a normally friendly acquaintance while she was plugged into her iPod. She waved me away. “I’m listening to a really good song,’’ she said. And it’s only going to get worse: I’ve seen the future and it was in Japan, the land of two-fisted texters where it’s common to see people with an electronic device in each hand, texting with one and watching videos with the other.

Well, hmmm… a quick google search for “Stanford study unintended consequences technology” turned up this article with the perhaps relevant headline: “Study takes early look at social consequences of Net use.” The first sentence:

As Internet use grows, Americans report they spend less time with friends and family, shopping in stores or watching television, and more time working for their employers at home — without cutting back their hours in the office.

Now, maybe it’s malicious to harsh on the contents of the Boston Globe’s Relationships section, but this does seem especially egregious as it 1) is an article that serves no purpose except to complain about the kids these days with their internets phones, 2) whines about the lack of the existence of a study (that does exist) and could easily have been found, and 3) blasts Ge Wang who looks like a solid guy.

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