Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. I get that. The car saved us from having to walk everywhere making travel faster. It promoted shipping and helped build industry. In many ways it did in fact make life easier and better. But this purely utilitarian characterization leaves out the more nuanced impact that certain advancements have on our social life.
Baseball is one of the few things attributed with being uniquely American. Along with Jazz music, Baseball stands as a cultural symbol of what it means to be an American. A snapshot of our culture. The significance of baseball is demonstrated by how early on it infiltrates our lives. Little league programs everywhere preach the values of baseball before children even reach grade school. In suburbia, where I grew up, baseball was a big deal. Sure, we all knew no one was really that good, but there was something about that weekly game in the spring and summer that, in a corny way, drew the town together. A new wave of businesses are starting to shake that foundation.
Fast forward from my childhood in the 90’s, before AOL and the internet was in every home, to modern times where everything is digital and every phone has a camera. Someone had the bright idea to start installing webcams on baseball fields so that parents could stream the game instead of showing up. Now this system has some benefits. Never again do we need to worry about any parent experiencing that classic movie moment when there kid is on stage and the lone empty chair, with their name on it, sits unfilled in the audience. In face it is very cool that parents anywhere, whether they are away on business, or stuck in a traffic jam, can make sure they see catch the game. But while these may be some clear positives, there are always the inevitable negatives that come with giving humans a way out – laziness. Once parents no longer need to show up to see a game, the numbers will inevitably drop off. While it is doubtful that 100% of attendees will disappear (I am sure there are still some old timers out there who enjoy seeing games in person), all you need is to provide and excuse to the already harried parent and they will use it. It’s only natural.
Why is this a problem? More and more digital interaction is replacing the physical and the real. I understand that this is all in the name of progress and efficiency but it is still somewhat unsettling that things such as “friendship” or “connections” all the way up to baseball can be digitized and used to replace the “real” thing that has existed as part of society for so long. I don’t care how convenient it is, you can’t tell me that a G-Chat conversation, or Facebook message replaces the experience of having coffee with a friend in person. Just as I anticipate that watching my son or daughter play baseball via webcam will not be able to replace the experience of being at the game when they catch the final pop-fly. Nor will sending a congratulatory text message ever supplant the victory celebration of dirty water hot dogs and cheep pizza. Somethings are better left unchanged or at least made worse when technology makes them easier.
For more on this check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/sports/baseball/26littleleague.html?_r=1&emc=eta1