FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, April 28, 2005

iPods are Hot -- Literally

IPods are the hottest electronic gadget around. So hot, in fact, that New York City transportation authorities blame iPod theft for a spike in subway crimes since the beginning of the year. Other cities report similar high rates of iPod theft.

Felony crimes on NYC subways have risen 18% since January, an increase almost entirely attributed to thefts of electronic devices like the iPod. Transportation officials are planning to launch a PR campaign urging subway passengers to guard their devices, and to be aware that white earbuds are a dead giveaway that they have something worth stealing.

The supposed reason behind the thefts is interesting. There's no real black market for the devices; thieves on the wrong side of the digital divide simply want iPods for themselves. Says Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "The participation gap creates techno-envy, where the kids who are locked out of participation in the culture covet those tools and devices that are considered essential to being a young person." Simply put, poor kids will steal the status symbols they can't afford to buy.

We've written before about how mobile electronic devices are becoming essential to modern life, especially among young people. This crime wave is merely the dark side of this trend coming to the surface.

The integration of media devices with everyday life makes their loss especially traumatic. Psychologists studying the matter say that those whose iPods have been lost or stolen report deep despondency that goes beyond normal feelings of losing an inanimate object.

Source: Washington Post