25 novembre 2010


iPod zombies, a digital undead army lurching through the streets. We may call it the iPod zombie trance, but it's a device-agnostic state, since this living dead horde also consists of iPhone zombies, BlackBerry zombies, and the generic MP3 zombies and cellphone zombies.
The iPod zombie pedestrian isn't alone in needing earbuds and a tiny screen these days. Others in a state of iPod oblivion include iPod zombie joggers, iPod zombie dog walkers, iPod zombie cyclists, and iPod zombie rollerbladers.

iPod pedestrians (or, iPodes­trians) people regularly—you might even say compulsively—read and compose e-mail while walking down the street. But that's not all people do while power walking to their next appointments. They also text, read Facebook and Twitter status updates, scan RSS feeds, and more than anything else, they bliss out to their favorite tunes at unhealthily loud volume levels.

Similarly, in your local Starbucks, you've probably seen your share of laptop zombies who are oblivious to everyone and everything except the screen in front of them.
If walking while texting and other forms of pedestrian inattention were merely comical, no one would worry about them too much. But attention is a zero-sum game, so concentrating on your iPod results in a technological autism or unintentional blindness that can lead to near collisions with fellow pedestrians and actual collisions with street lamps. One study found digital music players to blame for up to 17 accidents every day in the UK.

The preferred term for this among cognitive scientists is inattentional blindness, which they define as "the failure to detect the appearance of an unexpected, task-irrelevant object in the visual field." So if you're zoned out listening to Arcade Fire at top volume (the task) and you fail to see an oncoming vehicle (the unexpected, task-irrelevant object), that's IB, and that's probably trouble, perhaps even death by iPod.

The risks increase if the driver of the car bearing down on you is preoccupied reading or sending text messages, a form of digital drunkenness known as being intexticated. An incredibly dangerous habit, intextication is also called DWT, or driving while texting. If the driver is preoccupied with a cellphone call instead, call it DWY, or driving while yakking—abbreviations that play on the legal term DWI, or driving while intoxicated.