On Accessibility, Trends, and Technology

I was taking my roommate’s car in for a check-up, and grabbed a quick cab back home.  On the way I had a fascinating talk with the cab driver, who repaired, restored, and resold old cars.  To him, eBay was one of the greatest blessings to his hobby, as well as various specialty sites.

He regaled me with fascinating tales of how he got obscure parts and historical doodads, often very cheaply, all thanks to eBay and the internet.  Frankly, there’s an entire world of cars out there I never thought of.  I almost wanted to pay him more to drive around a bit more and tell me other things.

He got me thinking that eBay and other specialty sites are in many ways like Netflix, Hulu, Google Books, and the like.  They’re ways to get obscure and unusual materials that others may not have, understand, or appreciate.  The internet is a boon to the specialist, the unusual, the odd, and the unknown.

Just as I’m currently indulging my love of Asian Cinema with Netflix (side note: Tsui Hark should have directed The Last Airbender), this gentleman could indulge in his love of cars.  The internet and other technologies change what is obscure and inaccessible – indeed, everything is accessible now.  If you want anime, car parts, books, pornography, religious texts, plans, etc. there’s a website for you, probably several.

This is not just a technical shift, it’s a cultural shift:

Nothing is truly “obscure” or “unknown” anymore – you’ll stumble across things you never knew about by accident, and little is hidden from serious research.  If you need it, you can probably get it.

In turn, I think this may be changing people’s ideas of what is “normal” or “common.”  With so much available and public thanks to internet technology, it’s also publicly known to people.  This changes social norms and cultural concepts as we’re seeing things we never new existed, forgot, or even tried to ignore.

This further increases the chance of not just cultural adaption, but of conflict.  How many times have we seen assorted kerfluffles break out over video games, anime, manga, pornography, etc. on the internet?  It’s going to keep happening as we have access to so much.

Now let’s take all this “stuff”, all this access and mix in our favorite subject of late – Mobile.  When you can get everything quicker and with less localization issues, when you can find out more faster, it chains how we live and work.

One cab ride reminded me of the sheer power of Access we have.  I’ve seen it from my end, the core geek market, but in this case I saw it broader, saw it through the eyes of an auto enthusiast.  That brought home just how fast things are changing – because nothing is truly obscure or hidden anymore.

I know I didn’t appreciate it.  I’m wondering how many people really do.

And, for those of us that do, who work in information and technology, what does it mean for careers?

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach for professional and potentially professional geeks, fans, and otaku. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/