Changing norms

Via Steve Portigal’s All this ChittahChattah, a short but succinct article by John King, from the San Francisco Chronicle noting just how quietly certain features have started to become embedded in our environment, most notably (from this blog’s point of view), anti-skateboarding measures, traffic calming and security barriers:

“…woven into the urban fabric so subtly we don’t even notice what they say about our society… The common thread? You didn’t see them much a decade ago, but now they’re part of the landscape.”

Creeping changes will always happen, but we should be especially vigilant as architectures of control increase in prevalence. Will tomorrow’s children find it natural to buy eBooks all over again every time they want to re-read them? At what point will the norm change? When will the inflexion occur? We already have a society where not too many people are interested to lift the bonnet (hood) of their car and see what’s underneath; will it seem such a radical change when that bonnet’s permanently welded shut? (Thanks for the analogy, Cory).

I’m reminded of a line in Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana: “It is a great danger for everyone when what is shocking changes.”

Certainly the character in whose mouth Greene put the words did not mean it in the same sense as I mean it here, but still, I think it’s applicable.