Video Chat is a Breaching Experiment

For a while now, I’ve hated video chat. I’ve got a policy of more or less refusing or ignoring video chat calls. Now, watching the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, I understand why.

Because, just as Facebook’s enforcement of unified identity is a breaching experiment, video chat is a breaching experiment too.

Now, video chat works acceptably in two situations: extremely intimate personal calls (i.e., spouse-to-spouse, or possibly grandparent-to-grandchild) — calls where the absence of staging and the creation of intimacy is itself part of the message — and videoconferencing for business, where each side of the call establishes a stage set, and people are prepared in advance to be on video. (I do think work videoconferencing misses subtle cues of great importance, but that’s a separate issue.)

In other cases, however, video chat forces us to be who we are, for whoever is calling, whenever they call. If for example my mom tries to video chat me at 11:30 am, but I’ve just fallen out of bed and over to my computer, she won’t see the me I want to present: active and engaged with the world, neatly groomed, and so on. Or maybe I’m at work, and a buddy from my D&D game calls. Do I really want to present myself to him in jacket and tie, surrounded by corporate beige?

Too bad that soon enough we’ll all have the technology on hand that makes it more and more difficult to resist video chat. (Then again, I’ve kept off of Facebook thus far.) All of us seem to be engaged in that same giant breaching experiment, only without much of a control group.

[Update 12:21 pm PDT: Warren Ellis puts this more succinctly on his twitter: Videocalling deletes the most culturally adopted aspect of a telephone: its ability to facilitate lying.]

My Apple Dilemma

I’ve been looking forward to the introduction of a 64G iPod touch: finally Apple would release a pretty, solid-state-storage MP3 player with enough room for my music, plus a reasonable amount of space for applications and videos too. (My MP3s alone clock in at about 45 gigabytes, so it’s not as though the space on a 32G iPod would be adequate—my music-listening habits have a long tail, as I rediscover anytime I’m on an airplane with my 8G iPod Nano 2G.)

Today work sent out an e-mail about our corporate switch to the AT&T network, which noted that I would be in line to receive a BlackBerry almost identical to my current hated model. However, if I bought my own phone (with 10% corporate discount), they would hook it up to the corporate e-mail network. That includes the iPhone, I confirmed after double-checking.

So my dilemma is this: 32G iPhone (which would probably give me 16-20G of music, or less than half the collection, once I account for applications, photos, videos, etc.) for $270, or free corporate BlackBerry plus either my current iPod or a (presumably) $399 64G iPod Touch once they launch in fewer than three weeks?

Either way, the company pays my complete mobile bill, so that’s not a reason to pick one over the other. Primary concerns are cost, one versus two devices, and the ability to carry around my music collection. Plus frustration level if Apple announces a 64G iPhone bump in the near future but after their September 9th event. (Because if they were to announce such a thing, the answer would be totally obvious.)