Jesting, Infinitely

On why videophones failed, in DFW’s universe:

“(3) But there’s some sort of revealing lesson here in the beyond-short-term viability-curve of advances in consumer technology. The career of videophony conforms neatly to this curve’s classically annular shape: First there’s some sort of terrific, sci-fi-like advance in consumer tech –– like from aural to video phoning –– which advance always, however, has certain unforeseen disadvantages for the consumer; and then but the market-niches created by those disadvantages — like people’s stressfully vain repulsion at their own videophonic appearance — are ingeniously filled via sheer entrepreneurial verve; and yet the very advantages of these ingenious disadvantage-compensations seem all too often to undercut the original massive shirt-loss for precipitant investors. In the present case, the stress-and-vanity-compensations’ own evolution saw video-callers rejecting first their own faces and then even their own heavily masked and enhanced physical likenesses and finally covering the video-cameras altogether and transmitting attractively stylized static Tableaux to one another’s TPs. And, behind these lens-cap dioramas and transmitted Tableaux, callers of course found that they were once again stresslessly invisible, unvainly makeup and toupeeless and baggy-eyed behind their celebrity-dioramas, once again free — since once again unseen — to doodle, blemish-scan, manicure, crease-check — while on their screen, the attractive, intensely attentive face of the well-appointed celebrity on the other end’s Tableau reassured them that they were the objects of a concentrated attention they themselves didn’t have to exert.”

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