There is no There There
Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Victor Margolin Before I go any further, I must confess that I am a man d’un certain age. Therefore my responses to new technology are selective and generational. I still favor transactions with other human beings over those with machines. When I was a boy in the early 1950s, almost all transactions were between one […]

Take a Seat if You Can Find One
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Victor Margolin I like to go to a café in the morning to read the paper before I start work. I also enjoy meeting friends and colleagues in cafes. For some time, the Starbucks in my Chicago neighborhood was my choice for reading the paper and a Caribou Coffee a few blocks north of my […]

The Payroll Card: Winners and Losers
Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Victor Margolin If you are a white-collar worker making a decent salary, chances are that your paycheck will go directly to your bank so you can access it with a check or a withdrawal slip or draw on it with a credit card or mobile phone payment. There are banks that charge for such accounts, […]

Data Deluge
Friday, March 28th, 2014

Victor Margolin I once thought that the greatest obstacle to reflective thought was the endless haptic texting that occupies the mental space of so many people but now I have a new culprit, data. Devices that have dissected our bodily functions into tiny shards flood the market, enabling us to either confirm the smooth functioning […]

There’s Gold in Them Thar Halls
Monday, February 10th, 2014

Victor Margolin Everyone knows that university sports have become a big business and increased access to their aura and actual content is a great way to raise money. Besides luxury stadium seats, there are the intimate dinners with star athletes, free DVDs of great games, gifts of jerseys with the numbers and names of outstanding […]

Designing for Service Innovation
Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Victor Margolin In recent weeks, I have been involved in three chaotic attempts to introduce changes in services that I have come to rely on. These include banking, public transit, and healthcare. The website of Obamacare is not the only evidence of innovative change that is malfunctioning. I would venture to say that a good […]

Digital Divide
Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Victor Margolin Several months ago my wife and I had dinner in a restaurant with another couple. My wife is in her late 60s and I am in my early 70s. The other couple was about twenty years younger than us. In that twenty year difference, however, was a digital divide that defined each couple […]

Tolerable Censorship
Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Victor Margolin Two articles of significance appeared in my morning papers recently, one in The New York Times, a lengthy obituary for the courageous publisher Barney Rosset, and the other in the Business section of the Chicago Tribune, describing how Amazon has yanked 5,000 titles that belong to the Independent Publishers Group from its e-book […]

Seltzer Machines and Juicers
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Victor Margolin Two of the major trends that have driven product design in the past twenty years are connectivity and sustainability. The desire to be in frequent if not constant communication with others has spawned a variety of devices from cell phones to almost lighter-than-air tablets and laptops. We seem to be heading toward a […]

Who Pays the Piper?
Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Victor Margolin Let’s be clear. The folks on Wall Street and others who work in the financial and banking industries don’t make anything. They create pieces of paper that encode the bad deals they have foisted on American consumers or they buy and sell these pieces of paper among themselves. How many letters have each […]

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Victor Margolin and Sylvia Margolin Americans are witnessing the birth of a new spectator sport – political football. It’s played with two teams – the Democratic Donkeys and the Republican Elephants. The intensity of the competition is similar to regular football but it differs in that the contact is ideological rather than physical. The rules […]

Fifty Ways To Take a Taxi
Monday, January 10th, 2011

Victor Margolin In some parts of the world, taking a taxi or catching a cab is a simple matter. You simply hail a cab on the street, get in, arrive at your destination, and pay the fare indicated on the meter. The transaction is straightforward and free of deception. In Britain, for example, taxi drivers […]

Don’t Touch My Junk
Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Victor Margolin No wonder that American airline passengers are in an uproar. To get on a plane they are obliged to choose between exposing their bodies as x-ray forms or getting patted down and groped by TSA employees. When confronted with the growing passenger rebellion, the TSA falls back on its mantra that nothing is […]

The Selling Society
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Victor Margolin In recent years the once spontaneous exchange between buyers and sellers has become increasingly mechanized. This has occurred in a number of ways. As one example, the Internet became a prime source of goods and buyers learned to follow standardized protocols to select their merchandise and pay for it. Another form of mechanization […]

No Place to Hide
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Victor Margolin One of the fastest growing industries in the United States is surveillance. Municipalities, retail emporia, banks, and condominium associations are spending millions of dollars on video cameras to record the actions of citizens. As if there were not enough to view on network TV, cable, and You Tube, some of us are spending […]

The Other (Red) Campaign
Friday, August 28th, 2009

Victor Margolin Mr. Shinkey by Lucien Stairs, age 5 Writing an e-mail to a friend recently, I happened to mention the word ‘pornography’ in my note. The word turned red as I wrote it. Then the words that followed reverted to black as I moved on with my thoughts. This struck me as odd and […]

Who’s in Control?
Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Victor Margolin For years, George Orwell’s novel, 1984, has embodied the dystopian vision of a society where technology has gone awry and fallen into the hands of malevolent rulers, who use it to keep to keep a docile population under their thumbs. The essence of the novel is that people are controlled against their will […]

The Monkey on Our Backs
Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Victor Margolin Illustration by Lucien Stairs As a remedy to the current economic downturn, economists tell us that we have to spend more money to keep the financial system from collapsing. This advice is on a collision course with the admonition to conserve resources for ecological reasons and save money for future needs. Should spending […]

It’s the Campaign, Stupid
Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

by Victor Margolin Anyone with doubts about Barak Obama’s ability to lead the United States should look at how he has run his campaign. Whereas John McCain’s considerably smaller organization has imploded more than once and is now in the process of self-destructing – riven with accusations and recriminations from within – Obama’s army of […]

English and Palinese; Two Separate Languages
Monday, October 13th, 2008

Victor Margolin Most anthropologists would agree that the number of languages in the world is declining. This is particularly true for those spoken by small communities that over the years have either dwindled to a few survivors or become extinct. While it is common for languages spoken by large groups to overwhelm those spoken by […]

The Valet of the Dolls
Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Victor Margolin One of the most privileged populations in America today is dolls. They are the beneficiaries of powerful forces of consumption that seek ever-new audiences for the plethora of goods that is available for sale. In earlier times, dolls were not thought to be such active participants in the consumption process. They were for […]

All That is Solid Melts into Air
Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Victor Margolin I live in a densely-populated downtown Chicago neighborhood. When I moved to the neighborhood six years ago, there was a small local video store within easy walking distance and a large CD emporium, Tower Records, not much farther away. Now there is neither. Tower went down first when the entire national chain collapsed […]

Where Have All the Humans Gone?
Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Victor Margolin Not long ago I received a letter from a friend inviting me to review an article for a journal he edits. However, it was a form letter that was sent automatically through the complex reviewing system the journal publisher has set up. In order to access the article, I had to punch in […]

You Only Go Around Once
Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Victor Margolin Second Life is an online “consensual hallucination” that now involves more than one million players around the globe. It is a visual environment in which players choose virtual avatars or personas to represent them. These avatars carry on a virtual life, establishing relationships, shopping, buying and selling real estate, and engaging in other […]

Welcome to the Health Police State
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Victor Margolin In the State of Michigan and almost twenty other states, it is legal to fire employees for smoking and even to penalize them financially if their insured spouses smoke or chew tobacco. The Weyco Company, a subsidiary of Meritain Health Michigan, conducts random testing on employees every three months to see if they […]