John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
It's like the new iTunes, yet somehow worse.
What's more irritating than having your new iPhone spiked with (and this is only one non-fan's opinion) a dull, musical turd?
How about a high-quality speaker that looks nice and sounds good, but can only emit the crooning voice of Bono?
This devilish device, called "Pro Bono I: A Speaker That Only Plays U2," has reared its horns on the marketplace thanks to Brooklyn-based software artist Omer Shapira and tech designer Surya Mattu. Shapira in particular can be a bit of an electronics troll; his previous project was a hidden transmitter that turns off people's Google Glasses. This latest invention continues the jabbing of Silicon Valley's more-questionable outputs, in this case that infernal iTunes update loaded with U2's mediocre-rated new album, Songs of Innocence.
Use a stereo or computer to try to play your favorite tracks on "Pro Bono I," and it will detect the audio signal and immediately start blasting Songs of Innocence. Here are Shapira and Mattu explaining why they built this horrid thing:
Pro-Bono I is a response to Apple's placement of content on every iTunes-connected product, without prior consent. It's not just hilarious that a company that emphasises individualism and taste would put one album on every device it sold (although that is, we admit, kinda hillarious), it's also terrifying.
The consequences of placing a payload inside something you think you own reach further than an insult to your musical taste. It may compromise your civil rights, personal safety and freedom of expression. This breach of rights is a deal between an Electronics manufacturer and a record label, the next one may be an uneasy deal with an oppressive regime.
For all the madmen out there (and perhaps Bono), you can purchase one of these customized speakers on eBay for $1,500. That price may sound steep, but think of it as the cost of investing in, as the creators put it, "memorabilia from this short dystopian episode so it never happens again."