A recent reader request was:
What things that are around today are most distinctively 21st century? What will be the answer to this question in 10 years?
Here is what comes to mind and I think most of it will remain emblematic for some time:
Technology: iPhone, Wii, iPad, Kindle. These are no-brainers and I do think it will go down in American history as "iPhone," not "iPhone and other smart phones." Sorry people.
To read: blogs and Freakonomics, this is the age of non-fiction. I don't think we have an emblematic and culturally central novel for the last ten years. The Twilight series is a possible pick but I don't think they will last in our collective memory. Harry Potter (the series started 1997) seems to belong too much to the 1990s.
Films: Avatar, Inception (for appropriately negative reviews of the latter, see here, here, and here). Both will look and feel "of this time." Overall there have been too many "spin-off" movies. Keep in mind this question is not about "what is best."
Music: It's been a slow period, but I'll pick Lady Gaga, most of all for reflecting the YouTube era rather than for her music per se. I don't think many musical performers from the last ten years will become canonical, even though the number of "good songs" is quite high. Career lifecycles seem to be getting shorter, for one thing.
Television: The Sopranos starts in 1999, so it comes closer to counting than Harry Potter does. It reflects "the HBO era." Lost was a major network show and at the very least people will laugh at it, maybe admire it too. Battlestar Galactica. Reality TV.
What am I missing? What does this all add up to? Pretty strange, no?
p.s. Need to add Facebook and Google somewhere!