Even those sitting with someone are dually engaged in laptop typing and iPhone thumb scrolling, their conversations anchored by mutual Facebooking. Ears are plugged with earbuds.
In total, there are 13 laptops and two iPads visible in the small coffeehouse. But so what? You already knew the world has come to that.
Blaszczyk wants you to know the context: the link from the Victorian parlor to the laptop-laden cafe, from the hearth to the HDTV mounted on top of the hearth (or, as shown in a recent edition of Elegant Homes magazine, mounted inside the breakfront that once held fine china).
"Consumers have always liked to construct their identity around possessions," says Blaszczyk, who will give the first of four lectures in the Design Philadelphia series "Visibly Invisible." Titled "From Parlor to iPhone: Our Gadgets, Our Identities," her talk is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Hamilton Hall of the University of the Arts.
Other speakers are: Thaddeus Squire, of Hidden City Philadelphia, who will address "the yearning for history in pop culture" on Feb. 21; Dan Marcolina, the "Mad App Alchemist," who will talk about transforming photos with iPhone apps, on March 20; and Cynthia E. Smith, who will talk about using technology and design to help poorer communities, on April 3.
Blaszczyk, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, says design history can tie into consumer culture and many other disciplines. In her work, she has traced popular culture through consumer acquisitions.
"In the Victorian period, people used parlors, bric-a-brac, china, and clothing to make statements about themselves," she said. "Today, there's been a major shift. People care less about their living rooms and more about electronic devices that deliver content."
Blaszczyk says people in this culture care less about the object itself than about what experiences that object will deliver. In other words, it's all about the apps. Not that people are immune to personalizing their delivery systems, whether by bedazzling their iPhones, or jailbreaking a phone in order to turn its keys red.
Today, one's identity kit is less likely to be made up of collectible knickknacks displayed in the home. It's more about your Facebook timeline, or your Tumblr collection of photographs and quoted sayings. This is a new way of "setting your table," Blaszczyk says.
"Instead of using cultural hardware such as china, people are using cultural software," she says. "There's a fundamental human impulse to personalize. People will use the new technology to make identity kits. This is your china cabinet. These are your dishes lined up."
Blaszczyk has traced consumer culture from the 1920s obsession with the automobile as a status symbol, through the televisions of the 1950s, and now into electronic delivery systems of the current age: iPhones, iPads, and Xboxes.
"Objects have a life cycle," she said. "They begin as novelties and move toward being commodities."
Today's treasures, Blaszczyk says, don't get handed down as heirlooms.
"You're not going to hand down your laptop," she said. "It may end up in Africa. That is a big difference. When my mother set up her house in the 1950s, she bought a living room, dining room, and bedroom set. She kept them until she died. Today, you go to Ikea, shopping for starter furniture, and you are expected to upgrade moving forward."
That brings up a very modern concept: the environment.
"One question I pose to people is, what can we learn from the Victorian period, the keepsake mentality? It's better for us and the environment."
Electronic devices, she notes, are designed to be obsolete.
"They are not designed to be keepsakes," she said. "A lot of chemicals go into them."
Computer games, she said, are the ultimate example of the evolution of cultural hardware. "It's the gaming experience, the delivery of experience through your computer."
All of which makes for identity kits that are somewhat hidden, contained in a sphere that is not necessarily visible to those who are in your company.
Blaszczyk has mixed feelings about whether there is anything wrong with this, or whether it is a natural and satisfying evolution of design and the instinct to personalize our surroundings, virtual or not.
On the other hand, if you leave the neighborhood coffee shop with her and walk her a half block home, you will see that she is still very much tied to an old tradition of design: the South Philly window, in her case pleasingly done up in a light-up-Santa-cum-reindeer diorama.
It's almost time to take it down for the Valentine's Day stuff.
Ah, stuff. Perhaps, despite its competition from cyberspace, it'll never disappear.
Contact staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg at 215-854-2681, email@example.com, or @amysrosenberg on Twitter.