Alice on the iPad; When Technology Kills Imagination
So we have the iPad. Like it or loathe it, it's everywhere. Not a single day has gone by since the launch where I don't read a tweet about it, or see a link on Facebook, or an article in some online paper or magazine. It's all over the place. This isn't a post about the iPad though (there are really enough of those), although the iPad was really the last straw in making me write this post. Actually, it was a video. This one;
And then this article, "I don’t have an iPad, but watching this amazing video demonstrating the Alice in Wonderland app made me want to run out and get one — and if I had a young child, it would make me want to get one even faster...So is this the future of e-books — every book its own app?"
Good God I hope not. I just can't think of a quicker imagination killer than that. Don't get me wrong; I see the plus sides. It's incredible technology, and for (dare I say it) grown-ups - or those who have read the book and can see the technology for what it is - it's a fantastical trip (almost literally), and experience to see the book bought to life like that. But remember when you first read Lord of the Rings - or any book made in to a film. Remember how the characters built up in your head, how they looked, sounded, how the surroundings looked, perhaps even smelt. Then remember when you saw the film and were either blown away (as I was) by how uncannily accurate it was to how you imagined it, or how things didn't really add up, and the disappointment you felt.
What do you think children mostly do today, or in the future? Watch LOTR or read the entire thing? I'm guessing watch it. But now their visions of Middle Earth, of Gollum, of The Battle of Pelennor, the Elves - everything - it's all essentially Peter Jacksons. Not a bad vision no, but it's not theirs.
If apps become standard for books, then where does that leave a child's imagination? The barrage of TV, films, and computer games are bad enough. How often do children take their self-made Lego inventions and sit in the garden, carrying out a full on attack against the King of the Swamp, while dodging attacks from the air by a modified jumbo-jet? Toys today come so fully prepared (batteries included), that imagination goes as far as the on switch. Every possible action is preprogrammed and children sit back and watch it. No wonder toys are disposed of so quickly when there's no chance of actual, and this might sound crazy, but actual play.
Call me old fashioned, but I desperately want my children to grow up reading a book and building it in their heads. I want them to be overjoyed or heartbroken (yes, I'm that mean) when they see the film adaptation of their favourite book and see someone else's take on it. I want them to make bows and arrows and throw sticks at each other, pretending they're cowboys or G.I Joe or whoever the hell they want to be; Jesus, for all I care. What I really don't want is for someone else who I've never met to dictate my children's take on a story. I don't want my child to grow up thinking that if it hasn't got an on button, or flashing lights and manic sounds, then it must be boring.
How do we expect children who are brought up this way to cope in later life? How on earth is having everything served out on a plate, neatly packaged, 100% safe, on/off, no loose parts, going to help? What happens when they actually have to deal with a real-life situation that calls for either experience or an imaginative solution?
I know I'm ranting, but it's a topic I feel very strongly about, and it does really worry me.
I'm all for technology. But I'm more for imagination. Our imagination can kick technology's arse. And that's a fact. I'm now going to show that I have no imagination and quote some other people here, who I think say what I mean quite well.
Personally, I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica
Anyone who can be replaced by a machine deserves to be
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free
It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards
I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see