I was listening to the radio the other day (some show on NPR, I don’t remember which one). There was a little commentary by a reporter who has been reading iPad books to his son at night. He said it was cool because it is really interactive. His son can touch a part of the story and hear voices, or see moving pictures. He concluded his story by saying that this reading experience is much more interactive and engaging then when he would read to his son from a book. When he reads from a book his son just lays back and listens, when he reads from the iPad his son is involved and part of what is going on. He did not directly say it, but he implied that the iPad experience was better.
I have to confess I worry about this a bit. Why did we decide that the only measure of engagement is physical activity? If you saw my parents reading to my brother and I when we were young it would have looked very boring I am sure. There we were, on our beds with words going into our ears. But in my mind I was creating. I could see High King Peter leading the army of Narnia into battle, and I could hear Aslan’s song as he created a new world. And the next day we would play these stories out in the real world, and we would expand on them by being the characters, changing the plot, or even making up our own stories and characters. We were fully engaged in the story.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that there is a place for interactive reading and that it can be really good, but I hope that we don’t ever let that take the place of creating entire worlds in our imagination.
I have some uneasiness about all of the screens in my world.
Just tonight we went to see the stage version of Beauty and the Beast. We had seats on the first row of the balcony, so it is easy to look down and see everybody who is sitting on the floor. At intermission of course everybody got out there phones to do very important things. There was even a row of three or four people who got out their iPads to play games. It made me kind of sad to see rows of people who seemed to be there together look down instead of turning to each other. What opportunities were missed for the sake of checking email? Opportunities to talk about the art that was happening right in front of us? To learn about the person you came with, or to understand the story we were watching a little better? You might argue that they were making connections with people through their phone, which may be true (the lady playing Wheel of Fortune on her iPad was not connecting to anybody), but why are the connections on the little screen more interesting then the connections with the people you came to the show with?
I feel like some sort of anti-technology person writing this. I promise that is not the case. I spend more then my fair share of time in front of a computer both creating and consuming media, and as soon as my current cell phone contract runs out Ill probably buy some sort of fancy phone touch screen and all. But like many I worry about the lack of balance that is creeping into my life. I have to be intentional to not spend all my spare time reading blogs, catching up on news, and checking the good ol twitter feed. I wish is was the other way around. I wish I would read a book and forget to look at facebook.