Technologically Restrained

A few years ago at Christmas, I recall my mother and I discussing something that it soon became clear neither of us knew that much about. Out of reflex and whilst still neck-deep in the fog of introspective thought, I reached for my iPhone and a few tip-taps later had the relevant Google search result open, thus clarifying the topic and resolving our questions.

“That thing has killed your sense of wonder, and the art of conversation.” She said, disgusted. I asked her to excuse me for a moment whilst I tweeted such sentiment, which earned me a whack on the arm.

Mum was right, of course, in that modern technology has significantly altered our methods of communication, and how curiosity drives us. Before smartphones (and even the internet), a question raised in conversation would be brainstormed, would have others dragged in and consulted, and books (REAL, PAPER BOOKS) investigated. The journey to the answer would be rich, interactive and fulfilling, regardless of the actual end point. And now? Now I open my phone’s apps and have an answer seconds later. A trivial, unexciting experience that more often than not, is probably completely forgotten.

The easy access to knowledge that new technology is providing, is instant gratification at the expense of our social world, and many of the products of experience and research. It also makes for really irritating storytelling.

How dull would a mystery be if the hero spent half the time on their phone, simply looking up topic after topic? They could do searches on news, the local area, everyone in it. Pretty soon the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Wikipedia will involve arriving at a crime scene, a morning of Google-whacking and a grand announcement based on snippet-sized research and extensive cross-checking of social media posts. (Yes, I know that the BBC’s “Sherlock” has shown said detective using a smartphone, but he does so for the sharing of info, not researching. Which is good. I’d be mortified if the World’s Second Greatest Detective was relying on Yahoo Answers.)

Pictured: The World's Greatest Detective.

Pictured: The World’s Greatest Detective.


Take your technology off characters. Make them work for their findings. There are many ways to do this – change the era ever so slight (1992 is still modern, but side-steps this problem neatly), take electricity or phone reception out of the equation, or take a page out of Matthew Reilly’s playbook, and simply don’t let them stand still long enough to do so.

Smartphones ruin everything. Especially outings to the cinema.

~ by nick on January 13, 2014.

One Response to “Technologically Restrained”

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