Technology: friend or foe?

For my first post, I’m taking a tentative step into a quite divisive subject; the increasing domination of technology in our lives, specifically in relation to the arts. The fact that you’re reading this on a computer screen might predetermine your opinion on the matter to some extent, but I’ve found through reading posts on the OCA forums and other art-related forums, that there are some sharp divisions between those who do and don’t like to use technology in their work.

In some disciplines this is quite understandable; a computer screen linked up to a graphics tablet does not provide the same level of freedom to an artist as an A3 sketchpad and an assortment of media with which to make marks; likewise, a sculpture can be quickly modeled in 3D on a computer, but that cannot replace the texture and context of a physical sculpture. It is in the arenas of photography, music and writing where I find the most divisive opinions on the matter; Andrew Watson has taken on one aspect of this in his Music article ‘From Burgess and Maclean to Elgar and Standford; do we lose something, both tangible and intangible, when we move from pen and paper to mouse and screen?

Books vs. Kindle picture

Book Vs. Kindle

In the field of writing, I expect that most writers have now ditched their typewriters and taken up the word processor, but how many would be willing to entertain the idea of only being able to have their finished work read on an Amazon Kindle or Sony E-reader? Perhaps it will take a generation to get over such hurdles.

The photographers, then; surely they must be in unanimous agreement that film has had its day? Some might say yes, others would be hesitant to either agree or disagree, and a minority would smile haughtily and leave the conversation.

For the photographer and writer, there is another fight quickly approaching from the horizon; the demise of print.  The ability to manage the accuracy of prints is still a valuable tool in a photographer’s arsenal, but for how long will this be the case? More and more advertisements are being displayed on paper-thin LCD screens in shop windows, how long before we see this in galleries? The fact that E-readers are bulkier than a book to carry is being countered by thin, flexible screens that open and close like a newspaper and do not produce glare. The arguments in favour of print are being systematically obliterated by technological progress.

In the case of photography, some people say that the internet together with digital technology have democratised the medium; the same could be said for writers in the sphere of Journalism that compete with bloggers for screen space. But in so doing, have we produced a richer and more honest art-culture, or have these worlds just been opened up to the pollutant of mediocrity?

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5 comments for “Technology: friend or foe?

  1. S. Thomas
    29 January 2010 at 11:44 pm

    I think that Kindle and other readers can coexist with ‘real’ books. There might be times you want a reader and times you want the real thing. I’ve looked at the readers, but as of right now they don’t appeal to me – but who knows, that could change – I’m keeping myself open. But giving up real books altogether? Uh, NO! I just like that whole book experience way too much.

    As for your last question…in some ways richer perhaps, but alas it’s harder to find those golden nuggets when you have to pan through so much muddy mediocrity.

    • 1 February 2010 at 12:31 pm

      I agree with you about the Kindle etc. – they undoubtedly do have their place alongside books, but I don’t find them particularly pleasant to use right now… I can’t see myself ever preferring them to paper books.

      As for the difficulties involved in filtering out those golden nuggets, there is also the issue that technology is making it easier to produce work that, cosmetically, appears to be the genuine article (I’m thinking primarily of photographers), but might in fact be a combination of luck and technology.

  2. Jac
    4 May 2010 at 1:38 pm

    It’s an interesting topic. I read a lot and still favour the feel of the book and it’s pages, something tangible to view. On the other hand it’s literature and genre is limited to it’s publication, ie one book is just that “one book”!

    Amazon’s Kindle on the other hand harbours an unlimited amount of books, their literature and genre not bound to just one entity like that of a book. For me the only drawback is it’s graphological display which tends to remind me of those old 80’s black and white LCD hand held games.

    Personally I find the display annoying and would prefer Apples new ipad GI with it’s vibrant colour LCD and looking forward to swapping over. Overall I’m still a hard cover/ sot cover book fan, just hoping that they don’t depart the way record discs have, that would be a sad day indeed!

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